The NBA Draft process is arguably the most interesting in all of professional sports. Since 1984, the ping-pong ball draft lottery determines the first 14 picks of the first round. No matter if you were the worst team in the league, or the 14th, you have a shot at getting that coveted number one overall pick. Then, the rest of the draft follows suit going from worst to best teams. Two rounds, two picks per team. That’s it.
One can make the argument that the NBA draft is the most important draft to their respective sport. Considering there are only five players on the court at a time, and only 12 per roster, one player can totally change the landscape of a franchise. That’s what makes draft night so exciting. If you draft the right player, your franchise could revitalize itself and be on the upswing for years to come. Draft the wrong player, and your team could set itself up for years of rebuilding or painful mediocrity.
Over the course of history, NBA fans have seen picks from both ends of the spectrum. Teams have drafted their marquis franchise player that stayed with the organization for years, such as Tim Duncan and Dwyane Wade. We’ve also teams miss what was right in front of them. I’m sure the Trail Blazers are wishing they took Kevin Durant over Greg Oden, and how the hell did they take Sam Bowie over Michael Jordan in 1984?
Anyway, some teams have been luckier than others on draft night. Due to their long run of success, you wouldn’t think the Boston Celtics have made too many mistakes when it comes to drafting. In actuality, there have been a few mishaps dating all the way back to the 60s. Here are the Top 15 Worst Draft Mistakes Of The Boston Celtics.
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15 Acie Earl
The early-mid 90s were a tough period for the Celtics. The “Big 3” of Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish were starting to fade away. With their first pick in 1993, they drafted Acie Earl a long, tall center out of Iowa. Earl went on to only player four years in the NBA, spending the majority of his career playing overseas. What did the Celtics miss out on? A pesky point guard named Sam Cassell, who was taken five picks later. While Cassell was no superstar, he was a very important piece to the Houston Rockets' championship teams. He wouldn’t have changed the franchise, but could have made the transition a little easier.
14 Len Bias
It’s hard to call Len Bias a draft mistake. The Maryland product was widely regarded as a rising superstar that would only bolster the already great 1980s Celtics. However, two days after he was drafted by Boston, Bias’ life was tragically cut short due to a cocaine overdose when he was only 22 years old. He is often considered the greatest player to never play an NBA game.
It can only be viewed as a mistake, due to the fact that in the second round, the Detroit Pistons selected a 6’7” power forward out of Georgia Tech by the name of Dennis Rodman. An animal on the glass, Rodman could have been a staple in the Celtics' frontcourt for years to come.
13 Mel Counts
Counts was a seven-foot forward-center hybrid out of Oregon State. He was a fairly average role player and even won two championships with the green in the mid-60s. However, the Celtics narrowly missed out on a Hall of Famer. With the following pick, the Knicks scooped up Willis Reed, one of the best centers in the history of the game. In 1996, he was honored as one of the 50 greatest players of all time. While the Cs already had a pretty damn good center in Bill Russell, a frontcourt tandem of he and Reed would have made for a vaunted interior defense.
12 Jon Barry
When basketball fans hear the name Jon Barry, they will probably think TV analyst. That’s for good reason; he wasn’t very much of a player. In fact, when the Celtics drafted him with their first pick in 1992, he refused to sign a contract and sat out the season. Even after being traded away the following year, Barry proved to be nothing more than an end of the bench player. The Celtics missed out on the man taken three picks later, Latrell Sprewell. A four-time All-Star and gritty defensive menace, Sprewell would have fit perfectly in Boston.
11 Norm Cook
Just two years off of an NBA championship, the Celtics were still a very respectable team, positioned to get even better in the draft. However, the drafting of Norm Cook did not follow this trend. Though he was a great player in his college days at Kansas that did not continue into the NBA. The small forward only played a mere 27 games over the course of two NBA seasons.
Instead of Cook, the Celtics could have had Alex English, the Nuggets Hall of Famer who was taken 15 picks later. English went on to be an eight-time All-Star and is still the all-time leading scorer in Denver.
10 Glenn McDonald
While the Celtics' run in the 70s may not have been as impressive as the 60s, they were still a very good team. With guys like John Havlicek, Dave Cowens and JoJo White, the green were still perennial championship contenders. However, drafting Glenn McDonald with their first pick in 1974 didn’t help this cause. The small forward out of Long Beach State only played three forgettable years in the NBA. Who’d they miss out on? “The Iceman,” George Gervin. A nine-time All-Star, Gervin, paired with Havlicek, could have been a lethal backcourt for the Celtics.
