The Boston Celtics got a big win on Friday, without even taking the court.
With the Phoenix Suns’ victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder Friday night, the Brooklyn Nets clinched the worst record in the league this season. Which means the No. 1 spot in the NBA lottery next month, and the 25 percent chance of the No. 1 pick that goes with it, belongs to the Boston Celtics, via their trade of Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to Brooklyn three years ago.
So the Celtics, who will be either the No. 1 or No. 2 seed in the East most likely, will also have a 25 percent at the No. 1 pick. Now, the lottery is a strange and fickle beast, and things may not work out exactly right. But still, what an incredible array of assets Danny Ainge has managed to amass, having a team with tradeable veterans, multiple high value picks, and cap space. The Celtics are a flawed team in many ways this season, but still have an incredible record and just as good a chance of any team in the East at upsetting the Cavaliers.
Should the Celtics win the No. 1 pick, however. there will be some tough choices. The top two prospects are Markelle Fultz and Lonzo Ball, both point guards. The Celtics currently have All-Star Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier all needing minutes at that position, though Rozier’s time is expendable. Both Bradley and Thomas are free agents in 2018, and will be looking at monster deals. There’s widespread consensus that Thomas and Fultz can play together. But if Fultz proves that he can be the franchise cornerstone, what does the team do about Thomas’ contract?
The other option with the top pick is Kansas’ Josh Jackson, at small forward. But the Celtics just drafted Jaylen Brown and currently have Jae Crowder whose versatile 3-and-D game Danny Ainge has prioritized in retaining when it comes to trade talks.
Speaking of trades, the possibility is there for the Celtics to try and cash in the No. 1 pick for a superstar, on the level of Paul George or Jimmy Butler, after pursuing both at the deadline. But would Ainge really part with the top overall pick, along with the veterans it would likely take to make such a deal done, given his notorious reputation for being difficult to draw assets from, like blood from stone?
So the Celtics have the No. 1 lottery spot, and while there are complications and tough questions that come with that, no matter the outcome of the lottery in May, it’s still a position nearly every team in the league would love to be in. The Celtics will being the playoffs next season with homecourt, likely in the first two rounds, and they have the best chance at a franchise-changing star in the draft. They get to have their cake and eat it, too.
They just have to figure out the right fork, so to speak.