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Two years ago around this time the Boston Celtics faced a tough decision. Would it be Corey Brewer or Yi Jianlian? You remember what I’m talking about, right? It wasn’t that long ago when the Celtics would become the latest NBA draft lottery victim as the team with the best chances to get prized prospects Greg Oden and Kevin Durant got neither while pondering their decisions at the fifth slot.
Many fell in love with the China’s Yi, and rumors out of the Celtics camp suggested he would be the selection. Hell, even Yi was thrilled. He wanted to go to a big market and Boston would sure have provided that. Well like promised, Danny Ainge changed the face of the Celtics franchise on that draft night two years ago. No…he didn’t draft Yi or the Florida product, Brewer.
Instead he shipped that unfortunate draft pick to the then-Seattle Supersonics for sharp shooter Ray Allen. The move was a head-scratcher to say the least. Most experts predicted this move was made in lieu of something bigger. While, at the time, it was unknown what would happen, Ainge went about his business and drafted the overweight, yet undersized Louisiana State University hero, Glen Davis with one of their two second round picks in that 2007 draft (He turned out to be pretty good).
Fast-forward and one name only needs to be mentioned: Kevin Garnett. We know how that worked out. The once lowly Celtics went from worst to first and won their first NBA championship in what, 91 years? Okay, maybe it wasn’t that long, but it sure felt like it. This time last year Celtics fans celebrated, Paul Pierce pulled a Red Auerbach and fans were screaming to keep James Posey. Actually, think about it. Go back to last year and think: Did you even know there was an NBA draft coming? C’mon. Be honest. No you didn’t. Oh how a year changes, huh?
In 2008, the Celtics drafted two players, while trading for another on the annual crazy fun-filled night. J.R Giddens would hear his name called as the first round of the 2008 draft concluded. Fifteen picks later, Trigger Danny was at it again, trading cash to the Washington Wizards for the talented Bill Walker. Both Giddens and Walker both were noted for their great defense, athletic ability, and potential. This past season, Walker showed that he may have an enhanced role in 2009 as he showed flashes of promise. Giddens on the other hand never really saw the court, but that was to be expected.
So what would you say if I told you that the third player brought in on draft night was the player I’m most excited to see this season? Do you know who he is? I’ll give you a clue. He’s 7’1″ and 240 pounds. No? Enter, Semih Erden, the Celtics’ last pick in the ’08 draft. The star from Turkey will most likely join the Celtics this year as his contract with his current team, Fenerbahce Ulker, is up.
This past post-season, what did the Celtics lack most? Many would say size, especially when Leon Powe got injured. Erden would provide much needed size behind both Garnett and Kendrick Perkins. Ainge even said immediately after the draft last year that Erden would basically be equivalent to the Celtics’ first round pick in this month’s draft, since the team doesn’t have one due to the Garnett trade.
So where does this take the Celtics in a week? Boston only has one pick, a late-second round selection. But, what would be an NBA off-season without some wild rumors? You’ve heard the Rajon Rondo for Amare Stoudemire rumor, right? Yeah, that’s not happening.
How about the idea that Ainge is shopping Ray Allen? Well that one could carry some water. However, one rumor that I think carries a lot of substance is that one that Boston is trying to trade up high into the draft to pick a player that Ainge reportedly loves: Tyreke Evans.
The 6-5, 220-pound shooting guard should go in the top eight of the draft, but Ainge seems to value Evans as potential replacement to Allen, if he is traded. The athletic do-it-all Memphis Tiger could very well join this Celtics team. But, the fact of the matter is that the Celtics would have to trade a lot to move up into the top eight. Plus, what team would take on Allen’s cap number with his age? To a fan, this trade would be great and Boston would be buzzing with excitement. Never doubt Ainge though. He could very well find a suitor and make a package a team couldn’t refuse just for the rights to draft Evans.
Let’s be realistic. For the time being, we’ll explore some late-round prospects that the Celtics could potentially be targeting. Remember when looking at this list of prospects that Leon Powe will be out until the All-Star Break and Big Baby is a free agent. This list also shows that I have a lot of faith in Walker to step up as the backup swingman.
Josh Heytvelt (PF, Gonzaga)
Chris Johnson (PF/C, LSU)
Jeff Pendergraph (PF, Arizona State)
If I had to make a bold prediction to what I think will happen next Thursday, I’d have to say that the Celtics will draft one of these three players, and I will lean towards Johnson. They gave Patrick O’Bryant a shot but he never had the drive to be successful. Johnson does. He fits the same mold, but I fully believe Garnett can and will transform him into a viable big man in the NBA.
Although the draft isn’t as exciting as it was many years ago when the Celtics always seemed to have a top 15 pick, the possibility of the C’s trading up is enough for me to watch. Stay tuned folks. You never know what Danny will do.