9 Paul Westphal
This doesn’t sound like a mistake. Westphal was a five-time All-Star and was a big piece of the Celtics' 1974 championship team. However, the man taken two selections later could have totally changed the franchise. Julius “Dr. J” Erving, an 11-time All-Star, NBA champion, and Hall of Famer, could have been a Celtic. You would think the Celtics would have had a closer eye on him, given he played his college ball just a two-hour drive away at UMass.
8 MarShon Brooks
The Celtics never actually hung on to MarShon Brooks. When the Nets drafted JuJuan Johnson two picks later, the teams decided to swap selections. However, neither selection would matter as both teams missed out on an All-Star just a couple picks later.
Chicago grabbed Jimmy Butler with the last pick of the first round. The Marquette product is viewed as one of the league’s rising stars and a legitimate force on the defensive end. Butler would have been great for the C's.
7 J.R. Giddens
After the Celtics won the championship in the 2007-08 season, their picks were the two worst of the draft, the last in each round. With their first pick, they selected Giddens, a guard out of New Mexico. Giddens proved to be a bust, playing only 38 games in his NBA career. Five picks after Giddens, the Clippers selected DeAndre Jordan, one of the top five centers in the league. With the Celtics lacking a true center since the Kendrick Perkins era, Jordan would have been a perfect fit.
6 Michael Smith
Never heard of Michael Smith? Makes sense. He only played two seasons with the Celtics before playing abroad in Italy and Spain. He was definitely a non-factor for the Celtics, but the two guys who they missed on could have been the opposite. The Warriors had the next pick after the Celtics and grabbed Tim Hardaway, a five-time All-Star. Not to mention, three picks after that the SuperSonics snagged “The Reignman” Shawn Kemp, the bruising power forward and six-time all-star.
5 Gabe Pruitt & Glen Davis
The 2007 draft altered the franchise for the Celtics. Poised to get a top two pick, the green fell all the way to 5th in the lottery. Disappointed and eager to make a radical change, Ainge shopped the 5th selection (Jeff Green) to Seattle in a package for Ray Allen and then worked even more magic to land Kevin Garnett. Still with two picks in this draft, the C’s took Gabe Pruitt and Big Baby Davis, neither of which have amounted to much in the league. They could have taken Marc Gasol, who slid all the way to the 48th pick. An elite center in the league, Gasol could have been a franchise player for years to come.
4 Ron Mercer
As a key part of the NCAA Championship winning Kentucky Wildcats in 1996, Mercer looked like a good pick for the Celtics. He wasn’t horrendous, actually making the all-rookie team his first year. However, he doesn’t even compare to the player taken three picks later. With the ninth pick, Tracy McGrady fell into the lap of the Toronto Raptors. A seven-time All-Star, TMac and Paul Pierce would have been a great one-two punch.
3 Jared Sullinger & Fab Melo
The Celtics were in dire need of big men going into the 2012 draft. With two consecutive picks in the late first round, the C’s opted for Sullinger and Melo, both stand outs at their respective colleges. This did not carry over to the NBA. Melo only played six games in his NBA career, and Sullinger has never reached his full potential, consistently struggling with weight issues. The Celtics missed out on the solution to their problems in Draymond Green, who slid all the way to the 35th pick. A gritty defender with a great offensive skill set, Green could have been the face of the franchise following the Big 3 era.
2 Kedrick Brown
The 2001 draft could have brought the Celtics to the next level. With a core of Paul Pierce and Antoine Walker, Boston was just a piece or two away from being a legitimate contender. After selecting Joe Johnson, who was eventually traded away, they opted for Kendrick Brown at number 11. Brown, who played his college ball at Okaloosa-Walton Community College, never amounted to anything over his four-year NBA career, but a few of the guys taken after him did. Zach Randolph, Tony Parker, and Gilbert Arenas were all taken after Brown, each of which could have been a great addition to the team.
1 Antoine Walker
Antoine Walker wasn’t a stiff for the Celtics. Paired with Paul Pierce, they made the team relevant again in the late 90s and early 2000s. He was a three-time All-Star in Boston and was a key piece for the teams playoff runs. However, considering whom the Celtics missed out on, Walker can be viewed as a mistake. Taken seven picks after Walker was one Kobe Bean Bryant, whose legacy speaks for itself. Not to mention, two picks after Bryant the Suns scooped up a Canadian point guard by the name of Steve Nash, who went on to become a two-time MVP. Walker was great for the Celtics, but these two guys could have changed the franchise.
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