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UnMuzzled: How Will the Balls Bounce?

Darren McCollester, Getty Images

Tonight’s the night. Tonight is the night we find out whether or not this putrid Celtics’ season was worth it. Because tonight is the NBA draft lottery, an event in which the fate of the NBA’s worst teams will be decided simply by the bounce of some ping pong balls.

I admittedly was on team tank all the way this season. The Celtics didn’t stand a chance at making a serious run in the playoffs and with one of the deepest drafts of this century looming it was best for the Celtics to stink it up and begin the rebuilding process by having one of this year’s top picks.

This 2014 draft class is said to be the best since 2003, which included Chris Bosh, Dwayne Wade, Carmelo Anthony, and Lebron James.

Within a few years of those players coming into the league Wade’s Heat, James’ Cavaliers, and Anthony’s Nuggets all rose to the top of their respective conferences.

Since then we’ve seen other top picks such as Kevin Durant and Blake Griffin completely transform their franchises in only a matter of a few years. There are at least two players in this draft that look like perennial All Stars and a hoard of guys behind them that should all be able to make immediate impacts.

However, as we know, it may not be the worst teams that actually get these top picks. The last time the team with the league’s worst record won the lottery was in 2004 and it has only happened FOUR times since the lottery began in 1985.

That means the team with the greatest chance of winning the top pick has only done so about 13 percent of the time.

In fact, in the last nine lotteries four of the winners have had less then 7 percent chance of winning and twice they had less than 3 percent.

We could go on about numbers all day, bottom line is the lottery is not a science and there’s no accurate way of predicting what will happen tonight. Nothing would be more surprising than to see the lottery shake out exactly the way the odds say they will.

Now, which player should be picked first? No matter who wins the lottery, I think a team would have to be nuts to pass on both Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker.

If you have the top pick you’re picking one and whoever gets the number two needs to pick the other. Which one actually goes first is going to come down to which team gets the number one pick. Here’re the five teams with the best chance of doing just that and how I think they’d draft:

  • Milwaukee Bucks (25 percent chance of getting the first pick): The team was the league’s worst record last year should have their sights set on Andrew Wiggins. The former Jayhawk will most likely be best utilized in the league as a shooting guard and his addition would instantly give the Bucks one of the leagues youngest, fastest backcourts when you couple him with Brandon Knight. Also, with last year’s first round pick Giannis Antetokounmpo already occupying the small forward position, Parker wouldn’t be as good of a scheme fit.
  • Philadelphia 76ers (19.9 percent): The average player age from the 2013-14 76er’s roster was 24 years old. Jason Richardson was the only player on the team over the age of 26. Only six of their 15 players had contracts worth more than $950,000. My point is that Philly is incredibly young and has basically no one making any real money. Out of all the teams drafting I think this is the best fit for Andrew Wiggins. Philly is in 100 percent rebuilding mode and drafting a player who still needs to develop is fine by them. Wiggins’ has the highest ceiling of any player in the draft and with the 76ers he’ll have the chance to grow alongside other young, talented players.
  • Orlando Magic (15.6 percent): The Magic are very interesting. The top prospect that seems to be the best fit for them is the talented, albeit unproven, Austrailian point guard Dante Exum. Victor Oladipo was one of the league’s best rookies last year and although there have been conversations about him playing the point he’s a natural shooting guard. Tobias Harris has been a pleasant surprise at the small forward position and Nikola Vucevic has averaged 13.6 ppg and 11.5 rebounds at center for the Magic. That all leaves point guard as Orlando’s biggest need. Even though I believe they’d pick either Wiggins or Parker if they had the first pick, don’t be surprised if you see them take Exum.
  • Utah Jazz 10.4 percent): The Jazz drafted Trey Burke to be their future point guard last year and seem committed to retaining small forward Gordon Heyward, making Wiggins seem like the smart pick. However, it shouldn’t be overlooked that Jabari Parker is a devoted Mormon and people believe he’d be a perfect fit in Utah both on and off the court.

That leaves the Boston Celtics who have a 10.3 percent chance of winning the first pick.

If somehow Boston is lucky enough to garner the top spot, they’d be fools not to pick Jabari Parker.

He’s the most mature and NBA ready player in the draft, which is more important to the Celtics than grooming a player like Wiggins who isn’t there quite yet. However, it’d be a pretty big surprise to see Boston win the lottery seeing as how they have never drafted first in the modern era.

The last time the Celtics even had a draft pick in the top five and kept the pick was Chauncey Billups in 1997 but he was traded before his rookie season was over.

Prior to that you have to go all the way back to 1986, so this isn’t a situation the Celtics are very familiar with. Historically, two specific lotteries stick out in Celtics history, 1997 and 2007.

Both years the Celtics had the second best opportunity of landing the 1st overall pick and mathematically should have landed the 2nd pick. However, as fate would have it, the Celtics lost out in both drafts. A pretty good big man out of Wake Forest named Tim Duncan went first overall in 1997.

Chauncey Billups was selected by Boston with the 3rd pick but, as mentioned above, the Celtics decided to trade the eventual 5x All-Star and Finals MVP only 51 games into his career mainly because he didn’t mesh with then coach Rick Pitino.

We forget about the horrific 2007 lottery in which the Celtics should have had a top two pick but instead landed the 5th because that was the first domino that led to the acquisitions of Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett. Because of the fact that the Celtics won a title that draft is completely forgotten which softens the blow for Celtics fans that had dreams of seeing Kevin Durant in green.

So if history has taught us anything, don’t get your hopes up tonight. Most likely we’re going to be disappointed and start wishing the Celtics hadn’t bothered tanking in the first place.

But remember, the last time we slammed our fists in disgust because of an NBA lottery Danny Ainge was on the phone assembling a championship team. So we’ll just have to wait and see…

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