What If Tim Duncan Had Actually Ended Up With the Boston Celtics?

Mike B.Correspondent IJuly 4, 2010

16 Mar 1997:  Center Tim Duncan of the Wake Forest Demon Deacons hold his head down a playoff game against the  Stanford Cardinals at the McKale Center in Tuscon, Arizona .  The Cardinals won the game 72 - 66. Mandatory Credit: Brian Bahr  /Allsport
Brian Bahr/Getty Images

During the 1996-97 season, the Boston Celtics came up with a plan to land the top pick in the 1997 NBA Draft.

The plan was to "tank the season," meaning they would lose as many games as possible in order to have an ideal chance at landing Wake Forest center Tim Duncan.

The Celtics finished the season with the league's second-worst record (15-67), putting them in great position to obtain that highly-coveted draft pick.

As we all know, their plan backfired.

The San Antonio Spurs swooped in and won the top pick, while the Celtics wound up slipping to third.  

The Spurs drafted Duncan—who else would they have picked?—Philadelphia took the "Next Larry Bird" in Keith Van Horn, and the Celtics landed future Finals MVP Chauncey Billups.

The C's also selected Ron Mercer with the sixth-overall pick. 

Duncan went on to become one of the league's greatest big men ever, as he led San Antonio to four NBA titles, won three Finals MVPs, as well as two regular-season MVPs. 

Meanwhile, Billups struggled mightily, not even lasting his full rookie season in Beantown, and Mercer was traded after only two seasons with the team.

The Celtics did not enjoy much success over the next ten years until, of course, the "Big Three" of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen led the team to a title in 2007 and another Finals appearance this past season.

However, Boston fans aren't too upset these days about losing out on the Duncan sweepstakes since their team was able to win a championship without him.

But what if the Celtics had won the '97 Draft Lottery and got their hands on Mr. Duncan? Instead of winning just one title, would the Celtics have created their first dynasty since the Larry Bird-Kevin McHale-Robert Parish days of the 1980s? 

Well, Duncan certainly wouldn't have won a title his second year in the league like he did in San Antonio. The Celtics roster was nowhere close to the Spurs team that featured talented veterans such as David Robinson, Sean Elliott, and Avery Johnson. 

The Celtics, though, would have sported a dangerous, young frontcourt duo in Duncan and '96 lottery pick Antoine Walker.

For all you younger fans out there, Walker was a pretty good player in the late '90s and early 2000s.

Boston may have eventually won a title or two, depending on what type of talent the team could have surrounded Duncan with.

Of course, it's extremely difficult to speculate just who those players could've been.

Paul Pierce, who the Celtics luckily picked up with the 10th overall pick in the '98 draft, likely wouldn't have never donned the green-and-white since the Celtics probably would have picked lower in the draft with the arrival of Duncan.

In 2001, maybe the Celtics would've drafted Tony Parker, the All-Star point guard who won three titles alongside Duncan in San Antonio.

Parker surprisingly fell all the way to the end of the first round, where the Spurs grabbed him with the 28th overall pick. 

Duncan, Walker, and Parker could've formed an entertaining trio in Boston that may have been good enough to lift the Celtics to a title.

And maybe if Duncan had landed in Boston, current Louisville coach Rick Pitino, who was hired by the Celtics to be the team's general manager and coach prior to the '97-98 season, would still be on the sidelines today instead of Doc Rivers.

Pitino could've joined Larry Brown as the only coaches in hoops history to win a title in both the NCAA and NBA.    

Meanwhile, without Duncan in the lineup, a San Antonio dynasty likely would never had existed.

Robinson may have finished his career without winning any rings. The "Admiral" was a great player, but he needed Duncan's help to win those two championships.

But then again, you never know who the Spurs could have acquired and plus, Robinson may have won a title with another team.  

One thing's for sure though—the NBA would have been pretty different if Duncan had spent his career in Boston instead of San Antonio.

Spurs fans will always be thankful that they got to the chance to see No. 21 wearing silver and black rather than No. 12 in green and white.


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