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Nothing to chance: Celtics simply lottery observers

Inside a cramped Times Square Studio in the aftermath of the 2014 NBA Draft Lottery, Boston Celtics team president Rich Gotham stood with a bit of a thousand-yard stare despite the chaos around him. For the previous two hours, Gotham had been sequestered inside a modified TV green room where he learned well before the rest of the world that the Celtics would settle for the No. 6 pick in that year's draft.

Gotham, who had gamely accepted to be Boston's war room representative, spent about two hours with 12 other frustrated and communication-less team reps (and one very gleeful Cleveland delegate) while waiting for the television reveal to conclude. The actual ball-drawing process that determines the top 3 spots had taken less than six minutes to complete and Gotham spent the next 114 minutes yearning to be anywhere else in the world.

"I'm not coming back here next year," Gotham declared at the time.

He got his wish. The Celtics, with some help from No. 6 pick Marcus Smart who Monday was named to the NBA All-Rookie second team, made a late-season surge during the 2014-15 campaign and landed in the playoffs. That ensured that nobody in the Celtics organization had to return to New York City for Tuesday's lottery. Nobody in green will have to clutch a lucky rooster or carry 2008 championship confetti in hopes of landing the sort of high pick that can help change a team's fortunes.

The Celtics will simply observe Tuesday's lottery from afar with obvious curiosity and can revel in the fact that the future of this team does not hinge on pingpong balls. Boston yearns for more talent, but has means beyond draft position to continue its building process.

For most Boston fans, there's limited interest in Tuesday's lottery. The Celtics' picks in this year's draft -- Nos. 16, 28, 33 and 45 -- are locked in regardless of how the pingpong balls dance.

Need a reason to watch the lottery? The Celtics stand to collect Minnesota's 2016 first-round pick if it's outside the top 12 (otherwise it becomes a pair of second-round picks). The protection means that the Timberwolves have to at least compete for a playoff spot this season, no easy task in the Western Conference, but also not impossible considering a roster that should add a quality talent alongside a young core that features Rookie of the Year Andrew Wiggins.

The Timberwolves, coming off a 16-66 campaign, have the best odds (25 percent) at landing the top pick on Tuesday night and a 64.3 percent chance at a top 3 spot (they can drop to no worse than fourth overall).

From the schadenfreude department, Boston's cross-country rival, the Los Angeles Lakers, stand to lose their first-round pick if it lands outside the top 5. The Lakers finished with the fourth worst record in basketball and have quality odds at a top pick (11.9 percent chance at No. 1; 37.8 percent at top 3). Two teams from behind the Lakers would have to vault to a top spot in order to push the Lakers into a position where they'd send their first-round pick to Philadelphia.

The Celtics will also have an eye on how Atlantic Division rivals New York and Philadelphia fare, especially since both enter the lottery sitting right behind Minnesota and with a strong chance at a top 3 selection.

Boston is hopeful to add talent to its roster during this year's draft, but the progress made this past season spared them from being glued to the lottery spectacle. Some Celtics fans, still sour from a brief first-round sweep at the hands of the Cleveland Cavaliers, will lament that the playoff push prevented the team from even a small chance at a high pick.

But Gotham won't miss the experience. And the players that have endured the growing pains the past two seasons know this team is in a better spot despite the lack of a lottery pick.

"I'm excited about the future," said Avery Bradley, Boston's longest tenured player. "I know that Danny Ainge and the whole Celtics organization is going to do a good job trying to get [more talent] in. We have a lot of good pieces now, we just have to continue to keep working and getting better -- all the young guys, including myself -- and just be excited about next year because the sky's the limit for us."