By M. Goncalves
Throughout the 75 seasons of the NBA, there have been countless difficult decisions teams have had to make. Whether it comes in the draft, through a trade or free agency, team executives always profoundly analyse what players they should add to their rosters, these decisions always alter what could have happened with league-wide implications, the following paragraphs will highlight the three biggest “What If” scenarios in recent NBA history.
In 2007, the 1 and 2 picks in the NBA draft came down to two high potential, and supposedly franchise-changing players: Greg Oden and Kevin Durant. Eventually being selected as the first pick by the Portland Trailblazers, Greg Oden spent one year at Ohio State University, where he averaged 15.7 points and 9.6 rebounds, asserting himself as the brightest young big man to enter the league. Oden got off to a slow start in his first two seasons, averaging just 10 points and 7.7 rebounds, however, there was still hope. That hope soon vanished, as Oden missed the next three seasons with a devastating knee injury and played just one more season after recovery where his play was even worse than before, resulting in a mere 2.9 points per game. Injuries derailed a promising career in that of Oden’s, whereas Durant became one of the best scorers in NBA history. Had the Trailblazers selected Durant instead, they would have formed a formidable duo with two of the game’s best scorer; Durant and Damian Lillard. Oden played just 3 seasons in the league, on the other hand, Durant has won multiple championships, an MVP, and is still one of the best players in the league to this day, which begs the questions, what if the Blazers took Durant over Oden?
This next scenario will infuriate any Pistons fan. Back in 2003, the Detroit Pistons held the 2nd pick in the draft. With the first pick the Cleveland Cavaliers selected the one and only LeBron James. With the next pick the Pistons had many viable options in Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, all future Hall of Famers. However, they didn’t select any of those, they instead opted in bringing a Serbian big man by the name of Darko Miličić to the Motor city. Miličić went on to be arguably the biggest bust in NBA history, the most he averaged with the Pistons was 4.8 points. The players they passed on were all All-NBA players and became top tier talents in the league. Even with the poor selection in Miličić the Pistons still won the championship, however that was the last time they won it. Many people wonder what would have happened if they had selected a player like Carmelo Anthony, who averaged 20.8 points in the 2004-05 season and would have been a key contributor for the Pistons as they looked to win back-to-back finals. Instead, they lost to the Spurs in the finals in 7 games, had they selected Anthony, their chances at winning the championship would have increased exponentially, causing fans to wonder, what if the Pistons selected Carmelo over Miličić?
In 2019, during the playoffs, the Philadelphia 76ers were up against the Toronto Raptors. After forcing a game 7 and headed to Toronto for the final game of the eastern conference semifinals, both teams were ready to battle it out one last time. In a game that was close from start to finish, the Raptors had the final shot of the game and went to none other than Kawhi Leonard. He took a fadeaway mid-range jump shot that bounced on the rim numerous times before going in. Had he missed, the game would have gone into overtime, where the Sixers’ depth would have likely caused them to prevail and move to the next round. The Sixers would then face the Bucks who they matched up well against and would have probably advanced to the finals. In the finals, the 76ers would have handled the injury riddled Warriors and be crowned NBA champions. This would have caused a league wide drastic change and altered the Sixers’ “Process” completely, causing Philadelphia fans to cringe when asking themselves, what if Kawhi had missed that shot?
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