Tonight we were treated to a bizarro-world vision of the Celtics if the Garnett and Allen trades had never happened and Paul Pierce hadn't slid to #10 back in 1998. And guess what? Still totally awesome. The C's stomped the Bobcats in Charlotte, 101-78, and clinched both the best record and... ahem... bragging rights for the greatest single-season turnaround in NBA history. Guys like Posey (19 points) and Eddie House (16) got the chance to remind us they can fill it up as well, and Mr. Leon (22 points, 9 boards) continued to build his case for shrewdest draft pick of the Ainge era, no small honor indeed. Seriously, Leon was picked 49th two years ago, and when you consider that we landed Rondo at #21 the same night, that 2006 draft might end up being the stuff of legend when the curtains close on the stunningly revitalized Ainge era.
I have to admit, it was pretty difficult to truly focus on this game with the college kids playing a mere tap-of-the-remote away. Watching the tournament as a Celtics fan this year has been a different sort of experience... for much of the past, er, twenty years, the Celtics going deep into the postseason has been a safe impossibility, so March Madness was a time when you could watch some of the blue-chippers and daydream about them suiting up in green the next season. This year's draft isn't really going to hold the same allure for C's fans; we do have a first-round pick but smart money says it'll used on an overseas project who's a year or two away so as to avoid taking on salary. Obviously I much prefer the current situation than, say, watching Danny Granger and wondering if he might fall to #18 (almost!), but still, obsessing over the draft around this time of year has long been a cherished pastime of mine.
That said, I think I'll go on record now as stating that if I had the first pick in this year's draft, I'd think long and hard before not selecting Derrick Rose. It's more or less conventional wisdom at this point that Beasley will go first, and it's hard to argue with the size, athleticism and jaw-dropping numbers that he brings to the table. But my word, Derrick Rose is frighteningly good, and as rare as it is for an NBA-ready talent like Beasley to come along, a point guard of Rose's caliber is arguably more uncommon. It's more than a little confusing to me that it's been only three years since the Bucks, Hawks and Jazz all talked themselves out of picking Chris Paul out of a similar sort of received wisdom (yes, Deron Williams is very good, but knowing what we know now there's no way Utah still makes that pick) and nobody's let them forget it since, but now everyone seems perfectly content to quite possibly make the same mistake equally blindly.
Beasley could easily be a great player but his major downsides are his surly attitude and problems with authority... concerns that should not be taken lightly. I'm not sure how many have had the chance to read Grant Wahl's lengthy profile of Beasley in Sports Illustrated a few months back but it's totally fascinating, equally entertaining and disturbing. Rose, on the other hand, is a famously good teammate with great leadership skills... aside from a somewhat shaky jumper, the primary knock on him is that he's not 6-9, 235, but guess what? He doesn't need to be. Rose is so smart and so athletic that he's got the chance to be some sort of unholy amalgam of Jason Kidd, Gary Payton and Dwyane Wade. The kid can flat-out play, and while I'm not suggesting that Beasley will be a Marvin-Williams-to-the-Hawks level fuck-up, I can easily foresee triumphantly (and obnoxiously) linking to this post three years from now when Kevin Durant and Derrick Rose are leading the Sonics deep into the Western Conference playoffs.