By now, everyone should know the Celtics have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to future draft picks. They have amassed six (likely) first-rounders over the next two NBA drafts, including two for 2015, their own and the Clippers’ selection.
Many of Boston’s future first-round selections are protected picks, meaning their value is somewhat limited, at least for the next couple years. Other selections, like the Clippers’ pick, are unprotected. Boston acquired the pick from the Clippers last summer as compensation for allowing Doc Rivers to break his contract with his team and head west. However, LA’s pick wasn’t expected to be worth much in terms of improving Boston’s rebuilding prospects.
Championship contenders pick towards the end of the draft and that’s arguably what the Clippers are — or were, prior to Sunday morning. It was then that the team revealed unfortunate news about their franchise cornerstone via a press release:
The Los Angeles Clippers announce that All-Star forward Blake Griffin will undergo surgery in Los Angeles on Monday, Feb. 9 to remove a staph infection in his right elbow. Griffin will be re-evaluated after the All-Star break.
The Clippers would not offer a public timeline on Griffin’s recovery, but ESPNLA is reporting the All-Star is expected to miss 2-6 weeks with the injury, according to team sources.
“It could be serious. It shouldn’t be, but you have to be very careful with that injury,” Doc Rivers said. “It’s the unknown. With a sprained ankle, you know 10 days. But with infections, they’re infections, and you just have to be very careful. You cannot mess around with it.”
Currently, the Clippers have a 33-19 record and are safely entrenched in the No. 6 seed in the Western Conference. It’s almost certain that the team will take a serious dip in the standings with Griffin sidelined, and it’s the Celtics who are most poised to benefit from the Clippers’ slide.
If the season ended today, the Clippers’ pick would be No. 22 for the 2015 draft. A lengthy drop-off for Los Angeles in the ultra competitive Western Conference could send that selection to the 16-20 range in the first round. With a challenging schedule already looming ahead for Rivers’ squad in the next month, dropping out of the postseason (Clippers currently are 5.5 games ahead of the ninth seed out West) isn’t out of the question if Griffin misses more than a month.
These developments should brings a smile to the face of Danny Ainge and Celtics fans, since it opens up the possibility that the Celtics will have two above-average picks in the 2015 draft. A late first-round pick has limited trade value for a rebuilding team like Boston, but two potential top-15-20 selections? That’s part of the formula a team needs to acquire a promising player.
Whether it’s combining the picks to move up in the first round or using them in a trade for an appealing building block, Boston’s offseason possibilities get that much more promising if the Clippers flounder in the next few weeks with Griffin sidelined.
So while Celtics fans may be split on the prospect of a potential postseason run for Boston this season, there’s one thing the Garden faithful can happily agree on and root for during the time being: more losses for the Clippers.