Last Decade of No. 6 NBA Draft Picks Doesn't Bode Too Well for Boston Celtics
Boston Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge has a reputation for being a stellar drafter of young NBA talent. Ever since taking over the Celtics in 2004, he’s plucked a number of household names for Boston in the NBA draft, including Kendrick Perkins, Al Jefferson, Tony Allen, Rajon Rondo, Avery Bradley and Jared Sullinger.
Barring a trade, the Celtics will have a good chance to add to that rich history of draft talent with their No. 6 selection in the 2014 NBA draft. According to ESPN’s Chad Ford (subscription required), Ainge could target a number of different players at the six spot, including Arizona's Aaron Gordon and Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart.
Joel Embiid's recent foot surgery also makes his availability a distinct possibility at No. 6 if his stock falls on draft night due to injury concerns. The Boston Globe's Gary Washburn says Boston is also high on Indiana's Noah Vonleh as well, according to an NBA source.
Landing a player from that diverse collection of talent should help Boston take another step forward with their rebuild. How big of a step will that be? Let's take a look at the last decade's worth of players selected in the sixth spot to get a better indication of what Boston fans can expect.
2004: Josh Childress, Atlanta Hawks
Career averages: 9.1 points, 4.7 rebounds, 1.6 assists in 26.7 minutes (391 games)
Josh Childress had a promising start to his career after being drafted by Atlanta in 2004. Over his first four years with the Hawks, he averaged 11.1 points and 5.6 rebounds per game while serving as the team’s top reserve on a promising young roster.
For now, it appears these seasons will be the best we see out of Childress in the NBA.
The swingman spurned the Hawks in 2008 when his rookie-scale contract expired and he landed a big payday with the Greek club Olympiacos. After two years abroad, Childress returned to the NBA, and the Hawks sent him to the Phoenix Suns in a sign-and-trade deal that landed the swingman a five-year, $34 million contract.
Childress’ career took a nosedive upon joining the Suns. He played just 86 games over two seasons with the team before they elected to use their amnesty provision on him in July 2012. After bouncing around the league during the past two years, Childress did not finish the 2013-14 season with an NBA team after being waived by the New Orleans Pelicans in December.
2005: Martell Webster, Portland Trail Blazers
Career averages: 9.0 points, 3.2 rebounds, 1.0 assists in 24.7 minutes (548 games)
Notable players drafted after No. 6: Charlie Villanueva (No. 7), Andrew Bynum (No. 10), Danny Granger (No. 17)
Martell Webster was one of the final players to enter the NBA straight from high school before the league changed their eligibility requirements in 2006. As an 18-year-old with the Blazers, Webster spent some time in the NBA D-League before developing into a starting small forward for Portland a couple of seasons into his career.
Webster's strong outside shooting helped earn him a four-year contract extension from the Blazers in 2008, but foot and back injuries sidetracked Webster's career as he only played 176 games over four seasons from 2008-2012 with the Blazers and the Minnesota Timberwolves after Portland dealt him away for Ryan Gomes and Luke Babbitt in 2010.
The Wolves waived Webster in July 2012 after two disappointing seasons with the team, but the small forward signed with the Washington Wizards that summer and has been a key contributor in the team's resurgence over the past two seasons. Last year, Webster averaged 9.7 points, 2.8 rebounds and 1.2 assists in 78 games for the Wizards while primarily playing off the bench.
2006: Brandon Roy, Minnesota Timberwolves
Career averages: 18.8 points, 4.3 rebounds, 4.7 rebounds in 35.5 minutes (326 games)
Notable players drafted after No. 6: Randy Foye (No. 7), Rudy Gay (No. 8), Rajon Rondo (No. 21)
Brandon Roy is one of the most talented players to ever be selected in the No. 6 spot. The Timberwolves immediately traded Roy's rights on draft night to the Portland Trail Blazers for the rights to Randy Foye, who was drafted behind Roy at No. 7.
