History and Traditions

A Deep Dive into the Boston Celtics’ Draft Picks History

The Boston Celtics boast a storied history not only of championship triumphs but also of astute drafting and player development. 

From uncovering hidden gems to selecting future Hall of Famers, the Celtics’ draft picks history is a testament to their keen eye for talent and commitment to sustained success in the NBA.

For decades, the Celtics have utilized the NBA Draft as a platform to build and replenish their roster, consistently finding players who embody the team’s ethos of hard work, teamwork, and dedication to excellence. 

From legends like Larry Bird and Bill Russell to modern-day stars such as Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, each draft pick represents an investment in the team’s future and a continuation of the Celtics’ rich tradition of greatness.

Join us as we embark on a journey through the annals of Boston Celtics draft picks history, exploring the pivotal selections and the memorable moments.

A Look Back at the Boston Celtics’ Draft Picks History

The Boston Celtics are synonymous with NBA excellence. With a record 17 championships, they’ve built a dynasty through shrewd trades, player development, and of course, the NBA Draft. 

Let’s delve into the rich tapestry of the Celtics’ draft history, where legends were unearthed and cornerstones were laid.

The Larry Bird Era and Beyond (1970s-1990s)

The Larry Bird Era and Beyond (1970s-1990s)

The Celtics’ ability to identify talent continued in the 1970s. The 1978 Draft gifted them the legendary Larry Bird, a steal at pick number 6. 

Bird’s impact on the franchise was immeasurable, leading them to three championships in the 1980s alongside Kevin McHale (1980) and Robert Parish (1976). 

Even after Bird’s retirement, the Celtics drafted wisely, selecting future All-Stars like Dennis Johnson (1979) and Reggie Lewis (1987).

Early Gems and Building the Foundation (1947-1960s)

The Celtics’ drafting prowess began in their formative years. In the 1950 NBA Draft, they selected Hall-of-Famer Chuck Cooper, the first African American player drafted by a team outside the historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs). 

This pick, along with the selections of Bill Russell (1956) and Tom Heinsohn (1956), formed the core of the Celtics’ first championship run in the late 1950s. 

The 1960s saw the drafting of John Havlicek (1962), another future Hall-of-Famer who, alongside Russell, would usher in a new era of Celtics dominance.

Trades that Shaped a Dynasty

Trades that Shaped a Dynasty

The Celtics’ draft history extends beyond their own picks. They’ve made shrewd trades to acquire future stars, like Kevin Garnett (acquired for picks in 2007) who, alongside Pierce and Allen, brought another championship to Boston in 2008. 

This willingness to leverage draft capital for proven talent has been a hallmark of the Celtics’ success.

The Boston Celtics’ draft history is a testament to their commitment to building a winning tradition. From early foundational picks to recent cornerstones, the Celtics have consistently found impactful players who have helped shape their championship legacy. 

As they continue to navigate the draft, fans can expect the Celtics to remain a force to be reckoned with for years to come.

Draft Day Delights and Challenges (2000s-Present)

The turn of the millennium brought a period of rebuilding for the Celtics. Picks like Paul Pierce (1998, acquired via trade) and Antoine Walker (1996) helped them return to relevance, culminating in a championship in 2008. 

The 2007 Draft saw the arrival of Rajon Rondo, a key piece of that title run. In recent years, the Celtics have continued their aggressive approach to the draft, selecting future stars Jayson Tatum (2017) and Jaylen Brown (2016), the core of their current championship aspirations.

10 Best Draft Picks in the History of Boston Celtics

Here are the 10 best draft picks in the history of the Boston Celtics:

1. Bill Russell (1956 NBA Draft, 1st Overall)

Bill Russell (1956 NBA Draft, 1st Overall)

Widely regarded as one of the greatest players in NBA history, Bill Russell led the Celtics to 11 championships in 13 seasons, establishing himself as a defensive stalwart and unparalleled winner.

2. Larry Bird (1978 NBA Draft, 6th Overall)

 Larry Bird (1978 NBA Draft, 6th Overall)

Larry Bird’s arrival in Boston rejuvenated the Celtics, leading to three NBA championships and three MVP awards during his illustrious career. Bird’s skill, basketball IQ, and clutch performances cemented his status as an all-time great.

3. Paul Pierce (1998 NBA Draft, 10th Overall)

Paul Pierce (1998 NBA Draft, 10th Overall)

Paul Pierce, affectionately known as “The Truth,” spent 15 seasons with the Celtics, becoming the franchise’s second all-time leading scorer and leading them to an NBA championship in 2008, earning Finals MVP honors.

4. John Havlicek (1962 NBA Draft, 7th Overall)

John Havlicek epitomized versatility and durability during his 16 seasons with the Celtics, winning eight NBA championships and earning 13 All-Star selections while establishing himself as one of the greatest two-way players in league history.

5. Bob Cousy (1950 NBA Draft, 3rd Overall)

Bob Cousy revolutionized the point guard position during his 13 seasons with the Celtics, earning 13 All-Star selections and leading the team to six NBA championships while showcasing his exceptional ball-handling and playmaking abilities.

6. Kevin McHale (1980 NBA Draft, 3rd Overall)

Kevin McHale (1980 NBA Draft, 3rd Overall)

Kevin McHale formed one-third of the Celtics’ famed “Big Three” alongside Larry Bird and Robert Parish, winning three NBA championships and earning seven All-Star selections during his Hall of Fame career with the team.

