In case you have blocked the 1996-97 season from memory, we would like you to know the Celtics were really bad. They won 15 games and finished with the worst record in the Eastern Conference by a wide margin. Only the Grizzlies, who won 14 games, were within five losses of that terrible Celtics squad.
Hopes were high, though, because the Celtics had the inside track for the first overall pick. (The Grizzlies, in just their second year of existence, were ineligible for the No. 1 pick due to expansion rules.) The prize of that draft class was Tim Duncan, a center out of Wake Forest who was widely considered a can’t-miss commodity. The Celtics had the best odds of landing the top pick and grabbing Duncan — so, of course, they ended up with pick No. 6 while the Spurs got the top choice.
Nevertheless, Josh Cohen at OrlandoMagic.com has imagined what Duncan, and several other top picks, might have looked like if the NBA draft lottery did not exist. If the worst team simply got the first pick and things moved on from there, Shaquille O’Neal would have started his career in Minnesota, LeBron James may have begun his career in Denver and Duncan would have been a Celtic.
Ignoring for a moment that Duncan could not have worn jersey No. 21, which is retired in honor of Bill Sharman, take a look at Cohen’s work in the photo below. Honestly, it doesn’t look that weird.
Photo via Facebook/Orlando Magic