That’s not a knock on those mock drafts, but as a rule just about any pre-lottery mock has to make the assumption that the worst teams will get the top picks.
As a veteran of dozens of lotteries (including 1997 and 2007) I can assure you that outcome isn’t set in stone.
The Brooklyn Nets have a 5.5 game “lead” on the Lakers for the worst record in the league (with 9 games left on the schedule). Despite an inexplicable hot streak lately, the odds are still pretty good that they’ll finish at the bottom of the standings, thus giving the Celtics the highest probability of winning the lottery. Of course, the lottery guarantees nothing and the Celtics would actually have a 35.7% chance of falling to the 4th.
So instead of another boring mock draft where Fultz sits at number one and then we guess at what players other teams will select, I’m going to ignore picks past 4 or 5 and focus on the different scenarios the Celtics could find themselves on draft night.
Also note: For the purpose of this analysis I’m going to simplify things and assume that the team is keeping the pick (no trade involving the pick) and stick to the best prospect available approach (ignoring team need).
Celtics win lottery - pick 1st (currently 25% chance) - Markelle Fultz
If the Celtics are fortunate enough to win the lottery, they’ll have their pick of the lot and by all accounts it is a good lot. Still, the guy that seems to have set himself ahead of the rest is Markelle Fultz. He has great size, shooting and scoring, ball handling, court awareness, and positional flexibility. He’ll need to work on his defense and consistency at the next level but he’s got all the tools to do so.
I think his skills would actually compliment Isaiah Thomas in a future two guard backcourt. They can take turns bringing the ball up and both excel off the ball. Fultz would have the size to take larger guards and (in theory) the team would still have either Avery Bradley or Marcus Smart (but not both) coming off the bench. Basically I don’t think you can pass on the top talent in the draft based on short term team needs that (if absolutely necessary) can be fixed with a trade or two.
Celtics pick 2nd (currently 21.5% chance) - Markelle Fultz
I’m playing a little with the odds here, but if the Celtics pick 2nd, there’s a good chance that either the Lakers or Suns will be picking 1st. If that’s the case, I can very easily see either team picking Lonzo Ball first overall. He’s a fun and dynamic player that could be the face of a young, rebuilding team for years to come. That would leave the Celtics with the rights to pick Fultz second.
If Fultz is already off the board, I wouldn’t put it past Danny Ainge to pick Josh Jackson here either. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not totally down on Ball. I just think Jackson could catch Danny’s eye. Read below for why.
Celtics pick 3rd (currently 17.7% chance) - Josh Jackson
Close your eyes and picture the kind of player that Danny Ainge has had a habit of drafting lately. Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, and even Terry Rozier. For the sake of cherry picking, I’ll throw in Justise Winslow (whom he tried very hard to acquire) as well. They are all hard working, high intensity, multi-faceted, positionally flexible, winners that had questions about their jump shots. Open your eyes and you’ll see that Josh Jackson fits that mold to a T.
A year ago I would have been much more concerned with the jumper based on the team’s struggles from beyond the arc. However, Boston has made a giant leap forward in that respect and Jackson has shown hints that he could do the same with enough time and practice.
Who would you select at #3 if Fultz & Ball are gone?
This poll is closed
Celtics pick 4th (currently 35.8% chance) - Jayson Tatum
If Fultz, Ball, or Jackson slip to #3, I think Boston would take any of them and consider themselves lucky. I toyed with taking Malik Monk or Jonathan Isaac here, but ultimately decided that Tatum has a similar upside and higher floor.
One talent that he has is exactly what the Celtics could use more of. He scores. He can create his own shot and he can fit within the flow of the offense. He’s not a great defender and he’s not a great athlete, but sometimes you just need a guy that get you buckets in a hurry. Having that kind of weapon would take some of the scoring load off of Thomas too.
Of course this pick creates a log-jam at the small forward spot, but that will be the case no matter what position the Celtics pick (there are no centers ranked this high) so a trade to consolidate assets is inevitable.
Celtics pick 5th (only happens if Nets pass the Lakers or Suns) - Malik Monk
It isn’t fun thinking about this, but until the Nets lock up the worst record, this worst case scenario is still possible. Clearly if the Celtics find themselves in this position, they’ll look long and hard at trading the pick but there’s a chance they won’t find equal value and be forced to keep it.
In that case, Ainge could still take one of the highly regarded point guards still on the board (De’Aaron Fox, Frank Ntilikina, or Dennis Smith) or they may roll the dice on the kid that can seemingly score from anywhere. I’m hedging toward Monk if only because of the fun factor.
If you’ve read this far I humbly thank you for sticking with me to the end of this exercise. You’ll immediately notice in the comments below that several people have only read as far as their favorite player and are now ripping me for being a moron (or perhaps they are using more polite language but with the same general intention).
The joke is on them though, because I haven’t watched a minute of college basketball this year and I fully admit I haven’t got a clue what I’m talking about. All of the above opinions are based upon a series of mock drafts, scouting reports, podcasts, articles from writers that I trust, and flat out SWAGs. So mock away, I’ll join you in your mockery. Jeff, “your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberry.”
Now I shall enjoy watching the comments divided between shots at me and a steady string of Monty Python quotes.