For all that future Hall of Famers Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett did for the Boston Celtics during their tenure with the team, they have perhaps done just as much for the franchise without even being on the roster.
In 2013, the two All-Stars were infamously traded to the Brooklyn Nets, a deal which landed Boston a treasure trove of riches. In exchange for Garnett, Pierce, and Jason Terry, Brooklyn gave the Celtics five players, but more importantly also handed over a plethora of draft picks. The Nets ship over their first-round picks in 2014, 2016, 2018 and gave Boston the right to swap first-round picks with them this year.
This is something Boston general manager Danny Ainge will undoubtedly take advantage of his ability to swap picks with Brooklyn. Despite winning their last contest in an upset over the Chicago Bulls, the Nets at 20-60 recently clinched the NBA’s worst record. This means that as the Celtics battle for the first seed in the Eastern Conference, they could also hold the first overall pick in the draft this summer.
The Phoenix Suns, Brooklyn’s “challenger” for the league’s worst record, took themselves out of the running when they defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder 120-99 on April 7th. Boston now holds the best odds to win the draft’s top overall selection in the NBA Draft Lottery.
The Celtics will have a 25% chance at being awarded the coveted number one overall pick. Though the ping-pong balls don’t always fall in favor of the team with the best odds, Boston has put itself in an excellent position for the future. Now with a playoff caliber roster, a budding super star in Isaiah Thomas at the helm, and the best odds at a number one overall draft choice, the Celtics have made what rebuilding teams all around the NBA should strive to emulate.
Meanwhile, Brooklyn isn’t even off the hook yet. Not only will they have no shot at improving by grabbing one this year’s top draft prospects, they still owe Boston another first round pick in 2018.