The NBA draft lottery is the most inane forced spectacle in basketball — 14 franchises clinging to random number combinations, to all belief they have in a higher purpose, all in hopes of a chance at changing the course of their future. It becomes little more than a gallery of disappointed faces, with designated attendees wondering why the hell they agreed to show up to an event that seemed so preordained. Heat representative Alonzo Mourning definitely had better places to be; Nuggets rep Gary Harris looked like … himself; Magic coach Frank Vogel had just emerged from the dim-lit bunker he’s called home since Orlando’s last game against the Pistons over a month ago. Magic Johnson, though, the human neon billboard he is, glowed the entire way through — by the time it was announced that the Lakers had moved up a spot to the no. 2 selection, he was boogieing, practically mouthing "Lonzo" to the camera.
The Celtics, Lakers, and Sixers, three of the most narrative-driven lottery teams in the running, will have the top three picks in the draft. We are over three decades removed from the frozen envelope conspiracy, and yet in an event where the odds of success are blown up on the screen for all 30 minutes of the proceedings, it’s also the time we can most conveniently declare that the forces that be are rigged.
With all that said, congratulations to Boston! You’re about to be fed into LeBron James’s wood chipper, but Markelle Fultz is a grand consolation prize!
The Celtics really don’t need to overthink this. Whether Fultz is the team’s marquee player of the future or he’s the crown jewel of a blockbuster trade come draft night, he is the one. Fultz is on a tier to himself at the top — a player both talented enough to come in and change an entire team’s game plan from day one of practice and malleable enough to fit into preexisting systems. The Celtics’ entire backcourt rotation is full of undersized combo guards (Avery Bradley, Marcus Smart, Terry Rozier) who are all rabid on-ball defenders, but none possesses the kind of gravity or control Fultz possesses on offense. His excellent perimeter-shooting ability (41.3 percent from 3 on five attempts per game at Washington) and in the midrange will allow him to play off the ball should the Celtics decide to utilize him in that capacity. As Kevin O’Connor wrote on Monday, "Fultz can be a chameleon. Depending on where he goes, certain facets of his game — either on-ball or off-ball — will shine brighter than others." We’ll know more about the direction the Celtics need to take after their bout with the Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference finals, and whether that means giving up the potential of Fultz for a star with more concrete, more immediate production.
But for now, Celtics fans, let’s marvel at what Fultz can do. Look at Fultz slithering through a crowd to grab a steal, take the ball coast-to-coast, and practically Shammgod his transition defender to oblivion as he’s gathering to dunk the ball:
The Celtics are an Eastern Conference finals team ostensibly during a rebuilding stage, and just nabbed the top pick in the draft. They are one of the most fortuitous teams in NBA history. Hope you’re enjoying your night, Boss.