2011 NBA Draft Lottery: Paul Pierce and the Boston Celtics 8 Best Lottery Picks
When the NBA adopted the lottery concept in 1985, we went from territorial picks and coin flips to a new, more exciting method of drafting the future of the league.
Thanks to the 1984 Houston Rockets' perceived attempt to intentionally lose games in order to obtain the first pick, the lottery system now involves a standard lottery machine, then encases a certain number of balls for each team based on their finishing record.
I decided to take a look at one of the sports' most winning franchises and how they have fared in the draft.
Due to the relatively short amount of time that the lottery has been around, the rankings will be more about the picks than holding on to them.
8. Randy Foye
Drafted: 2006, 7th overall
Career: 11.7 PPG, 3.4 APG, 2.4 RPG
In 2011-12 (maybe), Foye will enter his sixth NBA season.
Although Foye had one of his least productive seasons as a member of the LA Clippers this year, the young shooting guard grew drastically as a role player, playing backup to the budding Eric Gordon.
Foye was forced into the starting role late in the season as Gordon nursed multiple injuries. Foye has three straight 20-plus point games in late February, with his best game coming against who? The team that drafted him.
Foye scored 32 points against Boston on Feb. 26, his highest total of the season.
In one of the least important trades in Celtics history, Boston moved Foye, Raef LaFrentz, Dan Dickau and cash considerations to the Trail Blazers for Sebastian Telfair, Theo Ratliff and a 2008 second-round pick. Talk about a blockbuster.
Foye may never be an elite player in this league, but his acceptance of a backup role, along with his continuously developing scoring ability, makes him an asset to any team looking for a spark off the bench.
7. Jeff Green
Drafted: 2007, 5th overall
Career: 13.9 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 1.6 APG
Another player that didn't end up playing in the uniform they were drafted in. Well, not until recently, anyway.
Yes, Green was part of the trade that brought Ray Allen to Boston, the first step in the formation of the new Big Three.
Green had a very important role in Oklahoma City as a starter, entering the league alongside soon-to-be superstar Kevin Durant.
Green's best statistical season came in the birth-year of the Thunder, a 23-59 season in which he posted 16.5 PPG and 6.7 RPG.
Green was injured for 32 games last season but started all 49 that he was able to play in. Green was a vital piece in the Thunder's entertaining attempt in offing the Lakers in the first round of the playoffs.
While the Celtics knew they didn't have the cap space to re-sign center Kendrick Perkins, the Thunder wanted a strong center to fill out an already solid lineup. Thus, Green returned to Boston.
The former Georgetown star was attractive as a backup for Paul Pierce at small forward after the unfortunate downfall of Marquis Daniels.
Although Green struggled to find his stride in a much more limited role for the majority of his games in green this year, he remains a vital piece of Boston's future beyond the three.
Green has the talent and therefore some wiggle room to move up the list. That should happen if he can continue to grow both his game and his confidence.
6. Ron Mercer
Drafted: 1997, 7th overall
Career: 13.6 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 2.1 APG (eight seasons)
Although Mercer had a few solid seasons, he turned out to be a bit of a disappointment in comparison to the high hopes that Boston had for him when they brought him in.
Despite being reunited with his coach at Kentucky, Rick Pitino, Mercer never displayed the type of rounded game that made him a must-own player.
Mercer's career-best 19.7-3.9-3.3 line in 2000-01 was not enough to secure a long-term deal in Chicago and Mercer remained a traveling man for the rest of his career, never staying in one location for two full seasons.
A two-time Mr. Basketball of Tennessee, Mercer was ranked ahead of future Celtic Kevin Garnett coming out of high school.
Mercer fizzled out rapidly from 2002-2005, experiencing temporary stints with the Spurs and Nets. After being waived by both teams, Mercer exited the league with only an All-Rookie Team First Team selection under his belt.
5. Len Bias
Draft: 1986, 2nd overall
Career: No stats.
I'm sure I'll have some people arguing that I can't have Bias rising so far up the list without having played a game in the NBA.
Is it fair to say that Bias wouldn't have been a better a player than the former three players mentioned? Not only was Bias one of the most anticipated talents in NBA history, but he almost surely would have been the best pick of the 1986 draft had a cocaine overdose not robbed us of the pleasure.
Bias is one of the most heartbreaking stories in NBA history. His play and passion were said to be on the level of Michael Jordan while he was also viewed as a slightly stronger player.
According to Celtics scout Ed Badger, “He's the closest thing to Michael Jordan to come out in a long time. I'm not saying he's as good as Michael Jordan, but he's an explosive and exciting kind of player like that.”
Do I think Bias would have been as good as Jordan? Probably not. But the world was most definitely robbed of watching a potential legend in this beautiful game. He will forever be looked at as one of the greatest players in any sport to never play in on the professional level.
