Sunday, June 27, 2004

The 2004 NBA Crapshoot

The 2004 NBA Draft happened this past Thursday. As a pretty huge Celtics fan who's been upset with the direction of this team since Danny Ainge took over, it was a pretty important day. This draft was a chance for Ainge to show what his plans are for the team - how to get better, and how quickly he's going to do it.

Going into the draft, there were a few scenarios I thought might play out for the C's:

-We might keep all 3 picks and draft high schoolers (or maybe a couple of high schoolers and a Euro), hoping to catch lightning in a bottle and have one or two turn into legitimate NBA players.

-The C's might move some or all of the picks to move up in the draft and take a "sure" thing. This would be hard to do, considering mid-to-late picks in the draft are near-worthless these days.

-The C's might make a big deal, moving Paul Pierce and picks for a player (Jamal Crawford, Eddy Curry?) and a high pick.

As the draft approached, I heard rumors of the Mavs and Bulls both interested in swapping players and picks with us, giving us a chance to move up in the First Round. Putting it all together, I thought there might be a chance for the C's to make a huge move, reshaping the team and franchise in one night, and maybe getting better *today* and better for the future.

Those deals would have been moving two of our three picks, cap fodder (let's say Michael Stewart and Jumaine Jones) for Jerry Stackhouse and the number 5 pick in the draft. The C's could have then moved Paul Pierce and the remaining pick to the Bulls for the #3 or #7 pick (let's assume #7), getting back enough to offset Pierce's salary - Tyson Chandler and Scottie Pippen.

Presumably, the C's would then have drafted Ben Gordon or Andre Iguodala with one of the picks, and maybe grabbed Livingston, Deng, or Devin Harris with the other pick. In this case, let's assume they go with Devin Harris.

That series of moves would have done a number of things for the C's. The team would get young, but experience players (Stack and Chandler), while also bolstering the size and skill of the team. They'd also be a whole lot closer to having some cap room, with Pippen's contract being an expiring deal.

At some point in the offseason, you have to dump Chucky Atkins, who no longer fits here, and wasn't particularly happy about being exposed in the expansion draft.

Next year, you'd have a team that looked like this:

PG: Banks, Harris
SG/SF: Stackhouse, Iguodala, Davis, Welsch
PF: Chandler, LaFrentz, McCarty
C: LaFrentz, Perkins

Add another post guy with the MLE, and you've got a young, athletic, incredibly skilled team. It's also a team that's amazingly solid defensively, though LaFrentz/Chandler will have trouble with bigger post players.

It seemed like all of the pieces were falling into place for the Celtics.

Then the Celtics drafted Al Jefferson, Deonte West, and Tony Allen.

My initial reaction, influenced by my thinking on the potential to completely overhaul the team, was that this was a horrific draft.

Days later, I've tempered my reaction. I really like Al Jefferson, but there's all sorts of issues with drafting high schoolers on a team that's not going to have the cap room under the luxury threshold to resign him to a huge deal in 3 years.

I really like Tony Allen, but he would have been around in the 2nd round, when you don't need to give him a guaranteed deal.

I like Deonte West, but not when you're going to turn him into a PG. Who was the last 2-guard to successfully transition to the point? Dwayne Wade did it this past season, but he handled a lot of the PG duties at Marquette, and wasn't playing next to the premier PG in college basketball. And Wade wasn't asked to solely handle the PG duties in Miami, as they've got a nice point-forward by the name of Lamar Odom.

They reached on the last two guys, taking players who, while not being projects, are not worth guaranteed deals. They're also at a position the Celtics are loaded with players.

But all in all, it's not a disaster draft. It's just a questionable one. It's a firm C.

Of course, then Ainge had to go and piss away all of the goodwill by saying the following on WEEI:

"I believe in West and Allen we got the 10th and 11th best players in the draft... tell me this, who do you want West or Devin Harris... I take West every time."

I understand the idea behind wanting good PR and to talk up your draft, but you've simply got to stay within the realm of sanity. Ainge, of course, followed that up by ripping Atkins, ensuring that we won't get anywhere near fair market value for him (which wouldn't have been much anyway). Eerily reminiscent of the Antoine Walker situation when we had the "pleasure" of trading for an injured, overpaid, soft PF/C.

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