Draft Preview: Celtics have tough choice at No. 1
Do the Celtics use their No. 1 pick to take a 19-year-old, which means they’ve decided to wait out LeBron, which could take years? Or do they swap the pick for more immediate help and narrow (or close) the gap next season?
Judging by what we saw in the NBA Playoffs, and from what we’ve seen from LeBron the last five-plus seasons, the only mystery lies in next season. The Cavs haven’t lost a game in five weeks or stumbled in the playoffs, which says plenty about them and also about for what passes for “elite” challengers in the East.
We haven’t seen this level of conference control by one person since Bill Russell in the 1960s — remember, Michael Jordan took two-plus seasons off between his three-peats — and LeBron shows no signs of slowing down at age 32.
Do the Celtics “concede” next season, too, by drafting a rookie, or bring in a ready-made ringer? Is it time to add Markelle Fultz … or Jimmy Butler?
The only drawback to holding the No. 1 pick is that there’s no guaranteed difference-maker in this Draft. This isn’t a Shaquille O’Neal, LeBron and — sorry to pick an old Celtics’ scab — a Tim Duncan draft, either. Remember that one? Then-coach Rick Pitino and the Celtics braced for the chance to get Duncan in 1997 but were leapfrogged in the lottery by the Spurs.
The man responsible for calling the shots now is Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge. He can grab Fultz or even Lonzo Ball, both of whom are teenage guards who may eventually be good or even great players. But, straight out of the gate, will either make a larger impact as rookies than Avery Bradley (the guard either would likely replace in the Celtics’ lineup)?
Even if they’re marginally better than Bradley, will LeBron lose sleep over that?
“My whole staff and ownership, we sit and try to figure out what is the best path to take,” said Ainge. “We don’t want to make any mistakes and so far, we’ve been pretty good.”
Ainge’s drafting history certainly isn’t horrible, but also not exactly Auerbach-ian. Will he take the right guy? In 2014, he took Marcus Smart (No. 6 pick overall) and James Young (No. 17), missing on Zach LaVine and Clint Capela. Smart is a solid backup but not star material and…