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A Look at the Celtics' Draft History

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The NBA 2012 Mock Drafts have been ebbing and flowing, and all Celtics fans want to know - just what will having the 21st and 22nd pick mean tomorrow? Well don't expect to find out until one or two years from now . . . especially with how Doc Rivers is reluctant to play rookies. That is of course if the Celtics are even going to make the picks instead of trade them.

Before looking at the Celtics draft history, it is interesting to note the summary provided by on the expected value of a draft pick. They analyzed the number of "win shares" each pick accumulated over their lifetime. Win Shares (WS) is simply a rating of a player's value to their team based on the player's contribution to the team's wins and losses from an analysis of the standard box score information. The curve below reflects the decline of average value with the later picks in the draft, and suggest that a mid-lottery pick (picks 5-10) is likely to be twice as productive as a player taken in the latter half of the 1st round (picks 20-30).


The Celtics draft history is summed nicely here by basketball-reference, and you can see that the Celtics have obviously obtained their more talented players early in the draft. What also is apparent is that the Celtics, more than any other team, have made some of the best selections of all-time with the certain picks. For instance, it can be argued that Bill Russell is the best No. 2 pick ever (163.5 WS), that Larry Bird is the best No. 6 pick ever (145.8 WS), John Havlicek is the best No. 7 pick ever (131.7 WS), and that Paul Pierce is the best No. 10 pick ever (131.2 WS). And although the Celtics didn't draft them, Kevin Garnett was the best No. 5 pick (181.6 WS) and Robert Parish the best No. 8 pick ever (147.0 WS). What a haul by the Celtics' franchise!

Looking to the future, it is not a stretch to predict that young Rajon Rondo, with 40.7 WS already, will be the best 21st pick ever - thank you Danny Ainge - and surpass Mike Finley's 85.2 WS for that draft spot. A breakdown of the Celtics success and failures at their various draft positions over the history of the franchise is provided after the jump.


No. 1: The Celtics haven't had a No. 1 pick since 1950 when they selected Chuck Share from Bowling Green State. However, Tom Heinsohn (1956) was taken as a "territorial pick" by the Celtics in lieu of their 1st rounder, and may be considered a quasi-No. 1 pick.

No. 2: Bill Russell (1956) was acquired in a draft day trade for Ed Macauley and Cliff Hagan - a draft that the Celtics forfeited their 1st rounder since they took the "territorial pick" and used it to take Heinsohn. Indeed, 1956 was a very good year for the Celtics, as not only did they take Russell and Heinsohn, but it also included a third future Hall of Fame guy with the selection of K.C. Jones as the 13th pick (2nd round).

Subsequent to the Russell trade, the Celtics' Len Bias (1986) has been the Celtics' only other No. 2 pick, and that story is full of heartache with Bias dying two days later of a cocaine overdose.

No. 3: Kevin McHale (1980) headlines a corp of No. 3's taken by the Celtics that includes Jim Loscutoff (1955) and Chauncey Billups (1997). Too bad Pitino didn't show some patience with that Billups fella, who got traded in his rookie year. As a caveat, Bob Cousy was taken by the Tri-Cities Blackhawks in 1950 with the No. 3 pick, but refused to report and the Celtics ended up signing him.

No. 4: Dave Cowens (1970) was taken after Bob Lanier, Rudy Tomjanovich and Pete Maravich were off the board. That was a good draft, and the Celtics hit it big with Big Red.

No. 5: Frank Ramsey (1953) began a mini-tradition of University of Kentucky players being drafted by the Celtics, followed by UK players like Antoine Walker, Ron Mercer and Rajon Rondo. Jeff Green (2007) was also taken with a 5th pick, but was immediately traded in the Ray Allen deal. Note that Kevin Garnett (1995), drafted by GM Kevin McHale and the Minnesota T-Wolves, is easily the best ever No. 5.

No. 6: Larry Bird (1978) is the best ever No. 6 pick, and the Celtics got him by taking the risk that he'd sign after he played his senior year at Indiana State. Antoine Walker (1996) and Ron Mercer (1997) are other notable No. 6s.

No. 7: John Havlicek (1962) is a best ever pick at No. 7 taken by the Celtics. Ainge's moving the 2006 No. 7 pick (Randy Foye) was a smart decision, especially where it allowed the acquisition of the Theo Ratliff trade chip that was later used to help acquire Kevin Garnett.

No. 8: Sam Jones (1957) and Tom "Satch" Sanders (1960) lead the way for the Celtics at No. 8. Robert Parish (1976), selected by Golden State at No. 8, wound up in Boston in the infamous trade of the Celtics No. 1 and 13 pick in 1980 for the No. 3 pick (McHale) and Parish. The trade resulted in Joe Barry Carroll and Rickey Brown being selected by the Warriors with the picks from the C's. Parish went on to be the most productive No. 8 pick in NBA history. Can you spell L-O-P-S-I-D-E-D?

No. 9: Jo Jo White (1969) was one of two of Hall of Famers taken in the 1969 draft, the other Hall of Famer being the No. 1 pick, a guy that went by the name of Lew Alcindor once upon a time. In 1994, the Celtics got schooled by the Lakers when they took Eric Montross with the 9th pick and the Lakers took Eddie Jones with the 10th.

