Fourteen Ping-Pong balls. In a lottery machine.
That's what will determine the happiness level of Celtics fans for the foreseeable future. The Celtics have eight picks in this year's NBA Draft. One of those is a lottery pick with a half-decent shot at landing in the top three. That will be determined at the NBA Draft Lottery, at which All-Star guard Isaiah Thomas will represent his squad.
With so much riding on this pick, here is a look at the basics of the lottery, what is at stake for the Celtics, and whom the Celtics could target:
When is it?
Date and time: Tuesday at 7 p.m.
Where: Barclays Center, Brooklyn
How does the lottery work?
Of the 30 teams in the league, 14 qualify for the lottery while the other 16 qualify for the playoffs. Fourteen Ping-Pong balls are tossed into lottery machine, numbered 1-14. One thousand four-number combinations are doled out to the 14 teams. The team with the worst record has the most combinations (250) and highest chance of securing the top pick. The team with the second-worst record has the second-most combinations (199) and the second-highest chance of securing the top pick — and so on down through the 14th slot.
|Seed||Combinations||% chance at 1st pick||% chance at 2nd pick||% chance at 3rd pick|
When teams have the same record — like Sacramento, Denver, and Milwaukee this year — the average of the teams' odds are used. If the average includes a decimal, a coin flip determines which teams round their odds up — Sacramento and Denver (19) — and which round down — Milwaukee (18). If none of the teams land in the top three, that coin flip determines the order in which they pick.
|Team||Record||Combinations||% chance at 1st pick|
|Brooklyn (To Boston)||21-61||156||15.60%|
|New York (To Denver or Toronto)||32-50||43||4.30%|
The balls are mixed in the machine for 20 seconds before the first number is selected. Ten seconds elapse between each number selection. Once four numbers are drawn, the pick is assigned to the team that owns that number combination. Rinse and repeat for picks two and three.
However, a team cannot win more than one pick in the top three. If a team's number combination is drawn more than once, the process repeats until a new team wins.
Once the first three picks are awarded, picks four through 14 are assigned based on record — the team with the worst record getting the fourth pick and so one.
What is the best-case scenario for the Celtics?
The Celtics have the Brooklyn Nets' first-round pick. The Nets finished with the third-worst record in the NBA this season. Their choice has a 15.6 percent chance of being the top pick and a 46.9 percent chance of being a top-three pick. The Celtics hope the lottery balls give them a favorable bounce and land them the first overall pick, giving them an opening to draft LSU's Ben Simmons or Duke's Brandon Ingram.
They haven't had a lottery pick since 2014, when they wound up selecting Marcus Smart sixth overall.
What is the worst-case scenario for the Celtics?
The Brooklyn pick cannot fall past No. 6, so the worst-case scenario is the Celtics still have a top-six pick, unless they trade it, on top of the other two first-round picks they have. Here are the odds for the Celtics landing each of the top six picks:
What will the Celtics do?
In three seasons under Brad Stevens, there's been progress each year.
But it seems we've read columns and analysis like this one over and over — Boston needs a superstar if it wants a real shot at securing its first NBA title since 2008.
Yes, the Celtics have a blue-collar lineup that is gritty and unintimidated by the sparkling play of the Warriors. But the team has also hit streaky patches, leaning too much on the scoring ability of Thomas and falling to inferior teams.
Among other things, they need an anchor, one with a top-shelf stat line and the name recognition to match.
"The Celtics need a long-range shooter, someone who can stretch defenses," Gary Washburn wrote, detailing a list of players the team could chase in free agency. "The Celtics need a rim protector. . . .The Celtics need another pure scorer."
Team president Danny Ainge and the Celtics have been stockpiling picks for a while now. They have eight this year: three in the first round and five in the second. With those resources and a slew of hard-working players, the Celtics could piece together a trade package that includes their lottery pick — if it isn't in the top two — to land a big name.
"Ainge aligned the salary cap to where the Celtics could pursue two maximum-salary players if they do not guarantee the contracts of Amir Johnson and Jonas Jerebko, which total $17 million in additional salary cap space," Washburn wrote.
Which players could the Celtics target with a lottery pick?
Two things are obvious. One, the Celitcs will keep a tight lid on any prospects they are seriously eyeing. Two, if they land the first overall pick, they'll almost certainly take LSU small forward Ben Simmons or Duke small forward Brandon Ingram. Outside of that, it's anyone's guess. Here's a look at some of the top prospects:
Ben Simmons, small forward, LSU — The 6-foot-10-inch, 240-pound Simmons averaged 19.2 points and 11.8 rebounds per game in 33 contests for the Tigers this season. He was named the National Freshman of the Year and the Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Year. He had the fifth-most double-doubles in the country this season and was thought to be the No. 1 overall pick much of the season.
"He also shows some ability to score inside the post with right-handed jump hooks and excellent footwork," DraftExpress's Jonathan Givony wrote. "He is devastating operating in isolation situations from the mid-post area as he's simply too quick and too creative with the ball for most big men to stay in front of."
Though he dazzled at some points throughout the season, his effort was called into question at times, especially in the Tigers's final game, a 71-38 drubbing by Texas A&M. LSU was 19-14 with Simmons, making projections that he's a lock as the top pick questionable. His defensive effort has also been questioned.
