The Boston Celtics are one of the most storied franchises in all of sports. With a league-high 17 NBA championships and a history that stretches back to 1946, you’re bound to strike gold in the draft from time to time.
Per Basketball-Reference, Boston has drafted 466 players throughout its history. Obviously, you can’t hit a home run on every single pick and there have certainly been some duds. However, at the same time, there have some truly great picks throughout the team’s history.
I will not be counting players that were drafted by Boston and then traded before they played for the team or any player that the Celtics didn’t draft but acquired before their rookie season (ex. Bob Cousy and Bill Russell)
10. Jayson Tatum – 2017
It’s obviously way too early into Tatum’s career to put him on a list, but I’m going to do it anyway. In 2017, the Celtics landed the No. 1 pick, they traded that pick to move back to No. 3 to draft Tatum.
Tatum has truly transformed into a star player in his third year and if he keeps it up, he’ll end up way higher on this list.
9. Reggie Lewis – 1987
Towards the back end of the 1987 draft, the Celtics drafted Northeastern’s Reggie Lewis. Lewis broke out in his second season and was poised to become one of the league’s biggest stars. Unfortunately, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy took the life of Lewis as he was entering his prime.
8. Tommy Heinsohn – 1957
The NBA Draft was a bit different back in 1957 and the Celtics were able to draft Holy Cross star Tommy Heinsohn with their “territorial draft pick” used to draft local stars to teams in their region.
Heinsohn won eight titles with the Celtics *and two more as a coach and made six All-Star teams in just nine seasons.
7. Jo Jo White – 1968
Heading into the 1969 NBA Draft, the Boston Celtics were coming off 11 championships in 13 years and were at the height of their power. Unfortunately for other teams, Boston was able to add a Hall of Fame point guard with the ninth overall pick.
White was a seven-time All-Star and was Finals MVP in 1976.
6. Sam Jones -1956
The eighth overall pick in 1956, Jones, while often overshadowed by Bill Russell, is undoubtedly one of the best picks in Celtics history. It took a few seasons before Jones emerged as a star but when he did, the 6-foot-4 guard was an absolute star.
5. Dave Cowens – 1970
An absolute beast in his three years at Florida State, Cowens was selected by the Celtics with the fourth pick in 1970.
In 10 seasons with Boston, the 6-foot-9 big man averaged 18.2 points and 14.0 rebounds while being named league MVP in 1973.
4. Paul Pierce – 1998
The Celtics got an absolute steal by drafting Kansas small forward Paul Pierce with the 10th overall pick in 1998.
“The Truth” would become one of the best and most beloved players in franchise history and was a 10-time All-Star.
3. Kevin McHale – 1980
Already one of the best teams in the NBA at the time, the Celtics added Minnesota power forward Kevin McHale with the third overall pick in 1980.
McHale was an integral part of the Celtics teams of the 80s and made six All-NBA Defensive Teams.
2. John Havlicek – 1962
With the last pick of the first round (No. 7), Boston drafted Ohio State star John Havlicek and the rest was history. Havlicek was named to 11 All-NBA teams, eight All-Defensive teams and won eight championships in 16 years with the Celtics.
1. Larry Bird – 1978
Drafted sixth overall in 1978, Bird would have to finish his final year of college before joining Boston. The wait was worth it.
Bird is one of the best players in NBA history, was a three-time MVP and nine-time All-NBA first-team selection.