It all starts tonight for the Celtics.
It’s the NBA draft lottery. And the Celtics need to have some lottery luck to get them closer to truly competing for Banner No. 18.
Every move the Celtics make this summer is predicated on where they will be drafting. The Celtics own the Nets No. 1 pick. I will spare you all the mind numbing mathematical equations, but that pick can be anywhere from the first pick in the draft to No. 6.
The Celtics also have the Dallas Mavericks’ pick which is No. 16 and their own pick at No. 23. They have five second round picks making Danny Ainge the major player on June 23, the night of the draft itself.
But the most important pick is that Nets pick, and we will find out where that pick is Tuesday night as the ping-pong balls will turn and turn.
I don’t give a shit about the Celtics bad luck in past lotteries. If I read one more rehash of how they lost out on Tim Duncan in the 1997 lottery, I will go crazy. That has nothing — I repeat nothing — to do with this year’s lottery.
But let me rewrite NBA history if I may. If the Celtics did draft Duncan and Chauncey Billups, I am convinced that they would have won multiple titles in the early part of this century and Rick Pitino would be a hero in this town instead of a villain. But that’s a story for another day.
In this year’s draft, there are two players who can step in and make a real difference. They are Brandon Ingram and Ben Simmons. If I had the No. 1 pick, I would take Ingram over Simmons because I think he has a higher compete level than Simmons and will be a big time NBA scorer.
Let’s get the thought of Kevin Durant coming to Boston out of our heads right now. His team is in the Western Conference Finals. I doubt he will leave Oklahoma City, but if he does, why come to Boston when he can play with either the Spurs or the Warriors?
Brandon Ingram would be Kevin Durant Lite for the Celtics. A young player who reminds me of Durant with his height, long reach, and ability to score from anywhere on the floor. Simmons is bigger and stronger than Ingram and brings play-making and an ability to get to the rim. He would fit in great with this Celtics team as he also can’t shoot from the outside.
So what happens if the ping-pong balls do not yield the Celtics one of the first two picks? Say they stay where they are right now at No. 3. There are a number of players who can help them improve, among them shooters like Jamal Murray and Buddy Hield, but if I were Ainge, I would try to make a deal.
I would rather use that pick and possibly one of my other two first round picks in a trade that could get me a proven NBA star like Jimmy Butler, Kevin Love, or even Blake Griffith. The Celtics do not need anymore potentially good young players. They have more than enough in Terry Rozier, R.J. Hunter, Marcus Smart, Jordan Mickey, and Kelly Olynyk.
The C’s are at the point in their rebuilding process where they need to get a star, a go-to guy who can deliver the team important baskets down the stretch. Isaiah Thomas is a good player, but at his size, he is not that type of player. The Celtics need that type of player this summer or we will continue to see them getting knocked out in the first round of the playoffs. It will be easier to acquire that player through a trade rather than in the draft without either the first or second pick.
Thomas will be representing the Celtics at the lottery. Hopefully he can bring the Green some good luck. If not, the work really begins for Ainge and his staff Wednesday morning.
The pressure is on.