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Celtics first playoff team to win draft lottery

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Yesterday, the Celtics won the lottery.

Tonight, they play Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals.

“It’s really been a magical season,” said Celtics co-owner Steve Pagliuca, who watched the ping-pong balls drawn live.

An unprecedented season, in fact.

Boston is the first playoff team to win the lottery. A few other playoff teams have landed the No. 1 pick, but those all came in the pre-lottery era. Most top-picking teams were coming off dismal seasons.

Here’s every team that entered the draft with the No. 1 pick and its record in the prior season, playoff teams with filled green bars. The Celtics tower above everyone else in the last 25 years.:

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How did those playoff teams get their No. 1 picks?

2017 Boston Celtics (playing conference finals)

In 2013, the Celtics traded Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry to the Nets for three first-round picks and a pick swap. Those aging stars promptly declined, leaving Brooklyn in disarray. Boston executed its pick swap with league-worst Brooklyn this year and reaped the No. 1 pick.

1982 Los Angeles Lakers (won NBA finals): James Worthy

During the 1979-80 season, the Cavaliers traded their 1982 first-rounder to the Lakers for Don Ford and a 1980 first-rounder, which became Chad Kinch. This trade actually predates Ted Stepien, the horrible owner who led to the NBA to enact rules limiting trades. But Stepien bought the team a short while later and sunk it to an NBA-worst 15-67 in 1981-82 – earning the No. 1 pick and conveying it to Los Angeles, which happily picked Worthy.

1979 Los Angeles Lakers (lost conference semifinals): Magic Johnson

After struggling to make their mark in their first couple seasons of existence, the New Orleans Jazz thought they were onto something in 1976. They paired Pete Maravich in the backcourt with Gail Goodrich, who was only one season removed from being an All-Star with the Lakers. A problem: Signing Goodrich meant sending the Lakers compensation, a requirement in the formative days of free agency. The Jazz’s compensation included their 1979 first-round pick. The bigger problem: Goodrich was 33 by the time the Jazz signed him and far less effective in 1978-79. Maravich, also on the wrong side of 30 by then, couldn’t stay healthy. In their final season in New Orleans before moving to Utah, the Jazz finished an NBA-worst 26-56 and sent their pick to the Lakers, who drafted Johnson.

1978 Portland Trail Blazers (lost conference semifinals): Mychal Thompson

While most of these other No. 1 picks were results of trades  years before gone bad, Portland acquired the No. 1 pick in 1978 just a day before the draft. The Trail Blazers traded the No. 3 pick (which became Rick Robey) and Johnny Davis (a solid guard who’d just finished the second of what’d be a 10-year career) to the Pacers for the top pick. Thompson played well for Portland but is better remembered for winning a couple championships with the Lakers.

1953 Baltimore Bullets (lost division semifinals): Ray Felix

In the NBA’s early days, teams had the option to execute territorial picks. By forfeiting its first-rounder, a team could claim a draft-eligible player who played at a nearby college. The league-worst Philadelphia Warriors went this route in 1953, grabbing Ernie Beck from Penn. This was also a time four of five teams in each division made the playoffs. So, the Bullets – with the NBA’s second-worst record but fourth-best record in its conference – both made the playoffs and landed the top pick without a trade.

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If any of these situations is similar to Boston, it’s the Lakers getting Magic Johnson and James Worthy. The Celtics have already drafted Jaylen Brown (and James Young) with Brooklyn picks – and get the Nets’ first-rounder next year – to join Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, et al. The Lakers, who already had Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in place, won titles in 1980 and 1982 and another three once Worthy arrived.

There’s no guarantee Boston achieves such success, but the potential clearly exists.

Lakers’ Jeanie Buss: “I have 100 percent confidence in Rob Pelinka”

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Internally, the Lakers believe they are on the right track: They signed LeBron James as a free agent, they spent years acquiring assets then turned those assets into Anthony Davis, and they believe the roster that will take the court next season will bring vindication for the front office and ownership group. The Lakers believe they will be back on top, where they belong.

From the outside, um, let’s just say there are doubts around the league. Doubts about all the picks — particularly the pick swaps and deferments — that the Lakers gave up to get Davis and now that could hurt them in the future. There are doubts about the ability of Rob Pelinka to build out a roster around LeBron and Davis that is truly a threat.

Jeanie Buss has no such doubts. Speaking to Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times (and other reporters) at the NBA Awards show Monday, Buss expressed nothing but confidence in Pelinka and the Lakers’ staff.

