The 2006-07 Boston Celtics season might just have been one of the worst overall years in franchise history. The team finished with the second worst record in the league, at 24-58, which included a franchise worst 18-game losing streak. The team was hit with key injuries which helped in the derailing of the season, including losing team captain and All-Star Paul Pierce for seven weeks.
Or so they thought they would.
May 22, 2007, the day of the draft lottery to determine where each of the 15 worst teams would be drafting. The lottery started, and the Boston Celtics had the second best chance to get the number one overall pick, at .199.
Boston got the fifth pick, and the Portland Trail Blazers, who finished with the seventh-best record, landed the No. 1 overall selection.
It appeared that the draft lottery, which had the chance to help turn the Celtics franchise around, had now screwed them over, and they would have to wait another year to get that elite player, barring anything spectacular.
Portland, with the first overall selection, took the dominant freshman center Greg Oden, a smart pick at the time. The Seattle SuperSonics were up next, and Texas’ Kevin Durant was their choice. A smart pick at the time, and an even smarter pick today, as he’s developed into one of the best basketball players in the world. Atlanta went on to take Florida’s Al Horford with the third pick, and Memphis took Ohio State’s Mike Conley Jr. with the fourth pick.
The Boston Celtics, who at one point had dreams of drafting the elite Greg Oden or Kevin Durant, had to settle for a consolation prize of Georgetown junior Jeff Green.
But Jeff never played a game for Boston, not his rookie season at least. He was packaged in a trade to Seattle that brought in superstar shooting guard and 3-point specialist Ray Allen. GM Danny Ainge then went on to trade their top prospect, Al Jefferson, to the Minnesota Timberwolves in exchange for former MVP Kevin Garnett. With Pierce, Allen, and Garnett, the Celtics had a great roster base, and I think we all know what would go on to happen in 2008.
But what if the lottery balls had fallen in the Celtics favor on May 22, 2007? What if they got the No. 1 overall pick, or even the second overall pick? With the 2014 Draft approaching, it’s a good time to look back at one of the biggest draft related moments in Celtics history, and say “what if?’
If the Celtics had landed the No. 1 overall pick, there’s a good chance they would have drafted the aforementioned Greg Oden. At the time, that would have been a franchise altering move, bringing in one of the most feared big man prospects since Tim Duncan. Pairing him with Al Jefferson in the post would form a young, dominating paint presence, and with young, talented point guard Rajon Rondo running the show, and Paul Pierce playing at an All-Star caliber level at small forward, the future would have been bright for Boston.
Greg Oden’s knees, however, would have to say otherwise. With Portland, Oden only played in 82 games between 2007-12, when he was released by the Trail Blazers.
Oden has gone on to play as a role player for the Heat in 2013-14, appearing in 22 games for the defending champs. Either way though, Oden still goes down as one of the biggest busts in NBA history, and if the Celtics had drafted him, he could have set their franchise back another 5 years.
Now what if the Celtics had the chance to draft Kevin Durant? Paul Pierce would most likely have been spending his time at the shooting guard position, with Rondo still at point, and Jefferson in the paint. Having Durant at the small forward would give the Celtics one of the best scorers in the NBA, and although they may not have won the 2008 title, with the star studded cast around Durant, there could have been many championships in the team’s future.
If Durant had been taken by the Celtics, maybe Paul Pierce would still be on the team today. Maybe instead of tanking for Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker on 2013-14, they could be gearing up for another deep playoff run.
Now since there is no hard proof that Kevin Durant would have succeeded in Boston, this is all just speculation. But the idea of Kevin Durant in Boston right now could have changed the whole landscape of the Celtics present and future.
It’s nice to think about, but those ping pong balls didn’t fall our way that night, and here we are in the same spot again seven years later.
Shawn McFarland covers the Boston Celtics for HoopsHabit.com