by Mike Moffett
Weirs Times Columnist
The 2017 NBA draft is a week from today—June 22—and for the first time since 1950 the Boston Celtics have the top pick. The burning question is: What will Celtic General Manager Danny Ainge do with the pick? With the Celtics a young and deep team that was one of the NBA’s “Final 3” this season, perhaps they could trade the pick for an established star who could help them to the next level—the NBA Finals.
(As this is being written well in advance, if Danny has already traded the pick, you’ll have to excuse me.)
The names of several stars have been bandied about, including that of Golden State Warrior Kevin Durant. Would you trade the pick for rights to someone like Durant?
Actually Durant will be a free agent so the Celtics could just make him a great offer and sign him directly and trade the pick for LeBron James.
This scenario is not entirely implausible. The 28-year-old Durant expressed interest in Boston before heading to Golden State. Having just won a title with the Warriors, he may need a new challenge.
The notion of the Cavaliers trading LeBron—an Ohio native—might seem fantastical, but it would make great sense for Cleveland from a business perspective. A 14-year NBA veteran, James will soon be 33 years old. He’s a big guy whose knees and ankles have taken a terrific pounding. He may only have a year or two left.
There’s a place for sentiment in sports, but the NBA is a business. The Celtics kept the “Big Three” (Bird, McHale, Parish) around until they all declined about the same time—like the One-Hoss Shay. The team was then non-competitive for 15 years.
The Cavaliers would be smart to get a first pick for the aging LeBron. While there are no guarantees regarding top picks (see below), theoretically they’d be giving up LeBron’s last two years for a potential superstar with a 10-12 year future.
Such a deal would create a short-term firestorm in Cleveland, but eventually it could pay off handsomely. Loyalty has its place but don’t forget that LeBron bugged out of Cleveland in 2011 in search of title rings—which he acquired in Miami.
A year or two of LeBron and Durant in Boston would create a media sensation, incredible expectations, and major “chemistry” questions. It’s unlikely to happen, but fun to consider.
Does anyone remember LaRue Martin? He was the NBA’s overall top pick in 1972, selected by the Portland Trail Blazers, who could have selected Julius Erving or Bob McAdoo. Martin was a major bust. Twelve years later Portland took Sam Bowie when they could have chosen Michael Jordan.
Other top picks who didn’t exactly have Hall-of-Fame careers include Joe Smith (1995, Warriors), Michael Olowokandi (1998, Clippers), Kwame Brown (2001, Wizards), and poor old injury-plagued Greg Oden, selected by the star-crossed Trail Blazers in 2007.
There are no guarantees.
Do you remember that the Cleveland Browns picked defensive end Courtney Brown with the top pick in the 2000 NFL draft? I didn’t think so. But you may know who the New England Patriots picked in the SIXTH round that year—199th overall.
A dude named Tom Brady.
The Celtics traded with the St. Louis Hawks to get the #2 pick in the 1956 NBA draft, with which they took future Hall-of-Famer Bill Russell, who’d lead them to 11 titles in 13 years. But who was the #1 pick that year? (Answer follows)
Born Today …
That is to say, sports standouts born on June 15 include New England Patriots owner Bob Kraft (1941) as well as Tommie Smith (1944) and John Carlos (1945), the two sprinters who gave the black power closed-fist salute on the awards stand during our national anthem after winning gold and bronze medals respectively at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics.
“We wish Jordan were 7-feet, but he isn’t. There just wasn’t a center available. What can you do? Jordan isn’t going to turn this franchise around. I wouldn’t ask him to. He’s a very good offensive player, but not an overpowering offensive player.” – Chicago Bull general manager Rod Thorn after drafting Michael Jordan in 1984.
The Rochester Royals took Sihugo Green as the top NBA draft pick in 1956.
State Representative Michael Moffett was a Professor of Sports Management for Plymouth State University and NHTI-Concord. He co-authored the critically-acclaimed and award-winning “FAHIM SPEAKS: A Warrior-Actor’s Odyssey from Afghanistan to Hollywood and Back” (with the Marines)—which is available through Amazon.com. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.