Saturday, June 28
I know, I know. The Boston Celtics just won an NBA championship, so we're supposed to cut them some slack for at least a week or two.

But even so, I can't help but voice my frustration after watching Thursday night's draft. I swore I wasn't going to get sucked in this time, but my lingering joy at the team's Finals performance left me hungering for one last bit of an NBA fix before calling it a season.

General manager Danny Ainge warned everyone going in that the Celtics weren't likely to get any immediate help from their 30th overall pick, the very last of the first round. This meant that they would likely draft a project-type player, someone with long-term upside whom they could banish to the D-League (or worse, Europe) for a couple of years and hopefully get some return on down the road.

As the draft got underway and a few teams ahead of Boston officially threw things out of whack with total head-scratcher picks (hello, Sacramento), a few potential blue chips began to fall. Some were understandable (Darrell Arthur and his suspect kidneys, for example), while others were chalked up to the old "they must know something we don't" logic. Either way, the 30th pick was looking more and more valuable as the first round wrapped up, and I fell into the inevitable trap of targeting one guy and hoping, no praying, that he would fall all the way into the Celtics' lap.


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That guy was DeAndre Jordan, the freshman center from Texas A&M. Jordan - already measuring seven feet at age 19, and packing a ton of muscle onto his 260-pound frame - was arguably the most exciting physical specimen in the draft, and the absolute definition of an intriguing project. His skills, footwork and basketball IQ are all about as raw as they come, meaning that even a prolonged development period at a sub-NBA level won't guarantee that he'll fulfill the seemingly limitless potential that he brings to the table.

But isn't that exactly what the Celtics were looking for?

Apparently not, as Ainge and company passed on Jordan at No. 30 and instead selected New Mexico shooting guard J.R. Giddens, who is equally famous for getting stabbed in a bar fight and writing his ticket out of the Kansas Jayhawks' program as he is for leading the Lobos in both scoring and rebounding as a senior. Giddens swears that his rocky past is behind him, and the Celtics think he will "fight for minutes right away because of his defense," according to a Boston Globe quote from head coach Doc Rivers.

Say what? What happened to "no immediate help?" Was that just a smokescreen by a paranoid management team that had worked out Giddens on Wednesday and grown just a tad obsessed with the former MacDonald's All-American?

I sure hope not, because the reality is that Boston could likely have landed Giddens in the second round, either at No. 47 (a pick they ended up buying, in the form of Kansas State forward Bill Walker, from the Wizards) or even, conceivably, at No. 60. With projected studs Arthur and Chris Douglas-Roberts of Memphis tumbling as far as they did, it is not far-fetched to think that a player with as much baggage as Giddens' might not have been drafted at all.

Which would have freed the C's up to take a chance on Jordan, who looks to be every ounce the equal, at least in terms of physicality, of the Lakers' supposed messiah Andrew Bynum. It was nice to daydream about a future when the two storied franchises' middle monsters would lock horns in an NBA version of a grainy Japanese stop-motion horror film. Instead, we'll have to pin our hopes on a former Jayhawk whose most notorious early-career moment came on the wrong end of a knife blade.

But then again, we did have pretty good luck with that type of guy once before.

Adam White is Sports Editor of the Banner. He can be reached at awhite@benningtonbanner.com.