Trading the No. 1 Pick Worked Out Well for the Celtics in 1980

As landscape-altering deals go, the 1980 swap may have set the gold standard. Parish and McHale became Hall of Famers and helped the Celtics win three N.B.A. titles in the 1980s.

The Warriors, with the No. 1 pick they received from Boston, took Joe Barry Carroll. And with the No. 13 pick, which they also received from Boston in that deal, they selected Rickey Brown. Neither had much impact on a Warriors team that was going downhill at the time.

There is no way of knowing if the 2017 trade will work out for Boston the same way. On Thursday night, when the draft takes place, the 76ers are now expected to use the No. 1 pick to take Washington guard Markelle Fultz. The Celtics will then make their selection two picks later — assuming they do not make another deal before then.


Robert Parish came to the Celtics in 1980 as part of the deal that gave the No. 1 draft pick to the Warriors.

Jeff Glidden/Associated Press

Still, just getting the Celtics to this point inevitably draws parallels between the Celtics’ current general manager, Danny Ainge, and the renowned Red Auerbach, who engineered the 1980 deal.

In 1980, the Celtics had the No. 1 pick because of a complicated deal with the Detroit Pistons. The Celtics had signed the Pistons’ M. L. Carr as a free agent in the summer of 1979; in those days, the team losing the player and the team acquiring him then tried to work out an equitable compensation package. If there was no agreement, the N.B.A. commissioner had the final word.

After much back and forth, the Pistons agreed to what now looks like a ridiculously one-sided deal: They would take Boston’s Bob McAdoo as compensation for losing Carr but would also send the Celtics a juicy draft package.

And when the Pistons finished with a 16-66 record, the worst in the Eastern Conference, the Celtics suddenly found…

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