After Oden and Durant, draft becomes unpredictable
Posted: Tuesday May 22, 2007 11:18PM; Updated: Wednesday May 23, 2007 2:03PM
The Boston Celtics can claim they are cursed after tumbling in the lottery for the second time in a decade. But the truth, confirmed yet again by Tuesday's miserable result, is that they never should have traded for Sebastian Telfair.
That deal on draft day last year sent the eventual rights to Brandon Roy onto Portland. Consider the ensuing chain of events. Roy became the Rookie of the Year who helped the Trail Blazers win a surprising 32 games this season, earning them the No. 6 position going into the lottery -- which in turn earned them the No. 1 pick overall. Would the Blazers have won as many as 32 games with Telfair on their roster instead of Roy? The answer is a solid NO. It can now be said that the acquisition of Roy, more than any other move, helped bring Greg Oden to Portland.
Now consider how the Celtics (who went 24-58 for the second-worst record in the league) must feel about that trade, which was already the most lopsided deal of the past year before its hidden impact on the lottery was known. Imagine if the Celtics had retained their No. 7 pick and used it on Roy. They surely would have won a few more games thanks to the Rookie of the Year (who averaged a versatile 16.8 points, 4.4 rebounds and 4.0 assists in the tougher Western Conference). And with the benefit of a better roster, the Celtics might have been less inclined to improve their lottery position and thus might have been trying to win a few more games after the All-Star break.
To put it bluntly, might the Celtics have won the requisite 32 games with Roy on their side instead of Telfair -- and would they today thus be celebrating the arrival of Oden? That one is obviously a harder case to make, but the fans in Boston will not be blamed for debating all of the cosmic possibilities as they consider bleakly where their Celtics go from here.
Am I saying that the Celtics somehow should have had the foresight to avoid the Roy trade in order to position themselves for Oden? Of course not. All I'm saying is that a bad trade looks even worse now, given the extent to which it helped the Blazers.
So the big winners were obviously No. 1 Portland and No. 2 Seattle, each of whom ping-ponged up three places in the lottery. By advancing one spot to No. 3, the Hawks were allowed to keep their draft pick, which otherwise would have been sent to Phoenix had Atlanta held at No. 4 or worse.
The losers were the Suns, who were shut out by Atlanta's good fortune, the Celtics and especially the Memphis Grizzlies, the worst team in the league, whose unhappy reward will be the No. 4 pick in the June 28 draft after falling three places. The Bucks also dropped three spots to settle at No. 6.
Here's a quick look at the decisions these teams must face over the five weeks to come:
No. 1 Portland: Of all the winners Tuesday, Oden may have been the biggest of them all as he will be coached by Nate McMillan, who will buy into his prodigal rookie's defensive and team-minded approach without trying to turn Oden into something he isn't (i.e. a selfish ball-hogging scorer). I foresee a player-coach relationship in Portland not unlike what Tim Duncan and Gregg Popovich have developed in San Antonio. The Blazers, just like that, are relevant again, and ticket sales should no longer be a problem. They might be the youngest team in the playoffs next year, with Oden complementing Zach Randolph beautifully.
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