17 over 6 may be a winning formula for Celtics

17 over 6 may be a winning formula for Celtics
May 23, 2014, 12:45 pm
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BOSTON — Once Tuesday night's draft lottery disappointment faded, Danny Ainge and the rest of the Boston Celtics' brass quickly put on a brave face in telling the world that if they keep the No. 6 pick, they're confident they'll get a good player.

But armed with a pair of first-round picks (Thanks Paul! Thanks KG!), Boston has a chance to not only land a quality player at No. 17, but arguably one better than its own No. 6 pick.

Most fans know about the steal of the draft two years ago: Portland's Damian Lillard, who was snatched up by the Blazers with the No. 6 pick.

And the No. 17 pick that year was Tyler Zeller, who has the promise of being a decent pro down in Charlotte.

But if you dig a little deeper, it's pretty clear the talent that teams have been able to acquire at No. 17 has been as good, if not better, than what the No. 6 pick can fetch.

Since the 2004 draft, the No. 17 pick has produced more All-Stars (Jrue Holiday, Roy Hibbert, Danny Granger) than the No. 6 pick, which has produced only a pair of All-Stars in Lillard and Brandon Roy (who is no longer in the NBA after battling multiple knee injuries before eventually retiring).

Of the No. 6-vs.-17 draft picks, arguably the most lopsided victory for the 17th choice came in 2009, when the Minnesota Timberwolves selected Jonny Flynn -- right after drafting another point guard, Ricky Rubio, mind you -- 11 spots before Philadelphia snatched up Jrue Holiday.

And in an ironic twist, the Sixers used Holiday as part of a draft-day trade with New Orleans last year to acquire Malden, Mass., native Nerlens Noels with -- you guessed it -- the No. 6 pick.

Regardless of what direction the Celtics take with their first-round picks, it's sure to fill one of several voids on their roster.

"They have a lot of needs," Ryan Blake, the NBA's senior director of scouting operations, told Comcast SportsNet in Chicago last week. "They're rebuilding. With two picks, you have an advantage. You have to remember, a long time ago Paul Pierce landed at 10. [The Celtics] didn't even have him in [for a workout]. They didn't expect him there. We didn't expect him there, either. We thought at the time he was the second- or third-best player in the draft."

Blake said the Celtics are in position with their first pick to land a potential starter at power forward like Kentucky's Julius Randle or Indiana's Noah Vonleh, who is from Haverhill, Mass., and played at New Hampton (N.H.) School.

As for the No. 17 pick, "you don't know who's going to fall then, or who's going to rise so you get a choice," Blake said.

He added, "It could be another Paul Pierce-type, someone like Doug McDermott or [Nik] Stauskas, someone who fits your needs."

And the Celtics have plenty of needs to address in this year's draft. And while their pick at No. 6 is expected to help bolster the roster, the C's might get even more bang for their buck out of the No. 17 pick.

Thanks Paul! Thanks KG!