The Boston Celtics are focused on winning this season. They are deep and talented and still have enough worries about today without focusing on tomorrow. But that’s not going to stop us from peeking ahead at the NBA Draft anyway. Especially not after the Duke trio of prospects put on such a show against Kentucky.
As a refresher, the Celtics traded the number one overall pick to the Sixers (who selected Markelle Fultz) in exchange for the 3rd pick (Jayson Tatum) and the rights to a future pick with complicated protections. After the Lakers failed to finish in the bottom 5 last year, the pick became tied to the fate of this year’s Sacramento Kings team.
Here are the remaining terms of the pick (via RealGM):
Boston will receive the more favorable of Philadelphia’s 2019 1st round pick protected for selection 1 and Sacramento’s 2019 1st round pick (via Philadelphia) protected for selection 1 and Philadelphia will receive the less favorable or the protected of these two picks.
So the ideal situation for the Celtics would be for the Kings to finish near the bottom of the league standings but not receive the number one overall pick. Remember that this year the lottery odds have changed and the bottom 3 teams in the league all have an equal chance of winning the top pick (and the chances of winning were spread a little more evenly across the lottery teams in general).
The problem is, the Kings started 6-3 and were threatening to ruin all of our plans of getting another top 3 pick. Should we be worried about this or is this young Kings team going to fall back to earth a bit?
Since interest in #KingsPick seems to have picked up after the Duke game last night, current #KingsPick odds (based on 538 projection of finishing with 7th worst record):— Chris Forsberg (@ChrisForsberg_) November 7, 2018
No. 1: 7.5%
Nos. 2-5: 25.8%
Nos. 2-10: 82.1%
Here is where it is worth pointing out that the Magic and Grizzlies both started off last season 6-3 and both finished in the bottom 5 of the standings. Small sample sizes can deceive, especially with a young team.
The Kings do have an exciting young star in the making in De’Aaron Fox. (via Tom Ziller)
If Fox is that kind of player — a player who can drop 31-15-10 at age 20 without an All-Star in his midst — the rebuild will have worked. That’s all it takes: a star.
Now, that’s not a guarantee of team success. Remember Cousins? Remember that the Kings are in the West? But having a legit star is the most important piece of team success. The next step is to get another star and a solid roster around the two stars. That’s where Sacramento fell short during the Cousins era. That’s where Sacramento could very well fall short in the Fox era.
Fox is getting help from Buddy Hield, Nemanja Bjelica, and Willie Cauley-Stein. There’s some debate over how well Marvin Bagley fits into their plans. But even if all those guys eventually end up being good to great fits (or even becoming Vlad’s “Superteam”), they’ll need some time to grow and develop together.
Also keep in mind that they have a brutal schedule coming up. They’ve already lost two straight and are set to play 3 games in 4 nights. Then in mid-November they’ll be facing (in order) the Rockets, Thunder, Jazz, Warriors, Jazz (again), Clippers, and Pacers before they finally get a tanking team like the Suns.
Somehow I think we’ll be feeling a bit better about that Kings pick as we turn our calendars to December. On the other hand, there are a lot of tanking teams this year that will make it their goal to submarine the Kings (who have no motivation to lose). So we’ll just have to wait and see.
I’ve long since stopped feeling bad for rooting against teams for our own benefit (sorry Nets fans). This is nothing against those fans or even the teams themselves. I actually wish all the good things in the world for the Kings... eventually. I just want the Celtics to benefit from their expected growing pains.