By Chris Le
When it was announced that the Boston Celtics would have the fifth pick in June’s NBA Draft, I could almost hear the collective groans in the greater New England area. Then, a few minutes later, I heard another one, but coming from the people of Memphis, when they found out their team would be picking fourth.
Having the two worst records in the NBA, they had the best odds of landing the prized first pick in the draft; leading, naturally, to the acquisition of Ohio State center Greg Oden, the consensus best prospect. Instead, fate and those tiny ping-pong balls evaded these plagued franchises once again, and bounced in favor of the Portland Trail Blazers, who had a 5.3 percent chance of landing the top overall selection. The Seattle Supersonics, with their 8.8 percent chance of acquiring the initial pick and a 9.65 percent probability of the second selection, beat the odds and will be the second team to announce their selection in the draft. In all likelihood, they will “settle” for the ultimate consolation prize, Texas superstar and offensive juggernaut, Kevin Durant.
In all honesty, the big story is, once again, the heartbreak of the Boston Celtics. Fans still haven’t let go of their misfortune in the 1997 lottery, in which they had great odds in getting their hands on the first pick — and Tim Duncan. Instead, they went third and drafted Chauncey Billups, whom they traded a few months into his first season, not even getting a glimpse of the clutch floor general he is today. You know the rest of the story. The Spurs get Duncan and go on to win three championships (possibly four after this season); Billups, after nomadically hopping from team to team, finds his groove with the Detroit Pistons and leads them to a title. Meanwhile, the Boston franchise has been mired with an ever-changing personnel, resulting in a slow spiral downward to where they currently reside — at the bottom of the league.
It may appear that all is lost in Boston, but lucky for them, this happens to be one of the deepest drafts in recent memory, with ridiculous talent all the way into the late teens. My guess here is that they’ll go with Florida’s Al Horford. They are sorely missing some inside muscle, and Horford, while no Oden, is more than capable of holding his own in the trenches. If the Gator forward isn’t available at the fifth slot, expect them to entertain the thought of nabbing Georgetown’s Jeff Green or Florida State’s Al Thornton, even though he’s a bit of a stretch for such an early pick.
However, despite hints of light at the end of the tunnel, today remains a dark day for the Celtics and their fans.
While the citizens of Boston are crying themselves to sleep tonight, the Portland faithful are popping the champagne corks, celebrating their suddenly relevant team. Don’t allow Jon Barry’s idiotic talks of trading the top pick delude you; the Trail Blazers will take Oden, adding an immediate defensive presence alongside reigning Rookie of the Year, Brandon Roy, forming one of the most talented, young nucleuses in the league. Just look at their potential line-up: Jarrett Jack running the point, Roy at the two, and Zach Randolph, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Oden making up the frontcourt. The potential there is just scary.
Expect the Trail Blazers to be instant playoff contenders, and anticipate seeing the Celtics in the lottery once again.