For those unfamiliar with the Celtics Green Message Boards, you are missing out on some great discussions there with some of the best fans on the internet. One of the regulars there, freshnthehouse, wrote the following article and shares his thoughts below.
During these dog days of (late) summer, relevent Celtics information is sparce, to say the least. I don't know about you, but I don't think I can stomach another heated debate about Semih Erden's supposed upside.
But these off-season lulls give us time to let our Celtics' thoughts wander a bit. If you're like me, you start to play the "What If?" game? What if we would've held on to Chauncey Billups? What if we hadn't traded our first round pick in 1999 for Vitaly? Would Brad Lohaus have been any less terrible if he was 7' instead of 6'11"? This article will cover what would the Celtics' fortunes have been if they had drafted Brad Daugherty instead of Len Bias. But first, we must lay down one rule. In articles such as this, I hate when people ignore what most likely would've been reality to strengthen their argument. For example, sometimes you'll read about a Duncan, Walker, Pierce franchise core if we would've won the draft lottery in 1997. If you ask me, with Duncan on that 97-98 team, our draft position would've been several spots higher, and Pierce wouldn't have been available for us. And there are other examples of this, so I'll do my best to stick with reality as much as possible.
So let's say the Cavs take Bias number one overall in 1987, which was certainly a possibility. There was talk that leading up to the draft that Red was trying to convince Cleveland that he wanted Brad over Bias, in hopes that Cleveland would let Len fall to us. So let's say it doesn't go as Red wanted and we end up with Brad Daugherty (who is certainly a fine consolation prize). How would the next few years have played out?
What kind of player would we have had in Daugherty? For you young'ns out there that only know Daugherty from his gig doing Nascar analysis on ESPN, Daugherty was an all-star caliber center that was often overshadowed because he played in the last great era of big men in the NBA. Nowadays he'd be #2 to Dwight when it came to best Centers in the league, but in his day he played second fiddle to Ewing, Robinson, Hakeem, Kareem, and Parish, as well as Shaq and Alonzo later in his career. In his prime Brad Daugherty was almost an automatic 20/10 player and was considered one of the best big man passers the game has ever seen.
But how would he have fit in with the Celtics? In In 86-87, the Celtics were in the process of defending their title. They already had a set starting five. But what they lacked that year was bench help. When it came to big men, our only back ups for Parish going into the play-offs were the ghost of Bill Walton and the illustrious Greg Kite. There's no doubt Daugherty even as a rookie would've been a fantastic backup. But to get true value out of him, he'd need to play more minutes than what he'd get backing up Parish. He'd need to play along side the Chief as well.
Could Daugherty have played meaningful minutes at the same time as Parish? I think so. The immediate question that comes up is defense. Would they have been able to keep up? It's a valid concern, but I think they would've been all right. Daugherty was never a premium athlete, but he would've had a lot of youthful energy at his disposal. And even at that stage of his career Parish was one of the quickest seven footers on the court. Defensive matchups didn't seem to be stressed as much then as they are now. Back then we had Houston starting two centers every night with Hakeem and Ralph Sampson. And LA was playing a 6'9" Magic Johnson at center. I've got a feeling with the way a frontcourt of Parish, Bird, Daugherty, and McHale would've dominated the boards and killed teams in the post, we would've been fine if an occasional outlet basket or two was scored against us each game.
So how would we have stacked up? I believe that we would've won in both 87 and 88. We were close to winning it all with a joke of a bench. 88 would've been a bit tougher, with a young pistons team getting better, but I still believe that with a talent like Daugherty allowing the Celtics to rest the big 3 more often in the regular season, they would've been rested and ready come playoff time and rolled past the Pistons and Lakers to titles 17 and 18.
Here's where things get a little fuzzy. Even though getting a player like Dougherty would have changed a lot of things, I'm going to assume the 88-89 season would still have been lost to Bird's foot injury, while the 89-90 season would have been lost to the trainwreck that was Jimmy Rodger's coaching career in Boston.
That brings us to 1990-91. We would've still had Daugherty plus the big three, and I'm also going to assume we'd have Reggie Lewis as well. If we would've won the title in 87, we only would have dropped back one spot in the draft. And from what I heard, Reggie wasn't a real hot draft property, so I'm going to take some liberties and assume that he would've ended up here either way. And seeing how he was a third round pick, my guess is Kevin Gamble would've still been here as well. I doubt you can say the same about Dee Brown or Brian Shaw, so I'll leave them out. If you remember that 90-91 season, we started out on absolute fire, ending up with the best record league-wide at the halfway point. But, as was the norm with Celtics teams of this era, age and injury took over and we bowed out in the second round. It's a stretch, but if you pair an in his prime Daugherty with that roster, and if you figure in that the big three would have a bit more in the tank thanks to Daugherty's arrival, title #19 was there for the taking.
The same argument could be applied to the 91-92 season as it was the 90-91 season, but eventually the age of the C's would've gotten the best of them. My guess is they would've been contenders for the next two seasons, but have fallen short to either the Bulls in the conference finals, or the Blazers or Suns in the championship round.
Sadly, things would've still taken a dark turn after that year. We lost Reggie in the summer of 93. And Daugherty's back started to fail him soon after, ending his career by the mid 90s. But even if events didn't transpire exactly like I've written here, the C's would've been a much more formidable team in the late 80s/early 90s.