The Blazers clearly got the better end of that deal for the next few years. Roy established himself as the team's starting shooting guard right away, helping to revitalize the Blazers franchise. After earning Rookie of the Year honors in 2007, Roy made the All-Star game for three consecutive seasons and led Portland back to the postseason in 2009.
The Blazers rewarded Roy for his stellar play with a five-year extension in 2009, but injuries forced Roy's career to go off the rails. A degenerative knee condition limited Roy to just 47 games in the 2010-11 season, and the ailment caused the star guard to announce his retirement in 2011. The Blazers used the amnesty provision on Roy's hefty contract.
Roy attempted a comeback with the Timberwolves during the 2012-13 season, but the guard called it quits after just five games of action, ending a promising career far too early.
2007: Yi Jianlian, Milwaukee Bucks
Career averages: 7.9 points, 4.9 rebounds, 0.7 assists in 22.2 minutes (272 games)
Notable players drafted after No. 6: Joakim Noah (No. 9), Thaddeus Young (No. 12)
Yi Jianlian arrived in the NBA with plenty of fanfare after starring in the Chinese Basketball Association for several years. His tenure with the Milwaukee Bucks got off to a rocky start when it took until late August for the Chinese star to agree to sign his rookie deal with the team.
After an up-and-down rookie campaign, Yi was dealt away to the New Jersey Nets with Bobby Simmons for Richard Jefferson in 2008. The 7-footer failed to live up to high expectations during two injury-plagued seasons in New Jersey, as he struggled with consistency on both ends of the floor.
Yi was again dealt in 2010, this time to the Washington Wizards. The big man returned to the CBA during the NBA lockout after one season in Washington before coming stateside again to play with the Dallas Mavericks during the 2011-12 season. After a disappointing year in which he averaged just 2.6 points in 30 games in Dallas, Yi left the NBA once more. He's spent his last two years suiting up for the Guangdong Southern Tigers.
2008: Danilo Gallinari, New York Knicks
Career averages: 14.5 points, 4.7 rebounds, 1.9 assists in 31.3 minutes (285 games)
Notable players drafted after No. 6: Eric Gordon (No. 7), Brook Lopez (No. 10)
Danilo Gallinari starred in the Euroleague before declaring for the NBA draft in 2008. The New York Knicks selected the highly touted swingman, but back woes limited Gallinari's playing time during his first year in the Big Apple.
The 6'10" small forward was named a starter just two games into the 2009-10 season, and Gallinari thrived on the offensive end of the floor, averaging 15.1 points per game. That production led to Gallinari becoming a crucial piece of the young trade package the Knicks sent the Denver Nuggets for Carmelo Anthony and Co.
After continuing to excel in Denver's fast-paced offensive scheme for George Karl, Gallinari suffered a brutal torn ACL injury in April 2013. The ailment forced Gallinari to miss the entire 2013-14 NBA season.
2009: Jonny Flynn, Minnesota Timberwolves
Career averages: 9.2 points, 1.9 rebounds, 3.9 assists in 22.9 minutes (163 games)
Notable players drafted after No. 6: Stephen Curry (No. 7), DeMar DeRozan (No. 9)
Jonny Flynn was a victim of circumstance more than anything else in his NBA career. The Minnesota Timberwolves made the bizarre decision to select Flynn after also drafting another point guard, Ricky Rubio, in the same draft.
With Rubio overseas, Flynn played well for an atrocious Wolves team during his rookie year, averaging 13.5 points and 4.4 assists while also earning NBA All-Rookie second team. The point guard faced hip surgery during the offseason following his rookie season, and that setback, combined with the arrival of Rubio in Minnesota, resulted in a lackluster year two for Flynn in which he averaged just 5.3 points and 3.4 assists per game.
Flynn was dealt away to the Houston Rockets prior to the 2011 NBA draft, and he also played for the Portland Trail Blazers briefly in 2012 before his NBA career came to an end for the time being. Flynn has spent the last two years playing in Australia and China.