No. 10: Paul Pierce (1998) headlines yet another "best ever" pick made by the Celtics. Pierce easily outdistances other competitors taken at No. 10 including Horace Grant, Eddie Jones, and Jason Terry. The Celtics also drafted Paul Westphal (1972) and Joe Johnson (2001), but both these players were traded and had better years elsewhere.

No. 11: This slot represents the hit-or-miss nature of the drafts. Only two No. 11s have been selected by the Celtics: Jerome Moiso (2000) and Kedrick Brown (2001). Not the best of times at No. 11 for the Celtics . . . or should that be by Rick Pitino - Chris Walsh. As misery loves company, Chicago took Marcus Fizer at No. 4 in 2000 and Michael Jordan selected Kwame Brown with the No. 1 pick in 2001. The 2001 draft happens to be the draft that San Antonio took Tony Parker with the last pick in the 1st round (No. 28).

No. 12: Cedric Maxwell (1977) was an excellent pick by the Celtics. Cornbread only trails Chet Walker and Dr. J in productivity as a No. 12 pick.

No. 13: KC Jones (1956) holds the post position for the Celtics No. 13 picks. Michael Smith (1989) and Marcus Banks (in a 2003 draft day trade) are the only other No. 13 picks made by the Celtics. Smith represents the draft day ho-hum selections that hounded the Celtics in the late 80's through the mid-90's (no offense to Dee Brown, Rick Fox, Jon Barry, Acie Earl and Eric Montross).

No. 14: Eric Williams (1995) was the best of the handful of No. 14's taken by the Celtics.

No. 15: Al Jefferson (2004) was an excellent draft pick debut for Danny Ainge, the new GM for the Celtics at the time, in a Celtics' draft which also netted Delonte West (No. 24) and Tony Allen (No. 25). No other 15s have been selected by the Celtics in the last 50 years.

No. 16: The Celtics have made the No. 16 pick 7 times and have come up empty-handed. Perhaps they understood No. 16 is jinxed for them, and that's why they traded their last 16th pick in 2003. They selected Marcus Banks (13th) and Kendrick Perkins (27th) while Troy Bell (16th) and Dahntay Jones (20th) were selected by the Grizzlies and their GM Jerry West in the 4 pick swap. If he counts, old friend Dana Barros (1989) was taken by Seattle at No. 16, and eventually found his home back in Boston.

No. 17: Pretty much the same as No. 16 - the Celtics have been 0 for 5 with their No. 17 opportunities, the most recent being Tom Boswell (1975).

No. 18: Gerald Green (2005) fell all the way to No. 18, and Ainge should have let him keep on falling in the draft and taken David Lee instead (30th pick by the Knicks).

No. 19: Avery Bradley (2010) seems like he's already outdistanced Dee Brown (1990) and certainly the Iowan Acie Earl (1993) at the No. 19 slot.

No. 20: Sam Vincent (1985) is the only pick here besides the trade in 2003.

No. 21: Rajon Rondo (2006) was acquired with a 1st round pick obtained from Cleveland in exchange for Jiri Welsch, that was traded to the Phoenix Suns for their 2006 pick (No. 21). A brilliant move by Ainge. Prior to that, the Celtics No. 21's selections have been a wasteland of Greg Kite (1983), Jon Barry (1992) and the worst being Joe Forte (2001).

No. 22: Reggie Lewis (1987) was a home run late in the 1st round by the Celtics, demonstrating that the Celtics can take a major haul at Nos. 21 and 22 if they have Lucky the Leprechaun sitting on their shoulder.

No. 23: No. 23 has been 0 for 4 for the Celtics, the most recent being Darren Tillis (1982).

No. 24: Brian Shaw (1988), Rick Fox (1991) and Delonte West (2004) are vying for top honors for the No. 24 selection by the Celtics. Certainly they have looked at role players in this range.

No. 25: Tony Allen (2004) headlines this slot for the Celtics. Marshon Brooks (2011) was selected, but turned into a No. 27 that became Jajuan Johnson and a 2nd rounder in 2014. The value of Johnson is to be determined, but I have high hopes for the Purdue alum.

No. 26: No. 26 is another 0 for 4 for the Celtics, and they have not selected at No. 26 since Toby Kimball (1965).

No. 27: Kendrick Perkins (2003) is as good as it gets here for the Celtics (see trade discussed in No. 16 above). They also took another guy in 1972 at No. 27 that never ended up playing in the NBA.

Nos. 28, 29 and 30: The Celtics have made 4 picks in this range, with the most recent being JR Giddens (2008) who was taken with the 30th pick. However, Celtic notables that were drafted in this range by other teams include Dennis Johnson (1976), Sherman Douglas (1989) and PJ Brown (1993).

The Celtics draft history wouldn't be complete without a glimpse at the 2nd round which is headlined with Danny Ainge being taken with the 31st pick in 1981. And now things get complicated as Doc Rivers (1984) was also a No. 31 pick. It just becomes too close of a call as to whether Doc or Danny is the best ever No. 31 pick - but it's definitely one of them. For comparison, both of them have more Win Shares (around 70 Win Shares each) than the likely soon to retire No. 1 pick Mike Miller (53.5 Win Shares).

As the Celtics also have the 51st pick, it's worth mentioning that as GM, Ainge has a great reputation for mining talent in the 2nd round. . . . So hold on to your seats for NBA Draft Day, with the 21st, 22nd and 51st picks currently in play for the Celtics. I hope you agree that some Rajon Rondo and Reggie Lewis magic would be terrific for the 21st and 22nd picks!