NEW YORK — There wasn’t a lot of faith in that lottery room in New York, where Celtics president Rich Gotham was sequestered without access to a computer or cell phone, along with other officials from lottery teams.
There wasn’t a lot of faith from Celtics co-owner Steve Pagliuca, who learned of the Celtics’ fate on the podium during the nationally televised broadcast. And there wasn’t faith from team president of basketball operations Danny Ainge, who watched the NBA Draft lottery from Los Angeles, where he is observing a series of prospect workouts.
The Celtics were awarded the sixth pick, a slot they had a 34.2 percent chance of landing before the selections began. There was a collective disappointment but hardly surprise, not given the letdowns in 1997 and 2007, when the Celtics were considered lottery losers.
This time not so much. The Celtics didn’t pull off the miracle of the Cleveland Cavaliers, who won the lottery despite a 1.7 percent chance at the top pick, but they did at least receive some certainty in their draft position.
“It was a little disappointing, we were hopeful for something better,” Ainge said candidly. “I don’t think anyone’s going to come in and change the face of our franchise out of the gate but I do think there’s some good quality in this draft.
“This isn’t much different than ’07 [when the Celtics picked fifth]. There’s less value in the sixth pick than the one or two or three picks, but we’re still going to make the best choice.”
Landing sixth perhaps damages the Celtics’ chances of acquiring a quality veteran such as Minnesota’s Kevin Love because the premium prospects such as Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid of Kansas, Jabari Parker of Duke, and Australia’s Dante Exum likely will be gone.
Sixth likely leaves the Celtics to select amongst players such as one-and-dones Aaron Gordon of Arizona, Haverhill native Noah Vonleh of Indiana, and Julius Randle of Kentucky, or sophomore Marcus Smart of Oklahoma State.
According to Gotham, in the lottery room, the top three picks are announced first, meaning the other officials spent the next 40 minutes perhaps seething or celebrating their pick. Gotham said he wasn’t seething but he wasn’t pleased.
“If you are not one of the first three, you sort of sit there bewildered,” Gotham said. “I think the general consensus and my feeling is certainly that it’s a deep draft and at six there will be a very good player available to us, so feel good about that. The last time we were here [in 2007] the ping-pong balls didn’t go our way but things turned out all right and we’ll get to work now.”
Seven years ago, Ainge turned the fifth overall pick (Jeff Green) into a deal for Ray Allen and then added Kevin Garnett in another trade to form the second Big Three.
“Next season starts now,” Gotham said. “We know what we’re dealing with from here, plan our roster. It definitely provides you some clarity and a better basis for moving forward.”
The Celtics finished with a 25-57 record, their worst mark since 2006-07, tied for the fourth-worst mark in the NBA. They lost a coin flip with the Utah Jazz and were slotted fifth but with the NBA lottery odds, their most likely landing spot was sixth (34.2), followed by fifth (23.8). The Celtics had a 33.42 percent chance of landing a top three pick.
“It’s a bit of relief that it’s not eighth,” Pagliuca said. “And as you know, there’s definitely six very good players in the draft. We’re fortunate to be in that sixth spot and I’m glad we’re not in that seventh or eighth. It would have been nice to get up there and get that one, two, or three. There must be something in the water in Cleveland.”
Ainge has downplayed the impact of this draft for months while other NBA officials believed it is the deepest since the class of 2003. Still, it appears the Celtics can get two solid players for their rebuilding plan with the sixth and 17th picks.
“There’s some who are more ready to play than others and I don’t know who’s going to be available at six,” he said. “I think the sixth pick has serious value. How serious? I don’t know yet. We haven’t had a chance to talk about or explore that, even. So we will look into exploring that now that we have clarity on where we are.”
When asked if the Celtics could get a cornerstone player at six or 17, Ainge said: “I don’t think you can get a cornerstone, no. Not in this year’s draft. I think you can get a player that’s capable of starting on an NBA team, a starter on a winning team. We’ll have our options with a handful of guys. I think it will be a very difficult choice because I feel like through the lottery, there are some real projects and then there are also some guys who can be developed into good, starting NBA players.”
What comes out of the No. 6 pick?
The No. 6 picks in the NBA Draft the past 10 seasons:
|2013||Nerlens Noel||New Orleans||Kentucky|
|2012||Damian Lillard||Portland||Weber State|
|2011||Jan Vesely||Washington||Czech Republic|
|2010||Ekpe Udoh||Golden State||Baylor|
|2008||Danilo Gallinari||New York||Italy|
|2005||Martell Webster||Portland||high school|
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