There is nothing in sports like watching a no-doubt Hall of Fame pro basketball player play for your team from beginning to end. Lakers fans got 20 years out of Kobe Bryant and knew at the start of most every season that they were going to be good … or at least highly entertaining. Spurs fans have it with Tim Duncan. Bulls fans had it with Michael Jordan. Celtics fans had it with Larry Bird.
All of those guys were drafted by their teams, matured with their teams, and eventually won multiple championships with those teams.
But it is just so damn hard in the NBA to land one of these players, and you have to be luckier than Conor McGregor on St. Patrick’s Day to draft one of these players.
The Celtics took a small bit of criticism in 2007-08 for more or less “buying” a championship. Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen were not homegrown talents and the process did not feel as organic as when the city grew with Bird.
So, as we prepare to enter another phase of Celtics title contention in the next few years (Danny Ainge would have to be Pitino-dumb to screw this thing up right now), which way do fans want this thing to go?
The organic, homegrown route would obviously be preferred. It’d be great to watch Ben Simmons come into his own in a Green uniform and for Marcus Smart to be Simmons’ sidekick the next time the C’s hoist a Larry O’Brien Trophy.
But, as strange as it is to write – the homegrown route is actually much more of a risk than the blockbuster trade road.
Simmons is the flavor of the winter, for sure. But every single year we see college and high school kids endlessly hyped as the “next” LeBron or “next” Kobe. It rarely, rarely pans out.
Here are the last 10 No. 1 overall picks: Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett, Anthony Davis, Kyrie Irving, John Wall, Blake Griffin, Derrick Rose, Greg Oden, Andrea Bargnani.
There are some really good players in there, for sure. But none have won championships yet.
Excluding the Celtics’ horrid lottery luck, let’s assume they’ll get a top three pick with the Nets pick this summer (the C’s currently have the third best odds at nabbing No. 1). The top overall pick does not guarantee you get a franchise-altering player. Nor does a pick at the No. 2 or No. 3 spot. For every Kevin Durant (picked No. 2 overall in 2007), there are three or four Hasheem Thabeets, Derrick Williams’ and Otto Porters in the mix. Odds are you’ll wind up with a so-so player or even a dud in the top three.
That said, the Celtics’ 2016 Nets pick is insanely valuable right now. General managers across the league are simply salivating over it. It is being treated as though it’s a golden ticket to a great future, but there is no guarantee of that.
So, the Celtics should only make a move with the 2016 Nets pick if the odds are in their favor.
Is getting Al Horford and then hoping you can obtain a B+ player later worth it? The odds say no. But is relinquishing the pick for an under-30 superstar with top five potential worth it? Absolutely.
Sacramento’s DeMarcus Cousins and Houston’s James Harden are the only two players that have popped up in recent trade scenarios that would be worth giving up the Nets pick.
Both of these players are not yet considered “winners” in the league. But both would be MVP candidates in the right situation and both would be worth “buying” in order to make a run a title.