“I’ve always had confidence in Rob, whatever the speculation is out there,” Buss said. “We don’t need outside media to validate the things that we do. I’m very happy and I think we’re on the right path.”

“I have 100% confidence in him in running his basketball operations,” Buss said. “He’s brought us a great new head coach in Frank Vogel, whose teams have had a lot of success in the playoffs and who have played consistently ranking high in defense, which means not only does he emphasize defense but the players buy into his defensive schemes.”

The question isn’t Vogel’s credentials, although how a staff with Jason Kidd, Lionel Hollins, and other veteran coaches with big egos will mesh together is going to be interesting.

The question is talent.

The Lakers have the high end of that with LeBron and Davis, but when you think about the Laker title teams of the past it wasn’t just Shaq and Kobe, it was also Derek Fisher and Robert Horry and Rick Fox and a host of others. The same thing was true in this past Finals — the deeper team won because the Raptors could adapt and handle their star not being 100 percent.

Are the Lakers going to chase another star and then complete the roster with minimum salary players? Or, get two or three quality role players with their cap space to have a deeper team? Has this all been planned out and thought through? Maybe Rob Pelinka builds this roster out beautifully, but we only have one year of experience to judge him on, and that did not go well.

Buss may have confidence, she should, the rest of us are in wait and see mode.

The Greek Freak has arrived, Giannis Antetokounmpo wins NBA MVP

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Mike Budenholzer came in with a plan — an offense built around the fact no one man on the planet can guard Giannis Antetokounmpo.

It worked. The Bucks won 60 games and had the best record in the NBA. Budenholzer picked up Coach of the Year hardware for his efforts.

Now Antetokounmpo has won the NBA MVP award, edging out James Harden (who chose not to attend the NBA’s awards show in Los Angeles Monday). He was emotional in thanking teammates for helping him reach this point, then talking about his father.

Antetokounmpo averaged 27.7 points and 12.5 rebounds a game, but it was his ability to destroy any defender one-on-one that made the Bucks offense work. Either the Greek Freak got to the basket and finished, he drew a foul, or he drew so much attention the shooters that surrounded him on the floor had clean looks of their own. He also was the Bucks best defender, a guy tasked with tough assignments nightly.

Antetokounmpo was the best player on the best team.

Antetokounmpo won the award handily with 941 points to Harden’s 776. The Greek Freak had 78 of the 100 first place votes.

James Harden — who averaged 36.1 points, 7.5 assists, and 6.6 rebounds per game — finished second in the voting, Paul George of Oklahoma City was third. Harden has finished first or second in the voting for four of the past five seasons. Harden believed he deserved to win and was frustrated with another second.

Antetokounmpo is the first player from Europe to win the MVP award since Dirk Nowitzki in 2007.

Nikola Jokic came in fourth in the voting, Stephen Curry was fifth. Here are the full results:

 

 

Rudy Gobert wins NBA Defensive Player of the Year for second straight season

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Rudy Gobert owns the paint for the Utah Jazz.

And he owns the NBA Defensive Player of the Year award.

Gobert won his second straight DPOY award Monday night, beating out the other 2019 finalists Giannis Antetokounmpo and Paul George.

The Jazz had the second best defense in the regular season and it is completely built around Gobert and his abilities in the paint, which is what separated him for this award. Utah’s defense was 20.1 points per 100 possessions better when Gobert was on the court and gave up less than a point per possession with him as the anchor.

This was a deep field with players such as Myles Turner of the Pacers, Joel Embiid of the 76ers and others getting votes as well.

Bucks’ Mike Budenholzer named NBA Coach of the Year

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Mike Budenholzer unleashed Giannis Antetokounmpo and from the start that made him the Coach of the Year favorite (and maybe Antetokounmpo MVP).

It was a wire-to-wire win for Budenholzer, who was the frontrunner for this award from early on and was named the NBA Coach of the Year Monday night, the second time he has won this award (Atlanta in 2015).

Budenholzer was the favorite with good reason. The Bucks won 16 more games than the season before and had the best record in the NBA, they improved their net rating by +10.1, and became a top-five team on both ends of the floor. To be fair, part of Budenholzer’s success was a contrast to how poorly the previous coach handled this roster, but give Budenholzer credit for utilizing players well.

He beat out Doc Rivers of the Clippers and Mike Malone of the Nuggets in what was a very deep field for this award.