The Boston Celtics have 17 NBA championships and a vast list of superb athletes, including the record of the team that produced the most Pro Basketball Hall of Famers with 40.
The team’s success is a product of legends like Bill Rusell, John Havlicek, and Larry Bird. However, long after them, the Celtics continued to build by drafting outstanding players that contributed to their success in recent history.
Here are my top 5 draft picks in the recent history of the C’s:
1. Jayson Tatum | 2017 | 3rd Overall Pick
Jayson Tatum was selected the third overall pick by the Boston Celtics in the NBA 2017 draft. He has played exclusively with the Celtics for five successful seasons.
From his rookie years, Tatum has displayed consistency, outstanding shooting, and playmaking skills. He became the fifth rookie player to finish his rookie season with 1,000 or more points in NBA history and set Celtics rookie records for 3-point field goals with 105 and a 3-point field goal percentage of 43.4.
While he hasn’t won his first championship, he has been a critical contributor:
- Tatum has led his team three times to the Eastern Conference Finals. In the 2021-22 season, the NBA awarded Tatum the Larry Bird trophy as Eastern Conference Finals MVP.
- In the 2021-22 season, he led the Celtics to the NBA Finals. It was a controversial series because he didn’t perform at his peak. Regardless, he averaged 25.6 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 6.2 assists.
- Jayson Tatum became the youngest Celtics player to be chosen in the All-Star Selection for three years straight.
2. Jaylen Brown | 2016 | 3rd Overall Pick
Over five years ago, the Boston Celtics took a chance by drafting Jaylen Brown as the third overall pick. He had a consistent and productive start in his rookie year, playing in 78 games and starting 20. Brown earned a spot on the All-Rookie Second Team.
Jaylen Brown has undertaken tremendous physical and mental work to become the player he is today. Quite often, teammates and coaching staff refer to him as a player with a strong inner drive, an unselfish teammate, and a chameleon on the court.
The Celtics shaped Brown to their team’s needs, and thus far, it’s paying off for the guard-forward and the franchise. In addition, the Brown-Tatum dynamic duo is the foundation for the team to get their next title.
Jaylen Brown’s growth has contributed to the Celtics’ success in many ways:
- Versatility: He can play on both ends of the court, setting him apart from the rest of the team. He contributes to the team’s success with fierce athleticism and shooting skills.
- Brown has four NBA Eastern Conference finals appearances and one trip to the NBA Finals in his 6-season career. In Game 6 of the 2021-22 Finals, he scored 34 points to lead the Green. At the end of the series, he averaged 23.5 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 3.7 assists.
- In Game 3, his performance with Jayson Tatum and Marcus Smart were the most combined points (77) by a Celtics trio in a Finals game since 1987.
3. Marcus Smart | 2014 | 6th Overall Pick
Marcus Smart had a successful college hoops career at Oklahoma State; the Cowboys were 24-9 in 2012-13 and 21-13 the following season. In the 2014 NBA Draft Class, Celtics’ experts referred to Smart as the best option to fill the much-needed point-guard position.
Smart is a mentally driven and physical player, extremely vocal on the court, which brings intensity to keep the energy going. After mixing time as a player off the bench and starter, he became the full-time point guard in 2021-22, starting all 71 regular-season games he played.
The Cobra is an irreplaceable asset for the Celtics; Brown and Tatum can take care of the scoring, but Smart has the offensive skills to put the ball in the hands of the shooting stars.
Smart won the 2021-22 Defensive Player of the Year – the second time in NBA history that a point guard won the award. His toughness and sharp defense skills make him one of the best defensive players in recent Celtics history.
4. Antoine Walker | 1996 | 6th Overall Pick
After Antoine Walker won the NCAA Championship with Kentucky, he was drafted as the sixth overall pick by the Boston Celtics in the 1996 NBA Draft Class, the same class as Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash.
Walker had a remarkable rookie season; he earned All-Rookie First Team honors by averaging 17.5 points and 9.0 rebounds per game. The Celtics counted on Walker to become their next franchise player. However, his contributions often go unmentioned.
The 2001-02 season was the Celtics’ breakthrough; they reached the playoffs after six years of drought. Walker took the Celtics, along with Paul Pierce, to the Eastern Conference Finals. They became Boston’s dynamic duo shifting the team’s history and posting a regular-season record of 49-33.
5. Paul Pierce | 1998 | 10th Overall Pick
Paul Pierce had a strong college career with Kansas and a long list of honors, including two Big 12 MVP awards after a solid display in the tournaments.
The Boston Celtics selected Pierce as the 10th overall pick in the 1998 NBA Draft. In his 15-season career with the Celtics, he helped the franchise regain champion-level after years of significant achievements:
- Pierce co-led the team to their first trip to Eastern Conference Finals since 1988. In 2002, Pierce’s highlight was the historic fourth-quarter comeback in Game 3 in which he scored 19 of his 28 points. The Celtics won 94-90 over the Nets.
- In the 2007-08 season, Pierce formed part of the “Big Three” along with Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett leading the team to 66 wins in the regular season, an improvement of 42 games.
- In Game 1 of the NBA Finals, he contributed 15 points in the third quarter, eventually leading the Celtics to their 17th championship with a victory over Los Angeles Lakers. He was named the NBA Finals Most Valuable Player.