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  • Writer's pictureJoe Pace

New England Sports 366, #35: Chauncey Billups

Waiting for Iowa Caucus results, like waiting for the ping pong balls to drop at the NBA draft lottery.

See, in 1997 those balls were supposed to drop for the Celtics. They'd bet everything on the 1997 draft (like Pete Buttigieg betting everything on the Iowa Caucus), and the ping pong balls refused to cooperate. Instead of handing the #1 pick (and uberballer Tim Duncan) to the Boston Celtics, the Spurs waltzed into the top slot and the next NBA dynasty. A season of tanking and the subsequent 36% shot at the #1 pick yielded nothing.

Well, not nothing. It yielded the third and sixth overall picks in the draft. These were used on Chauncy Billups and Ron Mercer, neither of whom would last long in Boston with impatient head coach Rick Pitino. Billups played only 51 games in the green before being traded away to Toronto for a rental of point guard Kenny Anderson and some lovely parting gifts. It was a dumb trade, but then Pitino was not a good professional coach or talent evaluator. (Tracy McGrady was available when he selected his own Mercer at 6). Billups bounced around a bit before landing in Detroit and establishing himself as one of the best players in the league. He'd go to five all-star games and was MVP of the Finals when Detroit won it all in 2004.

Billups scored almost 16,000 points with more than 5,600 assists. His career comps are guys like Wade, Nash, and Gervin. He has an outside shot - maybe not even that outside - at the Hall of Fame. Not bad for a guy who was considered a consolation prize in the 1997 draft.

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