7. Tommy Heinsohn (1956 NBA Draft, 2nd Overall)

Tommy Heinsohn enjoyed a successful playing career with the Celtics, winning eight NBA championships as a player before transitioning to coaching, where he guided the team to two additional titles.

8. Jo Jo White (1969 NBA Draft, 9th Overall)

Jo Jo White played a pivotal role in the Celtics’ success during the 1970s, earning seven All-Star selections and helping the team capture two NBA championships while showcasing his scoring and defensive prowess.

9. Dave Cowens (1970 NBA Draft, 4th Overall)

Dave Cowens was a dominant force in the paint for the Celtics, winning two NBA championships and earning league MVP honors in 1973 while showcasing his tenacity, rebounding ability, and leadership on the court.

10. Reggie Lewis (1987 NBA Draft, 22nd Overall)

Reggie Lewis emerged as a promising young talent for the Celtics before his tragic passing in 1993. In his short career, Lewis earned an All-Star selection and showcased his scoring ability, leaving a lasting impact on the franchise and its fans.

These draft picks not only left an indelible mark on the Boston Celtics but also helped shape the landscape of the NBA with their exceptional talent, leadership, and contributions to the game.

Have the Celtics Ever Had the First Pick?

Yes, the Boston Celtics have had the first overall pick in the NBA Draft on several occasions throughout their history. 

While the Celtics are best known for their success on the basketball court, they have also benefited from favorable draft positions that have allowed them to select some of the game’s most iconic players.

Bowling Green State University Selection 

Bowling Green State University Selection 

One notable instance of the Celtics holding the first overall pick came in the 1950 NBA Draft. 

In the inaugural draft of the NBA, the Celtics selected Chuck Share with the first overall pick. Share, a 6’11” center out of Bowling Green State University, had a solid but unspectacular career in the NBA, spending six seasons in the league with various teams.

University of San Francisco Selection

Another significant moment in Celtics draft history occurred in the 1956 NBA Draft when the team selected Bill Russell with the first overall pick. Russell, a dominant force at the University of San Francisco, would go on to become one of the greatest players in NBA history. 

With Russell anchoring the Celtics’ defense, the team enjoyed unparalleled success, winning 11 championships in 13 seasons.

Indiana State University Selection

In 1978, the Celtics once again held the first overall pick in the NBA Draft. This time, they selected Larry Bird out of Indiana State University. 

Bird’s arrival in Boston revitalized the franchise and helped restore the team to prominence in the NBA. 

Alongside stars like Robert Parish and Kevin McHale, Bird led the Celtics to three NBA championships and cemented his place as one of the greatest players of all time.


Who was the Boston Celtics’ first-ever draft pick?

The Boston Celtics’ first-ever draft pick was Chuck Share in the 1950 NBA Draft. Share was selected as the seventh overall pick.

What was the Celtics’ highest draft pick in franchise history?

The highest draft pick the Celtics have had in franchise history was the second overall pick, which they used to select Jaylen Brown in the 2016 NBA Draft.

Have the Celtics ever traded away notable draft picks?

Yes, the Celtics have been involved in several notable draft pick trades. One example is in 2013 when they traded away the rights to Lucas Nogueira and two future second-round picks to the Dallas Mavericks in exchange for the rights to Kelly Olynyk.

Which draft pick resulted in the selection of a Hall of Famer for the Celtics?

In the 1978 NBA Draft, the Celtics selected Larry Bird with the sixth overall pick. Bird went on to become one of the greatest players in NBA history and was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

How many draft picks did the Celtics have in the most recent NBA Draft?

In the most recent NBA Draft, the Boston Celtics had three picks: the 16th, 33rd, and 47th overall picks in the 2023 NBA Draft. They selected Jalen Duren, David Joplin, and Ochai Agbaji, respectively.


The Boston Celtics’ draft picks history stands as a testament to the franchise’s unparalleled ability to identify and develop talent. 

From the pioneering selections of Bill Russell and Larry Bird to the modern-day acquisitions of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, each draft pick represents a crucial building block in the Celtics’ quest for sustained success. 

Through astute scouting, shrewd decision-making, and a commitment to player development, the Celtics have consistently unearthed diamonds in the rough and cultivated them into stars who have left an indelible mark on the franchise and the NBA as a whole. 

As the Celtics continue to navigate the ever-evolving landscape of the NBA Draft, their legacy of drafting success serves as a guiding light, inspiring hope and anticipation for future generations of Celtics fans. 

With each new draft pick, the Celtics remain steadfast in their pursuit of greatness and their commitment to upholding their reputation.

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Jaclyn Lowe

As a passionate historical house tour guide in Boston, Massachusetts, I am dedicated to bringing the rich history of this vibrant city to life. With a deep love for the past and a commitment to preserving its stories, I lead visitors on captivating journeys through centuries-old homes, sharing tales of Boston's illustrious past. With a wealth of knowledge and a flair for storytelling, I transport guests back in time, immersing them in the captivating narratives of the American Revolution, colonial life, and the evolution of this remarkable city. Join me on a journey through Boston's fascinating history and discover its hidden treasures. LinkedIn

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