The first step toward recovery is admitting you have a problem. I spend far too much time playing with the ESPN Draft Lottery Machine to see how the Celtics might fare on Draft Lottery Night. The Celtic nine game losing streak has only served to suck me in even deeper. I constantly flip between viewing the NBA standings from a league, conference and division perspective.
I check out the Hollinger projections and wonder how it's possible for the men in green to continue to lose and actually see their odds of making the playoffs increase (between the loss to the Warriors and the Trail Blazers our chances of making the playoffs surprisingly increased from roughly 19 to 24 percent). The loss to the Rockets dropped the odds for the Celtics making the playoffs to just under 20 percent. But I digress. The Draft Lottery Machine...
As the consecutive losses have mounted the Celtics have been skyrocketing up the charts (or depending how you look at it - down the charts). At the beginning of the current losing streak the Celtics sat in 8th position in the lottery with only a 2.8 percent chance of landing the big prize. Today we're tied for 4th with Utah and a 10.4 percent chance of securing the first pick. With the way Utah has been playing of late, it's not hard to see them winning more games than us the rest of the way. When I first begun playing with the ESPN Addiction Machine the Celtics hardly ever changed draft position and we selected Willie Cauley-Stein the Sophmore Center from Kentucky. The one word consistently used to describe him is "raw." Not what you want to hear when you root for a team in need of immediate help.
Currently, the Celtics fare better in the lottery and end up with Dante Exum or Aaron Gordon if they land from four to six. Obviously this has little connection to reality. But I wonder what information Chad Ford has with respect to Danny's thinking when to comes to which player he might select if we jumped into a high draft position.
When the Celtics land at number one, Ford has us selecting Jabari Parker. If he's available, Parker is our selection regardless of where we draft. If Parker is gone, at 1 Ford has us selecting Joel Embiid. At no time, have I seen the Celtics selecting Andrew Wiggins or Marcus Smart. Interesting. With most of the useless mock drafts floating around the internet, it's obvious team needs don't factor into the results. Such lists are simply a ranking of players based upon who's having the best season and thus creating the most draft buzz. Ford is different because the simulation allows for actual teams to rotate in and out of position and player order changes to reflect the new "reality."
With the imminent return of our best player, we're likely to start winning some of the close games we're currently losing. It's clear from Hollinger's ranking system, two or three wins can dramatically alter a team's chances at landing a top three pick.
If we'd been consistently winning about 40 percent of the time, I would think the return of Rajon Rondo would have little impact on our draft position. Afterall, there's little difference in drafting between 10 and 13 if you're the only team interested in drafting a Center who's considered a project. But right now we're not winning 40 percent of the time. These days it's wishful thinking for the Celtics to win 20 percent of the time, and there's a big drop in perceived talent from 4 to eight (especially if the guy you want at 8 is also likely to be available at 11).
I'm not advocating a position here. Rondo could come back in a week and leave us just out of the playoffs and thus secure a 12th pick. He may be played sparingly the rest of the way and the Celtics stay in the top 7. The Celtic braintrust might decide to showcase Rondo for a trade (I hope not). My point here is that Rondo's speculated return comes at a critical time for the Celtics. There are important decisions to be made sooner rather than later. Waiting until after Rondo lifts us out of the cellar is too late if you're trying to land a top pick. It's clear he wants to play and if he's healthy there's no legitimate excuse to keep him in street clothes or at the end of the bench. He's just too good.
I'm sure Danny Ainge has been asking these questions all along. I just wonder if he anticipated making such decisions while we're in our longest losing streak since the creation of the "big three." Chad Ford expects Danny to trade Rondo. I don't think anyone really knows what Danny Ainge is going to do. He has proven time and again to do the "unconventional." Most of the time we've beneifted from such moves. I would hope his immediate goal is either to get a lot better this season, or continue on this lottery trajectory. Getting a little better this season only hurts us. Good luck, Danny. I'm going back to playing the Lottery Machine. Maybe I don't want to be cured...