Five of the top six selections in the 2014 NBA Draft lottery landed with teams in the Eastern Conference, including the first four. More specifically the top three, also known as the expected landing spots for Duke's Jabari Parker and the Kansas duo of Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid.
Overall there will be a lot of talent headed to a conference that outside of the Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers received more punchlines than praise over the past couple of seasons. That's also not the same as saying that the East will suddenly be loaded, but a few of the lottery teams could make a playoff push. Which ones and will any of them have enough to pass the Wizards, those are questions we’re looking at, starting with the Cavaliers (Embiid), Bucks (Wiggins), 76ers (Parker) and Magic (Dante Exum). Now, the Boston Celtics, owners of the sixth and 17th selections.
What's working for them: Future assets, mostly. Following trades involving Doc Rivers plus Kevin Garnett/Paul Pierce, the Celtics own two first round picks in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2018. That's what you call trading ammunition. As for the present, Brad Stevens' stellar reputation remains, as do veterans Rajon Rondo and Jeff Green. Former No. 1 picks Kelly Olynyk and Jared Sullinger have shown enough to be realistic parts of any any future frontcourt rotations. Only Green and Gerald Wallace have sizable contracts beyond the upcoming season, meaning plenty of future cap space.
What's working against them: Unless Rondo returns to his previous All-Star form - and he might if healthy -, this isn't a loaded roster. Two first's this year will help with that, but the lack of lottery luck led to Boston likely missing out on the draft's three stars. Also, Wallace's contract is unsightly ($20.2 million over next two seasons) for what he brings at this point in his career.
What they should do at No. 6 and 17: The standard "best player available" approach works here considering Boston's needs and limited contracts beyond this season. At this point, four names jump out with the sixth selection: Power forwards Julius Randle (Kentucky) Noah Vonleh (Indiana) and Aaron Gordon (Arizona) along with point guard Marcus Smart, who endured a rocky sophomore season with Oklahoma State. With Rondo a borderline lock to be moved either before or during this season, going with a long-term solution at the point like Smart makes for a logical decision unless one of the bigs wows them. Names to consider at 17 include point guard Tyler Ennis (Syracuse), power forwards Adreian Payne (Michigan State) and T.J. Warren (NC State) and small forward Kyle Anderson (UCLA).
What seems unlikely with these selections is packaging them together in a deal for Minnesota's Kevin Love. The Celtics are among the rumored teams mentioned as a possible destination for the double-double machine, but with Stevens it appears that Boston is taking the long-term rebuild path rather than the quick fix angle. Well, assuming an historic team like the Celtics actually believes in waiting to build their latest banner-raising team. There is also the issue of getting Love to agree on a long-term deal. Boston won't assume he'll stay before swinging a trade.
Could they jump the Wizards? Not unless they do indeed make a move for Love, Rondo becomes a nightly triple-double threat once again, another piece or two joins the roster puzzle and Washington falls apart. Again, the Celtics clearly have the assets to immediately jump into the playoff hunt and it's not like we haven't seen Danny Ainge pull off such a scenario before. Until they do, the Wizards don't need to worry about Boston. With all those future picks and the franchise history, the worrying will eventually come.