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Red's Army

Five years later, a look back at what could have been

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As we are all wrapped up in the current group of Celtics and what is likely to be their final push for an 18th championship with this core, a discussion with a good friend of mine brought about the potential for what we both felt would be an interesting read for true Celtics fans; yes the Celtics delivered us a 17th title and may very well deliver an 18th, but what if things had gone a little different on May 22, 2007? What if the NBA's worst team actually got the first pick in the draft? Lets take a look back and see how things may look right how had the balls bounced a little differently on that fateful night.

As we all are well aware by now, the Celtics again fell short on Lottery night, owning the leagues second worst record and a 19% chance that they would receive the 1st pick in the NBA draft, guaranteeing them the rights to one of two "Can't Miss" prospects in Greg Oden or Kevin Durant. The Grizzlies actually held the worst record (something many fans forget) with the Bucks and Hawks rounding out the bottom five. Each of the leagues worst three teams landed outside of the top three in the draft with the Blazers, Sonics, and Hawks taking the top three picks, leaving Celtics fans crushed and without a hint as to what the future of their team would be.

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Looking back, it took a perfect storm of events for the Celtics to miss out on the drafts prized pony, Kevin Durant. It took a pathetically flawed system of ping pong balls deciding a teams future, but more so all but one General Manager openly expressed that Oden was a can't miss prospect and he'd be selected #1 overall by them without question. That one? Danny Ainge. Ainge was infatuated with Durant, spending much time watching the young forward at the University of Texas and spending much time around the future star to measure his character.

Ainge hinted numerous times that he preferred Durant over Oden (something that had the radio airwaves going nuts at the time, calling for his head), so really all the Celtics had to do was get either of the first two picks, something they held almost a 40% chance of doing. But as we all know, it didn't happen. But what if it did? What if the Houston Rockets didn't screw the entire league over forcing a lottery system for their blatant tanking in the 80s?

Well first of all, the Grizzlies would have landed Greg Oden and that team would be a disaster right now, so they should be pretty thankful for how things worked out (Memphis landed their starting PG Mike Conley). The Celtics standing at #2 would have drafted Kevin Durant. With Durant, they would have never made the trade for Ray Allen, and likely would have never been able to get Kevin Garnett to sign off on a trade to Boston. Remember, the only reason Ainge pulled the trigger on the deals that formulated the Big Three was because he was left with Jeff Green out of the draft, not a real franchise changer but good player none-the-less.

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Without the trades for Allen and Garnett the Celtics would have still had Delonte West and Wally Szczerbiak and never would have landed Glen "Big Baby" Davis. Without the Garnett deal the Celtics would have still had Al Jefferson, Ryan Gomes, Gerald Green, Theo Ratliff, Sebastian Telfair Minnesota's conditional first round pick and their 2009 first round pick. 

To boil it all down heres a summary of what the roster would have looked like

C-Perkins, Ratliff

PF-Jefferson, Powe, Scalabrine

SF-Durant, Pierce,Gomes, Wally

SG-West, Green, Tony Allen

PG-Rondo, Telfair, Pruitt

It is safe to say that Telfair would've been gonzo as Ainge hated the guy, so plug in a random semi-productive player into that roster and that is still a decent roster. They likely win about 35 games as they are still young, Perkins and Rondo aren't Perkins and Rondo that we know today, Durant has rookie flaws and Pierce still has to carry the team but is sold to stay based on the potential of Durant.

The Celtics would have essentially been a slightly better version of Durant's 2007-08 Sonics team, a team which landed the 4th pick in the 2008 draft, 35 wins would have landed the Celtics in this area where Russell Westbrook, Kevin Love, Brook Lopez, and OJ Mayo were all drafted; not to mention some mid round steals that were Roy Hibbert, Mareese Speights, and Serge Ibaka. Any of those names would have been great additions, but the Celtics need help in the post and draft Kevin Love (for arguments sake) moving Jefferson to the 5 and Perkins to the bench. With essentially the same roster the Celtics improve but still narrowly miss the playoffs. Landing a mid-round pick.

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The Celtics holding the 17th pick in the draft, have the options of choosing players such as Jrue Holiday,Ty Lawson, Jeff Teague, and Darren Collison, all great choices for the PG position, Celtics choose Teauge because he is able to create his own shot; something Ainge values highly. The Celtics in just two seasons have built a core around Al Jefferson, Kevin Love (hypothetically), Kevin Durant, Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo, Jeff Teague, and Kendrick Perkins.

Predicting any farther than this would be nearly impossible, given the fact that Free Agency, player morale, retirements, trades and other such transactions could have very likely changed the entire face of the team, but had the Celtics landed the second pick you could be sitting on a core roster built around Rondo, Durant, and Love right now. Forget Banner 18, Celtics fans would be thinking about Banner 22, 23, and 24 before they knew what hit them.

Suddenly Boston would be the place to play, younger free agents would have wanted to come to Boston, veterans looking for one last chance would also have joined. Yes, Rondo would not be as advanced developmentally as he is right now, but his natural ability would still be there and that is a solid foundation to start with.

So as Celtics fans, if the Celtics were to go on to win the Championship this season, which would you have preferred?  The current Big Three giving us Banners 17 and 18 or the arrival of Kevin Durant, Kevin Love and the return of Al Jefferson as the core of the Boston Celtics future, giving the team a few more rough years but eventually having promise of an all-time great roster? Which would you have preferred? Do you think the Celtics would have drafted someone differently than what I mentioned? Do you think the team would look differently than what I've envisioned? Let's hear your thoughts Celtics nation.

