Let me just begin by saying: Screw the Boston Celtics.
Those green devils from the frozen North finally dealt point guard Rajon Rondo, erasing the final traces of the squad that tortured the Knicks for the better part of a half-decade. Let us take some small comfort in the fact that Rondo's final playoff game in Boston was a loss to the orange and blue in the first round of the 2013 playoffs.
We did it! We killed the Celtics! It was all us!
Ah, that was fun. Now it's time to look to the future. Unfortunately, Boston has already been preparing their next title contender for the past year and a half, ever since they dumped Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett on the Brooklyn Nets.
Celtics GM Danny Ainge has been stocking future draft picks like a Virginian buying bread and toilet paper before a snow storm. They picked up Dallas's first-rounder -- most likely to be conveyed in 2016 -- in the Rondo deal, to go along with the Clippers' first-rounder from the Doc Rivers deal, Brooklyn's picks in 2016 and 2018, Cleveland's pick (likely in 2016)...and that's not even including second rounders and pick swaps.
Let's compare Boston and New York's first-round picks over the next two drafts:
Own (2015, 2016), LAC (2015),
DAL (probably 2016), BRK (2016),
CLE (probably 2016)
Dammit, the Celtics are going to beat up on the Knicks for another decade! I'm having flashbacks. Anything is possible!
Just calm down, everyone. New York may just have a trump card in this game. And I'm not talking about the whole "free agents all want to come to New York" thing -- I'm tired of relying on that old fallacy. No, the real trump card is the incredible value that one New York pick will have if the 2014-15 Knicks continue to lose.
New York currently has the second-worst record in the NBA, with one-third of the season already in the books. That would guarantee them a pick in the top 5, and a 55.8-percent chance of picking in the top 3. As for the Celtics, they are currently in 10th slot in the draft, and are unlikely to move up. Hell, they very well might make the playoffs this season; Boston is 0.5 games behind Brooklyn for the eighth spot in the East, and their haul of Brandan Wright, Jae Crowder and Jameer Nelson more than makes up for Rondo. (I'm not judging the trade from Dallas' perspective -- Rondo is famous for turning it on when he feels engaged -- I'm just saying Rondo hasn't been good for Boston this year.)
When you take a closer look at Boston's future draft booty, you notice that all of those picks are likely to end up in the mid-to-late first, unless Brooklyn finds takers for some of their massive contracts and falls off hard in 2015-16.
For the sake of argument, let's just say that every team ends up with the pick they'd have based on their current records. Boston would pick at 10 and 24; New York would pick second. What would Danny Ainge need to do to pry that No. 2 pick away from Phil Jackson? The Celtics' two 2015 picks certainly wouldn't do it. What if Boston threw in one of those 2016 picks? Would you trade a chance at Karl Towns or some other elite prospect for three picks? I wouldn't.
As good as Boston's future prospects look at the moment, it's still more of a quantity-over-quality deal. There's a fair chance that Marcus Smart will be Boston's highest pick for a good, long while. And while Ainge has the means to acquire an elite talent via trade, he'll still have to pray to the pagan Celtics gods for the stars to align for him the way they did in the summer of 2007.
Make no mistake, Boston has a real chance of producing a squad that will continue the recent Celtic tradition of destroying the Knicks and making their fans weep. Draft picks are the ammunition of choice in the NBA, and their guns are loaded. The Knicks have only one bullet over the next two years. But damn, do they have a clear shot. All they have to do is keep losing.
I'm as terrified of the draft as the rest of you. I'm too young to remember the Ewing bonanza -- though the rest of the world will never let me forget that the Knicks got lucky 30 freakin' years ago. All I have are memories of disappointment. But the facts dictate that the best hope for a 5-23 team lie in the lottery.
The Knicks don't have a Rajon Rondo to trade; they're not getting a haul of first-round picks any time soon. But if the ping-pong balls fall right, that might not matter.