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.
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.
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
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.
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.