On one of the Boston sports talk radio stations this morning (I’m not sure which one; both sets of hosts were on vacation and it’s almost impossible to tell the difference between the various fill-ins), they were talking about potential changes to the NBA draft that would feature a set rotation where each team would pick in a specific slot every year. Basically, each team gets a top six pick every five years, guaranteed (unless they trade it), which would seem to be a lot better than the lottery system that is currently in place. That high pick would be followed the next year by a low pick, then a few mid-to-low range ones, then eventually back into the upper levels.
The thing I thought was funny about this was that one of the hosts expressed his dislike for the potential revisions by repeatedly mentioning that it would be thirty years in between number one picks for the Celtics. If they didn’t get it in the first year, he said, he might never see it at all! The horror!
This made me laugh because in nearly thirty years of the Lottery Era, the Celtics HAVE NEVER HAD THE FIRST OVERALL PICK. In fact, that honor has gone to just sixteen teams since the New York Knicks in 1985:
Cleveland – 2013, 2011, 2003, 1986
New Orleans – 2012, 1991 (Charlotte)
Washington – 2010, 2001
Los Angeles Clippers – 2009, 1998, 1988
Chicago – 2008, 1999
Portland – 2007
Toronto – 2006
Milwaukee – 2005, 1994
Orlando – 2004, 1993, 1992
Houston – 2002
New Jersey – 2000, 1990
San Antonio – 1997, 1987
Philadelphia – 1996
Golden State – 1995
Sacramento – 1989
New York – 1985
Under this system, that same host might also have to wait thirty years for the Celtics to draft second (last time they actually did: 1986, or 27 years ago), third (1997, 16 years ago), fourth (never, infinity years ago), or fifth (2007, six years ago). Or he could be excited by the fact that the team could be able to land a top five talent every few years (if they drew the short straw and came out behind number one in the rotation, they would still receive the 6, 2, 5, 3, and 4 picks every few years until the top spot came around). It just seemed like a very strange argument against something that would probably actually benefit the local team, at least.
(Also, I haven’t gone into greater depth on this – surely someone has – but with all the talk of tanking around Boston this season, I found it interesting that only one team, the San Antonio Spurs, has gone on to win a championship after drafting first overall. Four others, by my count, reached the NBA Finals – Cleveland, Orlando, New Jersey, and Philadelphia – but did not win. I know the tanking emphasis is more on receiving a top five pick than going all-in on getting the number one spot, but this is a good reminder that taking a player at the very top of the draft guarantees you absolutely nothing.)