The 'What If?' game
December, 6, 2009
By Chris Forsberg | ESPNBoston.com
Not to harp on the past (we've already been called out for drudging up memories of Boston's franchise-worst 18-game losing streak during the 2006-07 season), but with Portland's Greg Oden suffering what appears to be a season-ending knee injury Saturday night, we can't help but play the "what if?" game.
Thanks in part to that gruesome losing streak, the Celtics had a 19.9 percent chance at landing the top pick at the 2007 NBA Draft lottery -- which the Blazers used to select Oden. What's more, the Green had a 38.7 percent chance at a top 2 pick and a 55.8 percent chance at a top 3 pick. The worst possible outcome -- the No. 5 overall pick, which the Celtics ultimately ended up with -- had only a 12.3 percent possibility.
And while it's impossible to predict whether Oden would have been plagued by the same health problems that he's endured in Portland, it's intriguing to think how the Celtics' recent history might have been altered had it been Oden, Kevin Durant, or Al Horford that ended up in Boston.
The Celtics got a small glimpse at that potential on Friday in Oklahoma City, going up against both Durant, and Jeff Green, who they tabbed with that No. 5 pick, before flipping him to Seattle in the trade that brought Ray Allen to Boston and began the process of assembling the new Big 3.
And while bringing home Banner No. 17 (and with No. 18 a realistic goal this season), it's hard to believe things could have possibly worked out better -- especially given how awful most Celtics fans felt on the night of the draft lottery. But you can't help but wonder what could have been had those ping-pong balls bounced one way or another.
Could a staring lineup of Kendrick Perkins, Al Jefferson, Kevin Durant, Paul Pierce, and Rajon Rondo have positioned Boston for a brighter future? Who would have been the odd-man out if the Celtics had drafted Oden? What if the Celtics had simply settled for Yi Jianlian?