A Brief History of Trading the No. 1 Pick
1980: Red at it again
There is a long list of teams Boston Celtics president Red Auerbach has fleeced throughout his storied career with the Celtics in building the greatest long-term dynasty in NBA history. This trade of the first overall pick (acquired in trading Bob McAdoo a year earlier) proved to be more fortune falling the Celtics’ way.
It always comes up right for Boston.
This deal helped define the next decade of basketball just as the No. 1 pick in 1979 of Magic Johnson defined the decade too.
Boston got a Hall of Fame center in Robert Parish and a Hall of Fame sixth man in Kevin McHale. They would win three titles in the next decade.
Like the other deals, the Celtics were putting their team around Larry Bird coming off his rookie year. They were not the ones who needed the top pick. They needed someone who fit what they were doing.
That would seem to be a center in Joe Barry Carroll, considering what Boston eventually got for him. Then again, Basketball-Reference lists Joe Barry Carroll’s nicknames as “Joe Barely Cares” and “Just Barely Carroll.”
Auerbach probably saw that pretty clearly and went to get the guy he really wanted in McHale. Getting a solid player in Parrish was just typical Auerbach mastery.
It is the repeated tale of this exercise: When a team thinks the consensus No. 1 pick is not their guy, they find their way to trade down, grab the player they are interested in and add something extra. That is the way the top pick gets traded.