Finishing with the league’s worst record in the previous year, the Celtics had not one, but two first-round picks the 1997 NBA draft, where a power forward by the name of Tim Duncan was coming out of Wake Forest University and was a guaranteed No. 1 pick.
The Celtics were expected to win the coveted first pick, and were a lock to snag Duncan. However, a stroke of luck earned San Antonio the first draw, sending Duncan to Texas and leaving the Celtics to choose Chauncey Billups and Ron Mercer.
But what if the tables had turned that day and Duncan pulled on Celtic green, rather than the silver and black of San Antonio? Would the Celtics have more championship banners hanging from the Garden rafters?
Since arriving in San Antonio, Duncan has led the Spurs to four championships in 1999, 2003, 2005 and 2007, earning the Finals MVP award in three of those series. Knowing Duncan’s quiet, yet dominant style of play, he could have turned the Boston franchise around and carried them to at least one Finals victory as the team’s reliable cornerstone.
Imagine even further if the Celtics had used 1997-98 as a building year and still nabbed Paul Pierce in the 1998 draft. Grabbing Pierce in the No. 10 slot was a huge boost for the Celtics, and The Truth has evolved into one of the greatest players in franchise history. Imagine what Pierce and Duncan would have done together?
Granted, the face of the franchise would look completely different now. There would likely be no Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen in Boston, but perhaps another Big Three would have formed around Duncan and Pierce.
The Celtics have made banner No. 18 their priority this season, but what number would they be on if luck had been on their side in the 1997 draft?
How many titles do you think Tim Duncan would have brought to the Celtics? Share your thoughts below.
Monday, Jan. 3: Which Paul Pierce dunk was the best of his career?