Kirk Fraser's documentary, Without Bias, was released in 2009 on ESPN as part of the channel's 30 for 30 film series. The impact of the loss of Bias is still felt today and the documentary remains a must-see for any sports fan.
4. Joe Johnson
Draft: 2001, 10th overall
Career: 17.7 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 4.5 APG (five-time All-Star)
Starting out, Johnson was one of those players that needed ample time to develop.
I had a difficult time putting No. 3 over Johnson at No. 4, but Johnson's brief time with the Celtics is just too glaring to reward. (Yes, it's a homer approach.)
Johnson was traded to the Suns with guards Randy Brown, Milto Palacio and a first-round pick for forward Rodney Rogers and Tony Delk in 2002 (both players would have an impact on Boston's playoff run).
Again, we come back to the Celtics.
Johnson peaked in 2006-2007 with a 25-4-4 and was a huge factor in his Hawks almost ending the Celtics championship run a year later. Johnson's young and physical Hawks took the Big Three to seven games before a huge performance by Paul Pierce helped send the Hawks home.
Johnson is only 29 and has certainly not anywhere near living out his playing days. Still, Hawks fans has to be very discouraged with Johnson's significant statistical drop this season while being concerned over the consistency of their No. 1 guy.
3. Antoine Walker
Draft: 1996, 6th overall
Career: 17.5 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 3.5 APG (three-time All-Star in 12 seasons)
I will always have a soft spot for the sometimes (bankrupt) sloppy, slightly pudgy and always entertaining Antoine Walker.
One year out of Kentucky, Walker was partnered up with Paul Pierce to make the Celtics reasonably relevant, once again.
Walker helped the Celtics to a 49-33 record in 2001-02, providing a 22-7-5 line for one of the most productive seasons of his career. Pierce and Walker would guide the Celtics all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals before Boston fell in six to the Nets.
The Celtics would trade Walker to the Mavericks just nine days into the 2003-04 season, but would return a year later for one more short stint.
In the summer of 2005, Walker would be a piece of the largest trade in NBA history, a five-team, 13-player deal that landed Walker in Miami (go figure).
Walker's three-pointer would become a huge x-factor for the Heat's 2006 run, earning Walker his first and only championship.
Walker is currently hanging out in the NBA D-League as a member of the Idaho Stampede as he attempts to relinquish his basketball talent and his bank account.
2. Chauncey Billups
Draft: 1997, 3rd overall
Career: 15.5 PPG, 5.6 APG, 2.9 RPG (five-time All-Star)
How can you not like Chauncey? More importantly, how does the third overall pick get moved Toronto in the middle of a rookie season while averaging 11-4-2?
The answer is simple. For a “my best days are behind me” version of Kenny Anderson, of course!
Anderson did a fine job of making a mediocre contribution to the Celtics, while hovering around 30 minutes.
Hence, the declaration I made earlier. We would be talking about the picks, not what was down with them thereafter.
Billups had the talent, the upside and a team-first style that would eventually lead to an NBA Finals MVP for the 2004 champion Pistons.
Imagine a mini-big three of sorts with Billups, Pierce and Walker. Ugh. It wasn't meant to be; just doesn't seem to satisfy.
Billups' best season (18-8-3) would come in the 2005-06 season, but his value should always be remembered well beyond the numbers.
Along with two finals appearances, Billups would run point for four visits to the Eastern Conference Finals (six total), most famously taking out the Lakers as a part of one of the best defensive teams in recent times.
The 2004 Pistons are the perfect example for why a team, in the truest sense of the word, will beat a team full of All-Stars.
For all his accomplishments, Pistons GM Joe Dumars would trade Billups to Denver for Allen Iverson's contract, ending an era in Detroit prematurely. OK, maybe the Anderson trade isn't that bad.
1. Paul Pierce
Draft: 1998, 10th overall
Career: 22.2 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 3.8 APG (nine-time All-Star)
If you know your NBA draft history, you probably knew this was a given.
Pierce was a near-instant factor when he entered the league. His ability to score in a variety of ways, along with solid rebounding and defensive capabilities have made him a force to be reckoned with for over a decade now.
Pierce's late-game heroics have found their way fully-embedded into a crowded list of Celtics memories.
Pierce joins Billups as the other Finals MVP on our list, and it's hard to say there are two players more deserving, given what they contributed in their respective playoff runs.
Pierce's best statistical season (27-7-5) is far less important than his leadership role as a member of The Big Three.
After years of sifting through playoff bouts that never seemed like realistic shots at a ring, Pierce got his wish against the Lakers in 2007-08 with the help of Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett.
Pierce's 41-point performance in a toe-to-toe heavyweight fight with the clinching game against LeBron's Cavs will always be looked at as a staple of The Truth's will to rise up in the biggest moments.
Pierce is as true a Celtic as any and a surefire Hall of Famer.