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  • http://profile.typepad.com/redslovechild1 Redslovechild

    It`s impossible to speculate beyond the mere drafting of Durant.
    To assume that Ainge would not have made at least “semi-seismic” trades after obtaining Durant, is assuming a lot. Ainge surely would have used the acquisition of KD as a springboard for more immediate roster upgrades. Jefferson still would have been traded, as Ainge rightly recognized how undersized and overrated he is.
    All considered, falling to five in the draft turned out to be a blessing in disguise…despite the fact that KD is the best player on the planet today. Those who say LBJ is are doing it strictly out of force of habit.

  • wil

    lol rondo wouldnt improve that much with out the big three, im pretty sure rondo learned alot from those guys. Rondo might have talent, but with out the guidance he had, he wouldve probably fell short.

  • SamR

    Championships are hard to get. Look at LBJ. Or KD, for that matter. Zero championships to their names right now. Before they won 1 together, none of our big 3 had any, and nor did Kidd or Dirk prior to last year.
    Even if we don’t win this year, an actual ring is worth much more potential rings.

  • paul

    It will always be 2008

  • sev

    i think they would have been better sooner than you predicted. Love finished 9th in rebounding his rookie year along with being first in the nba in offensive rebounding %, 2nd in total rebounding %, 29 double doubles and in his 2nd year he was averaging 14 and 11 in 28 min. Durant was a force in his 2nd season dropping 25 a night. Add in Paul Pierce, Rondo and by then it would be Al Jefferson’s 3rd year or so where he averaged 16 and 11. Plus role players of West, Wally, Allen and Perk(unless they traded for Vet, in which case they would prob have been even better since they already had a young core) and that is a top playoff team in the VERY WEAK East by Love’s rookie season. But either way you did your homework and I enjoyed the article. Pretty crazy that that could have been our future. No doubt they make the playoffs by Love’s rookie year(at least a 5th or 6th seed) and maybe even the year before, as the bottom playoff teams in the east were usually under 500. Walker and Pierce went to the Eastern Conference Finals.

  • John

    If Ainge got Durant he would have turned right around and traded Pierce. There could have potentially been some very fruitful returns on trading Pierce. Either way, I wouldn’t trade banner 17 for the “possibility” of a Rondo, Durant, Love core.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/trsjr91 BleedGreen34

    last run ?????? lets get ray ray and kg resigned for the vet minim(or low contracts) resign hollins sign a center and bring back bass and let the rookies get another year(then another two first round picks late though so probably less impact players) then sign two backups and we have a deep squad next year with great veteran leadership all a san antionio spurs (vets and young’s guys mixing well)

  • http://profile.typepad.com/trsjr91 BleedGreen34

    a rondo pierce kdurant insert big man here perkins lineup would have been a scary thought though

  • Realize_Williams

    2007 was a rough year to be a Celtics fan. I finally had to admit that pierce wasn’t better than Kobe (I was living in denial) and my hopes entirely rested in the draft. The irl result, the formation of the big three, made basketball bigger for me than the red sox. I’ll have a lifelong respect for Danny Ainge, and believe he is top notch player evaluator (except when it comes to centers… miss ya Perk). I wouldn’t trade the banner we got for the speculative Durant banners, however awesome the idea may be. Still, I’d like to reject other peoples notions that the Rondos development is contingent upon the presence of the Big Three. Though KG’s ferocity and Allen’s discipline had an undeniable effect, I believe that Rondo’s defining trait is how self motivated he is. He devotes everything he has to proving his doubters wrong and convincing the league that he is its best true point guard. Can you imagine Durant playing alongside a pass first point guard? Despite his greatness, I don’t think we’ve seen what could Durant is capable of. Likewise, I don’t think we’ve seen what Rondo is capable of. A team built around Rondo would be an uptempo fast breaking team, suggesting that Rondo and Durant could have been a legendary duo. The thing, other than never having experienced KG, Rays 3s or banner 17, that fizzles this dream is that I don’t know if there’s room for Durant and Pierce on one roster (Can Pierce guard shooting guards? Can Durant?) and Paul Pierce spending even one minute in any jersey that doesn’t have a clover on it just won’t sit right in my stomach.

  • kg215

    Definitely don’t like Lebron, but if you think Durant is better than Lebron then you are obviously only looking at scoring (or are so blinded by your hate that you can’t see who is better). Lebron is a better defender, passer, ballhandler, and finisher. On defense he can legitimately guard 4 positions and is dangerous as a helper. Durant is definitely the better shooter, but Lebron’s shooting is decent while being a lot more versatile.

  • Nick Sannicandro

    Honestly, from my point of view I WOULD trade Banner 17 for a durant love rondo trio because right now that team would be BETTER than the current Thunder roster, and they would be the favorites in the East right now and likely couldve been last year as well. That is a young roster that would contend and win for at least another decade.
    As far as Rondo and his development being parallel to the Big Three’s presence. While there is some truth to it helping his maturity, I think that we are discrediting Rondo quite a bit to think that he still wouldnt be a star if the Big three weren’t around. There is a thing after all call…natural ability? He had great natural ability in Kentucky, and showed glimpses of it in 06-07, naturally he would have taken steps forward in terms of progression as the years went on. Would his plateau have been as high as it is now? Maybe not, but would he have still been a star based on his natural ability? Heck yes. Just remember a few seasons ago when asked who his favorite player to play with was Kevin Durant answered without hesitation Rajon Rondo.

  • Nick Sannicandro

    WRONG yes durants a better shooter, but LEbron is NOT a better finisher

  • http://profile.typepad.com/redslovechild1 Redslovechild

    Definitely, Durant is paid to score.
    He`s only 23 years old, and has already won 3 scoring titles…petty damn amazing!
    Then, throw in the 8 rebounds-per-game in addition.