"He often looks very lazy here, not making any effort whatsoever to close out on shooters and avoiding contact and physicality in a very concerning way when challenged by opposing players," Givony wrote.
Brandon Ingram, small forward, Duke — The 6-9, 190-pound Ingram has been compared to Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant after a freshman campaign that saw him average 17.3 points for Duke. He was a finalist for the Freshman of the Year Award and for the Small Forward of the year award. He was named second-team All ACC and earned ACC Freshman of the Year honors.
Because of questions surrounding Simmons, Ingram and his high upside have a real shot at going first overall.
"Ingram is a better shooter — which is perhaps the most important skill in today's NBA — and has shown a much better trajectory throughout the college season," Givony wrote for Yahoo!'s The Vertical. "The intel on Ingram as a teammate and competitor has been much stronger than Simmons'. Yes, Ingram has a much more frail frame now, but it's easy to envision him filling out as he ages and matures."
Dragan Bender, power forward, Israeli League/Euroleague — This 7-1, 216-pounder is considered the top international prospect. The 18-year-old spent the season with Tel Aviv in the Israeli League, where he worked on his shooting mechanics and fluidity of his game. He is likely to undergo a position transition in the NBA.
"He is a small forward/power forward right now, but with the direction the NBA is headed, it might not be a stretch to see him eventually developing into a modern-day center. While not a great jumper, Bender is extremely fluid, nimble, and light on his feet for a player of his size," Givony wrote for The Vertical. "Versatility has always been the key to Bender's game. He was considered a non-shooter early in his career, yet continuously found ways to be productive with his passing, ball-handling and high basketball IQ."
His jumping ability and scoring ability need to be further developed, but his adaptability thus far, though his stat lines are limited, suggests he is coachable.
Jaylen Brown, small forward, Cal — Brown (6-7, 225) started all 34 games for the Bears this season and was second on the team in points per game (14.6). He was named the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year and first-team All-Pac-12.
"The best part of Brown's game is when he has the ball in his hands and is attacking downhill," Bleacher Report's C.J. Moore wrote. "Brown is excellent in transition and thrives on going at defenders when they're on their heels. He can finish through contact and draws a lot of fouls."
Brown's decision-making, shooting ability, and comfort with the half-court offense have been questioned.
"Brown's jumper will be the biggest concern surrounding him for NBA teams," Moore wrote. "He not only struggles to make perimeter jumpers, but he's also a mediocre free-throw shooter."
Jamal Murray, shooting guard, Kentucky — Murray (6-4, 207) was a one-and-done with the Wildcats this year. He led Kentucky in scoring and was third in scoring in the Southeastern Conference.
"Murray's scoring instincts also show up in the way he changes pace in the open court and attacks closeouts with excellent footwork and timing," Givony wrote in his scouting report. "While not a high flyer, he uses the glass craftily in traffic with runners, floaters, and off-hand finishes. He's stronger than he looks on first glance, and has a good feel for drawing fouls, pushing off defenders subtly, and finding ways to put points up more effectively than you'd think considering his average tools."
Buddy Hield, shooting guard, Oklahoma — Hield (6-4, 214) spent four seasons with the Sooners, finishing second on the program's all-time scoring list and first on its 3-pointers made list. He also set the Big 12 record for career 30-point games (14). He was named Big 12 Player of the Year twice and earned this year's Wooden Award, Naismith Trophy, and the Oscar Robertson Trophy as the top player in the country.
The rest: Jakob Poeltl, center, Utah; Henry Ellenson, power forward, Marquette; Skal Labissiere power forward/center, Kentucky; Demetrius Jackson, point guard, Notre Dame; Timothe Luwawu, shooting guard/small forward, Mega Leks; Domantas Sabonis, power forward, Gonzaga.
|15||Houston (To Denver)|
|16||Dallas (To Boston)|
|19||Portland (To Denver)|
|24||Miami (To Philadelphia via Cleveland)|
|26||Oklahoma City (To Philadelphia via Denver and Cleveland)|
|28||Cleveland (To Phoenix via Boston)|
|31||Philadelphia (To Boston via Miami)|
|33||Brooklyn (To LA Clippers)|
|35||Minnesota (To Boston via Phoenix)|
|36||New Orleans (To Milwaukee via Sacramento)|
|37||New York (To Houston via Sacramento and Portland)|
|38/39/40.||Denver (To New Orleans via Philadelphia)|
|38/39/40.||Sacramento (To New Orleans)|
|44||Washington (To Atlanta)|
|45||Memphis (To Boston)|
|47||Chicago (To Orlando)|
|48||Portland (To Chicago via Cleveland)|
|51||Miami (To Boston)|
|52||Boston (To Utah via Memphis)|
|53||Charlotte (To Denver via Oklahoma City)|
|55||LA Clippers (To Brooklyn)|
|56||Oklahoma City (To Denver)|
|57||Toronto (To Memphis)|
|58||Cleveland (To Boston)|
|59||San Antonio (To Sacramento)|
|60||Golden State (To Utah)|