If you're a Celtics fan, you've probably been drowning in self-pity
since Sunday's NBA lottery. It's time to stop whining, get over the
Celtics' unfortunate draw and focus your attention on the remainder of
the draft field.
And while you're at it,
make sure to take everything you've heard from NBA personnel types and
self-proclaimed media experts the past few days and measure all of it
for what it's worth: precious little.
become an annual rite of spring to project the NBA draft as paper-thin.
And, though this year's college crop has a player clearly above the rest
in Wake Forest's Tim Duncan, characterizing the '97 draft as weak is
absurd at this stage of the game.
"It's only a thin draft because you have so many young players in it," Celtics coach and president Rick Pitino said Sunday after his team drew the third and sixth overall picks. "But let's take a look at a few of these young guys.
you look at Ron Mercer, what's he going to be in three years? If you
look at Tracy McGrady, the high school basketball player, what's he
going to be in three or four years?
you basically have in the draft are very young people, and they
shouldn't look as good as Tim Duncan. If these players would have waited
until their senior years, I believe this draft would have been very
Mercer, who played for Pitino
at Kentucky, just finished his sophomore year. McGrady, who will
graduate from high school in June, hasn't even made it to the senior
prom yet. They are symbols of a draft that has evolved to the point
where a senior among its elite is the exception, not the rule.
in fact, stands to become only the second senior this decade to be the
top pick in the NBA draft. Last year, 11 of the 13 players in the
lottery were underclassmen. Translated, this incredible youth movement
means it has become impossible to gauge the impact of NBA draft classes
until years down the road.
"What you have to do is project what these young players will be two, three and four years from now," said Pitino,
who will evaluate talent and discuss draft strategy with his staff in
the next few weeks. "If we can find a potential star using that line of
thinking, we'll go in that direction."
new Celtics boss, in a hint of the highly aggressive approach he'll
employ in his job calling personnel shots for the Celtics, contacted San
Antonio general manager Gregg Popovich five minutes after the Spurs won
the lottery. Pitino,
who will explore numerous options before the June 25 draft, wanted to
keep the lines of communication open with Popovich in the unlikely event
San Antonio decides to deal the rights to Duncan.
In the meantime, Pitino,
who recruited many of the players who will make up this year's lottery
class, will work toward securing the best talent with his team's two
picks. And, though many in the Celtics community will continue to view
the team's dual draft position as a major disappointment, exactly how
grim is it to have two of the first six picks in any draft, particularly
for a team coming off the worst season in franchise history?
"I guess when you win 15 games there are a lot of needs," said Pitino,
aware even Duncan would represent just one piece of a rebuilding
puzzle. "We can certainly fill some of the void with two players of
"If you can develop
that potential with 3 and 6, it may not be as good as 1, but you can get
close to it if you do a very good job of evaluating the players and
working with them. If we can evaluate properly, and get players hungry
to be great, we're going to have two outstanding picks."