Win Over Nets Is Crucial For Celtics Team In Search Of Top-Five Pick

With the Celtics holding the rights to the Brooklyn Nets’ first-rounder in the upcoming 2017 draft, opportunities to defeat their Atlantic Division counterparts are critical.

The Boston Celtics‘ 111-92 thumping of the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday night at Barclays Center was more than just a confidence-boosting victory to complete a 3-0 road swing.

With the Celtics holding the rights to the Nets’ first-round selection in next June’s draft, each contest against Brooklyn presents not only a chance to boost Boston’s positioning in the standings, but a window in securing a brighter future for Beantown hoops.

In 2015-16, despite staking claim to the Nets first-rounder, the Celtics squandered two meaningful opportunities to place their New York City foes deeper down the depths of the lottery. In a November matchup, Boston fell to Brooklyn by a shocking 10 points on the road despite 27 points from shooting guard Avery Bradley. Then, in early January, the Celtics suffered a calamity of a defeat against the Nets at TD Garden on a night in which center Brook Lopez emerged for 30 points and 13 rebounds.

Thus, the Nets finished the season four games above the Los Angeles Lakers and 11 games above the Philadelphia 76ers, garnering the third overall pick in the draft. While selecting Jaylen Brown is nothing to frown about, the Celtics must realize that the four opportunities that they have to defeat this undermanned Nets squad are valuable.

Luckily for Boston fans, the team seems to be realizing this truth. In the season opener, the Celtics pounded the Nets through three quarters at home before staving off a late comeback to escape with a 122-117 victory. On Wednesday night, Boston responded to a second-quarter surge by Brooklyn with a 28-17 third quarter which silenced any opportunity of an upset at the Barclays Center.

While the team appeared lethargic in their matchups against the Nets last season, perhaps looking past the 21-win team as an afterthought, they have responded to their contests with Brooklyn with fervor this season. The team realizes that in order to secure a lucrative draft pick that could be utilized to swap for a franchise-altering superstar, pushing Brooklyn further down the standings is paramount.

If Boston decides to hold onto the selection, sweeping the Nets this season could make the difference in the Celtics receiving the chance to draft a dynamic, potential superstar caliber player such as Kansas swingman Josh Jackson or UCLA point guard Lonzo Ball. These college standouts could signal an addition which would open the door for the team to finalize a deal to send shooting guard Bradley’s contract, which expires following the 2017-18 season, along with the Nets first-rounder in the 2018 draft to a team looking to bolster their future in exchange for relinquishing a upper-echelon talent.

As of right now, the 4-10 Nets have an 12.1 percent chance to land the first overall pick in the draft, a 13.3 percent chance to garner the third overall selection, and a 34.2 percent chance to be given the fifth pick, per Tankathon. According to RealGM’s lottery simulator, Brooklyn is a virtual lock to receive a top-five selection.

The Nets’ chances of landing a promising slot in the draft only looks to increase as the season moves along. The squad has been without starting point guard Jeremy Lin for an extended period of time due to a hamstring injury and was recently forced to part ways with guard Greivis Vasquez after the veteran sustained an ankle injury which must be operated on. Additionally, Brooklyn will be looking to shop Lopez at the deadline to restock their empty supply of draft picks, which would sap them of any resemblance of star power.

When the Celtics next travel to Brooklyn on St. Patrick’s Day, they must not gloss over the promise that the future holds should the Nets be slated towards the bottom of the NBA standings come the conclusion of the regular season.

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