BOSTON (CBS) -- Given the sudden proliferation of big men in the NBA, tell you what: let's get stupid. If the Celtics are simply stuck with building through the draft, then here is the man they have their eyes on:
Don't know who Ayton is? Don't worry. You shouldn't. At the moment, Ayton is a senior at Hillcrest Prep in Phoenix and is committed to the University of Arizona next fall. You can see video of him here:
That means he won't be eligible until the 2018 NBA draft at the earliest. And yet, already, he is projected as that draft's No. 1 pick, the kind of selection that can alter the direction of a franchise.
That summer, the Celtics will have the last of the Brooklyn Nets' first-round selections, a pick that should put the team in the running for the No. 1 overall choice.
I know what you're thinking: Seriously? The lottery? No thanks. We've played that game before. But such is the unfortunate reality in the NBA, which the Celtics learned again last summer, when they procured the No. 3 selection in what was a two-player draft. Maybe Danny Ainge still has a blockbuster up his sleeve if and when Anthony Davis wants out of New Orleans. But absent a deal that may never come, the Celtics may be stuck with playing the lottery like every other chump.
The difference is that they have better tickets.
Obviously, a lot can change between now and next week, let alone now and the summer of 2018. But if the draft experts are to be believed, the 2017 draft has a deep collection of good talent in the first 5-10 picks. That should get the Celtics a good player. But there is not a clear franchise guy, at least not yet, which means the Celtics may be in a position even more frustrating than they were a year ago.
Even if they land the No. 1 or No. 2 pick, after all, the nature of the draft suggests it may not have quite as much value as it did a year ago, where there were two clear choices at the top of the first round.
In the interim, take a good look around the NBA today, where there are suddenly a blooming collection of big men. Davis. DeMarcus Cousins. Karl-Anthony Towns. Now maybe even Joel Embiid and Myles Turner. (Both had eye-popping season openers.) As much as small ball has become the rage in the league, let's remember that teams have gone small, at least in part, because there weren't many big men to choose from.
Admittedly, if you are a Celtics fan, this stinks. We all wants the Celtics to make a dramatic turnaround now. Whether you're a fan or media member, an NBA contender in Boston is good for all of us. The acquisition of Al Horford this year places the Celtics somewhere between a playoff team and a championship contender, which is fine given the unenviable challenge of building in the NBA.
Next summer, the Celtics have the right to swap picks with Brooklyn, which means they will. They year after, they own the Nets' pick outright. In the latter instance, Ayton will presumably be entering the draft, so you may want to start keeping tabs on him – however loosely – now.
In the NBA, unfortunately, that is just the simple reality.
for more features.