As you may or may not know, depending upon how hard you’ve been trying to ignore the irrelevant Celtics, Boston has a 19.9 percent chance to land the No. 1 pick in tonight’s annual NBA “How David Stern will rig this year’s draft” lottery.
Danny Ainge and Co. have an 18.8 percent chance at landing the No. 2 pick, a 17.11 percent chance at No. 3, and a whopping 31.9 percent chance at No. 4.
Greg Oden. Fine. Kevin Durant. Fine. Three and below? Might as well see what Jerome Moiso is up to these days.
Here’s what it boils down to: The Celtics have a less than 40 percent chance of landing a pick that could change the tired face of the franchise. They also have about a 60 percent chance of continuing to try and explain how these “kids” are really going to be something someday. Good grief, Tommy Heinsohn is now trying to convince everybody that Al Jefferson would be the No. 1 pick if he were in the draft this year. "So, we got the No. 1 pick a couple years ago with foresight,” he said.
Great. Now it should only have to be yet another 2-3 seasons for him to reach his potential, a promise I seem to have been hearing for a longer period of time than that new Indiana Jones movie.
Put in the grander scheme of things, it’s not quite as tantamount as the odds of getting canonized (20,000,000 to 1), being killed on a 5-mile bus trip (500,000,000 to 1), or of being on a plane with a drunken pilot (117 to 1 ... uh, check please).
And yet, the future direction of this Celtics franchise will be determined in just a few seconds this evening when those envelopes are opened. I particularly enjoy the laughable radio commercials the team is running for its season ticket packages. “Call now, because after May 22, you may not be able to get through.” Yeah, fingers will be on speed dial for Joaquim Noah, no doubt.
Can you imagine the NFL holding something like this, a random Bingo game to determine the fates of its teams? You’re the worst team in the NBA? No matter. I mean, who in his right mind thinks that Memphis is going to land the top pick tonight, despite having a 25 percent chance to do so? The history of the worst team getting that much-needed pick is much against Memphis, which means someone like the up-and-coming Clippers (0.5 percent chance) will get it. Better for business to have Oden in Los Angeles than Memphis, right?
That’s not to scream conspiracy theory, but only to illustrate how ludicrous this system is. In what other sport does the league allow the chance for the good teams to get better while the so-sos and the dregs continue to flounder?
It’s one thing to discourage choking down the stretch to improve your odds, but to be fair it’s not exactly like this has stopped that from happening (et tu, Doc?). Ask the 1997 Celtics how much having the best chance mattered, a fact that the Sporting News refused to let die with the draft approaching.
As it turned out, Chauncey Billups turned out to be a pretty darned good consolation prize. Of course, that was two years after Rick Pitino traded him away for the simple reason that he wasn’t Tim Duncan, the player he came out of college to coach in the bigs. And then he just sort of lost interest in the whole deal.
The Standard Times’ Tim Weisberg couldn’t stand the wait, so he went to a psychic to determine the fate of tonight’s Mega Millions. But the woman told him who gets the No. 1 pick instead, so he took it.
The winner: Phoenix.
Yes, the same Phoenix Suns who were just ousted from the NBA playoffs and had the second-highest win total in the league this season. That Phoenix, which has 119 ping-pong balls in tonight’s lottery, by virtue of a trade with Atlanta. However, the Suns cannot call the pick their own if it is one of the top three. It then goes back to Atlanta.
The Suns do have a better than 13 percent chance at landing the No. 4 pick and sticking with it, which could land them Chinese center Yi Jianlian or Florida’s Corey Brewer. Now imagine the Celtics land the fifth pick, only to watch an NBA finalist pick ahead of them by virtue of a trade. Welcome to the NBA lottery folks, an exercise in inanity.
If it isn't 1 or 2, legions, sorry. Dozens of Celtics fans tonight will throw up their arms in a collective reaction of futility. The jury’s out on how good Jianlian can be, but there's still no guarantee the Celtics will even grab No. 3. They have their best shot at 4, but can't draft lower than 5, which in this draft might as well be 32.
If luck continues the way it has for the Celtics for the past two decades, they’ll end up with No. 4 or No. 5, and good luck trading those away for the likes of Kevin Garnett. The good news, I suppose, is that the franchise has already locked up company man Doc Rivers, who has proven he can throw games with the best of them should they need to make another go at it in 2007-08. Season tickets on sale now.
In a sane world, the Celtics would have the No. 2 pick in the draft based on their regular season record and their fans would have nothing to worry about. Either Oden or Durant would be coming here to inject some life into a once-proud franchise that now gets its kicks from bedazzled dancers and lame halftime mascot entertainment. The odds are against them though.
Then again, as if chance wanted to slap me in the face, I did play ESPN’s lottery simulator this morning, which broke down like this after 10 tries:
Celtics get the fourth pick: Four times
Celtics get the third pick: Once
Celtics get the second pick: Once
Celtics get the first pick: Four times.
So, that’s 50 percent at landing one of the top two, which I’ll be rooting for tonight. But in reality, four or five might be just as entertaining if only to witness how Ainge and Co. plan to wiggle upstream from the mess they’ve created already. But that’s life in the NBA when you put your fate in the hands of little, hollow plastic ping-pong balls. What a great way to run a billion-dollar league.