The NBA draft lottery was brought into existence in 1985 with the famous "frozen envelope"/Patrick Ewing to the Knicks draft. Since then, the lottery has brought a lot of great moments to teams lucky enough to win it. David Robinson and Tim Duncan to the Spurs, Shaq to the Magic, LeBron to the Cavs, Durant to the Sonics, and just two years ago, Anthony Davis to the Pelicans.
Unfortunately, none of those teams are the Celtics.
For Boston, the lottery failures are well known. Specifically 1997, when the Celtics missed out on Duncan, and 2007, when they missed out on Durant and Greg Oden. Of course, the 2007 heartbreak did not last long, as the Cs turned the #5 pick into Ray Allen, helping open the doors for the Kevin Garnett deal later that summer. Still, the lottery Gods did not smile upon the Celtics in either case.
But those are just the two best known cases -- what about when we look at the Celtics complete lottery history?
Well I went back and looked at every lottery pick they've had since 1985..and it's a pretty depressing group, with a few obvious exceptions. Let's take a look.
Note: This is every lottery pick, not every draft pick. Keep that in mind.
1986 - Len Bias, 2nd overall
Not a good sign when your first lottery pick in also one of the most tragic stories in league history, but that's how the Celtics got things started in '86. Had Bias been added to the Bird/McHale/Parrish core, who knows how many more titles are won. Instead, the core got old and the franchise began a 22 year title drought.
1994 - Eric Montross, 9th overall
Montross was the first Celtics lottery pick to actually take the floor for Boston, and he lasted all of two seasons with the Cs, averaging 8.8 points and 6.6 boards per game. However there was a silver lining to the Montross era, as the Celts traded him and a first round pick (Samaki Walker) for two first round picks that we're about to talk about -- Antoine Walker and Ron Mercer.
1996 - Antoine Walker, 6th overall
Antoine was exciting and talented, but it's pretty crazy that in nearly 30 years he's easily the second most impactful lottery pick. 'Toine did help lead the mini-revival from 2001-2003, but his Jekyl and Hyde routine eventually wore thin in Boston. Overall he appeared in 552 games over eight seasons with the Celtics, averaging 21/9/4. But those stats were padded though by playing for some truly awful teams, allowing Antoine to shoot whenever he so pleased (career 41% FG, 32% 3 PT). Still, he gave us the Wiggle and the '02 run, so there will always be love for #8.
1997 - Chauncey Billups, 3rd overall; Ron Mercer, 6th overall
The 1997 lottery has been discussed many times, but a quick refresher: the Celtics had a 36.3% chance at landing the #1 pick and Duncan, the highest odds any team has ever had. Boston had the second worst record in 1996-97 (15-67), plus they owned the Mavericks pick, which was the #6 lottery spot. Throw in the hiring of Rick Pitino and Walker's impressive rookie year..and there was great hope for the future of the team. But then the lottery happened, and Boston ended up with the third and sixth picks. Disappointing, sure, but with two top-six picks the Celtics could surely help lay the foundation for their future, right? Wrong. Pitino actually made a really nice pick with Billups, but traded him after 51 games for Kenny Anderson (it is worth noting that it took Billups 4-5 years to really make his mark in the league). And Mercer was traded after just two seasons (two pretty good seasons I may add) for Eric Williams and a future pick. It's not an exaggeration to say that the summer of 1997 set the Celtics back a decade.
1998 - Paul Pierce, 10th overall
15 seasons with the team, second all-time on the team's scoring list, 2008 NBA Finals MVP. In the now 29 years of the lottery era, the Celtics have hit one grand slam, and it's clearly Pierce.
2000 - Jerome Moiso, 11th overall
Fab Melo before Fab Melo. Moiso is easily the worst lottery pick the Celtics ever made, appearing in 24 games total for Boston in 2000-01 before being dealt. In all, Moiso scored 35 points and grabbed 42 rebounds in his Celtics career. Terrible.
2001 - Joe Johnson, 10th overall; Kedrick Brown, 11th overall
The Celtics absolutely crushed the Johnson pick, getting the third or fourth best player in the draft at #10. Johnson leads all 2001 draftees in games and minutes played, and points scored. 13 years later, he's still a really productive player, and looks like he'll end up carving out a 15+ year career in the league. Only problem? Much like Billups, he was dealt during his rookie season. With the Celtics surprisingly "contending" in 2001-02 (aka contending in the awful Eastern Conference. If you thought the East was bad this season, you have no idea. The 2001-02 East hurt your eyes to look at), Celtics GM Chris Wallace dealt Johnson to Phoenix for Tony Delk and Rodney Rogers, two vets to help fortify the Celtics bench that season. Both guys were solid, and Boston made the Eastern Conference Finals. But they traded away a future All-Star to slightly improve a team with 0% chance at winning a title. Awful trade.
Right after Johnson, the Celtics took Brown, and unfortunately they didn't trade him at the deadline instead. Brown could jump really high -- but that's where his NBA skills began and ended. He averaged 3.1 points per game over 101 games in Boston, and was out of the NBA by 23.
2006 - Randy Foye, 6th overall
One of only two lottery picks that Danny Ainge has ever had, and boy did he screw it up. Ainge passed on Rudy Gay to draft Foye, and then immediately dealt Foye for Sebastian Telfair. Just terrible value for the #6 pick. Thankfully Ainge made up for it by taking Rajon Rondo, the best player in the entire 2006 draft, with the 21st pick after a trade with Phoenix.
2007 - Jeff Green, 5th overall
One year after a complete flop of a lottery pick trade, Ainge nailed a similar deal, sending Green to Seattle for Allen. Of course, this was after the disappointment of missing out on Oden and Durant, but Ainge changed his plan on the fly, grabbing Allen and then Garnett, setting the Celtics up for a successful six-year run. If the Celtics again land at #5 in this year's draft, we'll see if Ainge decides to make a similar move, sending the pick (or maybe a package that doesn't involve the pick) to Minnesota for Kevin Love.
Note: Not including Kelly Olynyk yet. Nice little rookie season, like his chances at being a solid pick overall, but way too soon. Let's see how he looks by the end of his rookie deal before making any final decisions.
So that's the list. One Celtics legend (Pierce), one really good Celtic (Walker), two guys traded away way too soon (Billups, Johnson), two guys dealt on draft night (Foye, Green), four guys who made little/no impact (Mercer, Moiso, Brown, Montross), and one who died and took down a dynasty with him (Bias). Not exactly a great run of success.
But it's 2014, and times be a changin'. It's a beautiful day outside, and the luck has got to swing sometime. Tonight's the night*
*Or maybe it's not. I have no idea but my stomach hurts and I just want this thing to happen.
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Michael Dyer 5/20/2014 03:05:00 PM Tweet