Finally, it’s time to watch some meaningful basketball, Celtics fans! Well, in the NCAA tournament, that is.
Jabari Parker is a known commodity, but there could be some less-heralded players who emerge in the NCAA tournament. (AP)
The C’s had an exciting win against the LeBron James-less Heat on Wednesday night. Sure, it was fun to see Rajon Rondo lead the charge against a quality team, but what does it really mean? This season is already lost, so what it means is a five-game losing streak has been halted, dropping Boston two spots to the sixth lottery spot. The win lowered the C’s current chance at a top-three pick by 16 percent. You never know how the season is going to end, but all signs point to a tight lottery race. Was the thrill of Wednesday worth it if the Celtics finish one win ahead of the Lakers?
Enter the beginning of March Madness, the greatest four-day stretch in sports.
We know that there will be ample buzzer-beaters and upsets, there always are. Brackets will be ripped to shreds (as mine always is), others will turn into lottery tickets (just not the kind Danny Ainge is chasing). No bets are safe come March Madness, but feel free to learn the hard way if you must. Nobody needs any extra incentive to enjoy the most entertaining tournament we have as sports fans. However, this year Celtics fans will have one extra reason to pay attention — draft picks.
Don’t forget that outside of Boston’s hyped first-rounder, Ainge also will own Brooklyn or Atlanta’s pick, which could end up being a player who breaks out in the tournament. We already know the talent players like Jabari Parker, Andrew Wiggins and even Marcus Smart posses. A bad tournament will not lower their draft stock, but a breakout tournament could boost their NBA stock even higher. There is no clear cut No. 1 overall pick, but Celtics fans obviously would love to see any top-tier talent arrive in Boston.
The immediate franchise changers will be determined by the ping-pong balls, the hunt for the rest of the stars begins with the later picks. Once the premier talent is off the board, a lot of the next prospects to be taken in the draft are players that raised their stock in March. I didn’t even know who Kenneth Faried was until Morehead State upset Louisville in 2011. After watching him play one game, I had no doubt he was a lottery talent in that year’s draft. Kind of an extreme example, but March matters.
Who is 2014′s Faried? Can Ainge get his hands on him? And most importantly, can he develop a better nickname than ‘The Manamal’ in the NBA? Time will tell.
I know it takes patience, but this tournament also can carry meaning for drafts post-2014. Take Glen ‘Big Baby’ Davis for example. Davis broke out in the 2006 NCAA tournament, taking LSU to the Final Four. Big Baby then returned to school and had a pretty quite season — he became an early second-round selection by Ainge. Davis was able to contribute right away in key spots on a championship team; don’t think Ainge didn’t watch that Final Four tape from the previous year.
The Celtics are loaded with multiple first-rounders in both 2015 and 2016, and own a plethora of second-round-picks in those drafts as well. The tourney should now have new meaning to Celtics fans. It is the breeding grounds for future stars at the next level.
So, glue your eyes to March Madness as you always do; it’s about time we enjoy some meaningful basketball in Boston. But this year, remember it may not only be meaningful to the teams in the tournament, but to Danny Ainge watching like us. I told you, March matters.
P.S., Final Four: Florida, Michigan State, Louisville and dark horse Oklahoma State. Lock it up. Or I will be tearing my bracket to shreds by the end of the weekend — one or the other.
You still have time to submit your bracket on WEEI.com for a chance to win $500! Get it in Thursday before noon.
Follow Julian Edlow on Twitter @julianedlow.