2010: Ekpe Udoh, Golden State Warriors
Career averages: 4.4 points, 3.5 rebounds, 0.7 assists in 18.7 minutes (237 games)
Notable players drafted after No. 6: Greg Monroe (No. 7), Gordon Hayward (No. 9), Paul George (No. 10)
Ekpe Udoh was drafted for his defensive prowess after leading the Big 12 in blocked shots during his transfer year at Baylor University. The Golden State Warriors selected Udoh with the hope that his offensive skills would also improve in the NBA, but Udoh's inability on that front has limited him to being a bench player for the majority of his career.
After a year and a half with Golden State, the Warriors packaged Udoh with Kwame Brown and Monta Ellis to Milwaukee for Andrew Bogut and Stephen Jackson in March 2012.
Udoh's strong defense still earns him 15-20 minutes per game most nights, but the Bucks' offensive production is hampered most nights he's out on the floor.
2011: Jan Vesely, Washington Wizards
Career averages: 3.6 points, 3.5 rebounds, 0.6 assists in 15.2 minutes (162 games)
Notable players drafted after No. 6: Brandon Knight (No. 8), Kemba Walker (No. 9), Klay Thompson (No. 11)
Jan Vesely is yet another name on the long list of international big men selected at the No. 6 position. The Wizards passed on a number of guards to bring aboard the Czech 7-footer, and like many other players drafted at No. 6, Vesely's production has been underwhelming.
In two-plus years with the Washington Wizards, Vesely was very tentative shooting the ball, averaging no more than three field-goal attempts per game. Vesely's jump shot is also non-existent, as he shot a dismal 33 percent from the free-throw line this year.
With no true signs of progress in the big man's offensive game this year, the Wizards dealt away Vesely in February 2014 to the Denver Nuggets in a three-team deal that brought Andre Miller to Washington. Vesely will be a free agent this offseason.
2012: Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers
Career averages: 19.9 points, 3.3 rebounds, 6.0 assists in 37.2 minutes (164 games)
Notable players drafted after No. 6: Harrison Barnes (No. 7), Andre Drummond (No. 9)
Damian Lillard went under the radar heading into the 2012 NBA draft after starring for four years at Weber State. The Portland Trail Blazers were more than happy to snatch up the high-scoring point guard at the sixth spot and immediately saw the selection reap serious dividends.
Lillard proved himself to be one of the most explosive guard scorers in the NBA and was unanimously selected as the Rookie of the Year following the 2012-13 season. It was just the fourth time in league history a rookie had been selected unanimously.
The point guard built upon his rookie campaign last season by helping lead the Blazers back to the postseason with a first-round upset of the Houston Rockets. Lillard was named a Western Conference All-Star and was selected to the All-NBA third team.
2013: Nerlens Noel, New Orleans Pelicans
Career averages: No action to date.
Notable players drafted after No. 6: Trey Burke (No. 9), Michael Carter-Williams (No. 11)
The New Orleans Pelicans immediately dealt away Nerlens Noel on draft night along with a future first-round pick to the Philadelphia 76ers for point guard Jrue Holiday. Noel had been projected to be a top-three pick during his freshman season at Kentucky, but a torn ACL suffered in February 2013 caused his draft stock to take a hit.
The rebuilding Sixers opted to take the cautious route with Noel's rehab from the torn ACL and sat him out for the duration of the 2013-14 season. Noel is expected to make his NBA debut next season.
What Can Celtics Fans Expect This Year?
While recent No. 6 selections have included big names like Damian Lillard and Brandon Roy, Celtics fans should temper their expectations on what to expect from the No. 6 slot based on the limited production from the majority of prospects selected in that position.
Boston fans should not lose hope about the pick though, since many of the draft busts at No. 6 in the past decade were selected by front offices with questionable track records. Almost every year, there has been a future NBA All-Star available at the No. 6 spot, even if teams passed on them for a couple more picks.
Danny Ainge has proven himself to have a strong ability to identify elite talent on the collegiate level over the past decade. With a deep pool of prospects expected to be available this year at the No. 6 spot, potentially including Aaron Gordon, Julius Randle, Noah Vonleh and Joel Embiid, the Celtics should be able find a solid building block for the team's future.