Celtics Hoping Not to Squander 10th Pick again


Celtics Hoping Not to Squander 10th Pick again

June 23, 1998

They will host a house party tomorrow night for their fans and season ticket-holders. The Celtics will ask those who support them to help them welcome the 10th pick in the draft. Of course, Rick Pitino, Chris Wallace, and Leo Papile realize that this is a dangerous thing. From season to season, the No. 10 pick is the NBA's trickster. As the Lakers' Jerry West can attest, sometimes the No. 10 pick has a way of making you look like the smartest draft head in the business. It did that for West in 1994 when he took Eddie Jones. But Pat Riley can tell you about the No. 10 of 1995, the year he heard, ". . . and with the 10th pick, the Miami Heat select Kurt Thomas of Texas Christian University."

Bostonians can tell you what that means. Here, All-Star guard Jones is known as the man the Celtics passed on, opting for 7-footer Eric Montross instead. Thomas is the forward best known for getting into a fight with Pervis Ellison. Word around the league is that the Celtics won't be holding the 10th pick very long. Yesterday, Pitino acknowledged that there is a chance the team could wind up with draft prize Michael Olowokandi, a 7-foot-1-inch center from Pacific. But if the Celtics do stay in the 10 spot, who can they get there? There are several scenarios. Let's take a glimpse.


If this happens, the Celtics' media relations staff should prepare for a name such as UNLV's Keon Clark, Notre Dame's Pat Garrity, Kentucky's Nazr Mohammed, or Mississippi's Ansu Sesay in the media guide. Unless something drastic happens, all - with the exception of Mohammed, perhaps - will be there at 10. "Put it this way," joked Wallace. "We'll draft Olowokandi if he's there for us at 10." Olowokandi, an intelligent young man who plays center, won't be there at 10. But Michael Doleac, an intelligent young man who plays center, probably will.


There are certain truths about NBA personnel types. One is that, no matter what their eyes tell them, they will draft big men who can't play simply because they're big men. And  they'll draft them high. They'll also, inexplicably, sour on a talented player and watch him slip to the 10th, 15th, or even 25th spot. GMs suggest that they want a player to stay in school for four years. But when that happens, they tend not to like the players anymore. "That's what happened with Michael Finley," Wallace said of the current Mavericks star who slipped to the 20s. "If he had come out of school Wisconsin early, he probably would have been a lottery pick. And now he's playing like a lottery pick. What happens is that the less time we've had to dissect you, the more intrigued we get." That's one reason Olowokandi, who has played fewer than 80 games, will go before Kansas star Raef LaFrentz. In this scenario, maybe LaFrentz will go to the Celtics. Maybe. "He's not going to slip to 10," Wallace said. But someone will.


Some people are fascinated with the number seven. Ten doesn't have that weight. If you had to field an eight-man team with the players drafted 10th in the 1990s, how would you feel about going to war with Rumeal Robinson, Brian Williams, Adam Keefe, Lindsey Hunter, Jones, Thomas, Erick Dampier, and Danny Fortson? You're not going to embarrass yourself. You're not going to win any championships, either.


Very often, the draft turns into an open session for maneuvering. You draft a player with the intention of moving him to another team. Once again, the standard is West. He knew his Lakers wouldn't be in a position to draft a high school guard named Kobe Bryant, so he had the Hornets do it for him. In turn, Charlotte wound up with Vlade Divac. A year after the fact, the Pacers turned 10th pick Dampier into Chris Mullin. And Milwaukee took Fortson, only to move him on to Denver for Ervin Johnson. Now, the good news for the Celtics is that teams love to trade on draft day; the Celtics can make a deal. The bad news is that these trades rarely vault a nonplayoff team into the realm of mid-level contender. It may not be a bad idea for the Celtics to find out whether Mohammed or Garrity prefers a green-and-white uniform in double or triple XL.

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