- Player had to be selected sometime between the 1985 and 2010 drafts
- Player has NOT won/did NOT win an NBA championship
- All-Star/All-NBA caliber player
In order to talk about or analyze a situation that “could have been, but never was,” you must draw hypothetical conclusions based on statistics. This ensures that these speculations are as accurate and well-founded as possible.
Durant was drafted by the Seattle Supersonics (now Oklahoma City Thunder) in 2007 with the second overall pick, while Greg Oden was selected with the first pick.
Oden was supposed to be the “cream of the crop” center in the ’07 draft, but has failed to meet expectations. His career has been plagued by injury, which is evidenced by his career total of 82 games played. This would be a great number for someone who just finished his rookie year, but Oden has now been in the league for four years. He has averaged 15 points, 12 rebounds and two blocks in the two seasons that he’s participated in, but again, he’s missed three seasons' worth of games.
Durant on the other hand, has been one of the Top 10 players in the league during this same span with averages of 26 points and six rebounds per game. Durant has led the league in scoring the past two seasons, while shooting about 47 percent from the field and 8 percent from the line. Durant—paired with Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge, who were received in the previous draft—could have equipped the Trailblazers with one of the league’s most frightening and dominant trios.
Roy has averaged a solid 19 points, four rebounds and four assists even when taking into account his unproductive season this past year. Aldridge has averaged over 17 points and seven rebounds during his five-year career, not to mention his coming out party this past season as he put up career highs of 21.8 points, 8.8 rebounds and 50 percent shooting.
The Trailblazers have failed to get over the first-round playoff hump throughout the B-Roy/Aldridge era. The Blazers' struggles can be boiled down to one thing: injuries.
Greg Oden and Brandon Roy are especially responsible for this team’s injury-riddled reputation. The replacement of Durant with Oden, though, could have removed years of uncertainty and injury, and substituted them with assurance and leadership. A Durant/Roy/Aldridge combo could have proved enough to win the Western Conference, or even the championship, when considering the Lakers’ struggles in the Western Conference.
Tracy McGrady was drafted by the Toronto Raptors with the eighth pick in the 1997 draft. The 76ers had the second overall pick in that year’s draft and took Keith Van Horn, who was later traded for Jim Jackson, Eric Montross, Anthony Parker and Tim Thomas.
Instead of trading Van Horn for these pieces, the team could have landed Tracy McGrady. T-Mac, a seven-time All-Star and seven-time All-NBA recipient, could have provided the 76ers with the best duo in the NBA at the time behind the Lakers' Kobe-Shaq combination.
McGrady, a two-time scoring champion, averaged over 21.5 PPG, six rebounds and four assists during the nine-year span that he and Iverson would have played on the same team. During that span, Iverson averaged over 28.5 PPG, 2.4 steals and 5.9 assists. This would make Iverson and McGrady the highest-scoring duo in the league during that duration.
Also, Iverson’s 76ers reached the Eastern Conference Semifinals three times and the NBA Finals once during that same time period. T-Mac’s presence could have reduced Iverson’s defensive attraction and provided a second 20-plus point scorer, as well as another playmaker.
Holding all things constant, the 76ers would have had the leading scorer in the NBA six of those nine years! They would have arguably been the best scoring and most dreaded backcourt of all time.
Carmelo Anthony and Chris Bosh each had the potential to be an instrumental piece in this next “dynasty that never was” scenario. This dynasty could have been made through the drafting of three different players, but only two meet the qualifications stated at the beginning of the article.
Carmelo Anthony was drafted by the Denver Nuggets with the third overall pick in the 2003 draft, while Bosh was drafted with the fourth overall pick by the Toronto Raptors. The Detroit Pistons took Darko Milicic with the second pick in that year’s draft.
Calling Milicic a bust would be an understatement. In a draft featuring four of the Top 20 current players in the league and three of the Top 10, Darko did anything but live up to expectations. He has career averages of six points and four rebounds per game, and has bounced around more times than a Russell Westbrook-dribbled ball.
Anthony and Bosh, on the other hand, have produced All-NBA numbers throughout their careers. Melo has been putting up 25 points and six rebounds throughout the course of his career, while Bosh has averaged 20 points and nine rebounds.
Anthony could have been an upgrade from Tayshaun Prince, while Bosh could have provided more frontcourt depth and scoring. The Pistons did win the 03-04 championship without the services of either of these guys, but the franchise’s next four seasons were characterized by deep playoff exits.
During the 04-05 season, the Pistons made it all the way to the finals again before losing in seven games to the Spurs. The Pistons’ late postseason runs didn’t end there though, as the team made it to the Eastern Conference Finals each of the next three seasons. A combination of Billups/Hamilton and either Carmelo or Bosh would have proved deadly in addition to role players like Prince and the Wallaces.
The scoring threat and star power of either player might have been just what the Pistons needed to get over the hump and tag the franchise as a dynasty.
Reggie Miller was drafted by the Indiana Pacers with the 11th pick in the 1987 draft. Chicago had both the eighth and tenth picks in the 1986 draft. With the eighth pick they took Olden Polynice, who they later traded for Scottie Pippen (the fourth pick in that year’s draft), and with the 10th pick they took Horace Grant.
Now, although Grant was an instrumental piece in the Bulls’ first three-peat, the Bulls could have taken Reggie Miller in his place. Imagine a trio of Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Reggie Miller. During the Bulls' first three-peat years (91-93), Miller averaged over 21 points, three rebounds, three assists, 49 percent shooting and 88 percent free throws, while never missing a game. Grant averaged over 13 points and nine rebounds, 54 percent shooting and 69 percent free throws.
Miller had five All-Star appearances and three All-NBA third team selections throughout the course of his career, while Grant only had one All-Star appearance. The offensive production that Miller would have provided might have been unnecessary, considering that the Bulls had the greatest scorer of that era in MJ. However, Miller’s presence and impact really would have been felt during the years that Michael left to pursue baseball (the ’94 and ’95 seasons).
The duo of Pippen and Miller could have provided enough fire power to push the team over the mountain that Jordan’s absence left.
Karl Malone was drafted by the Utah Jazz with the 13th overall pick in the 1985 draft. The Chicago Bulls, who had acquired Michael Jordan with the third pick in the previous year’s draft, selected Keith Lee with the 11th pick. Lee, in a draft-day trade, was sent to Cleveland for Charles Oakley. Charles Oakley was an average player throughout his career, with a stat line of 9.7 points and 9.5 rebounds.
The Bulls could have instead selected Karl Malone, whose career was defined by longevity and greatness. Malone is the second all-time leading scorer in NBA History, and averaged a staggering 25 points and 10 rebounds in his 19-year career. The Mailman’s inside presence, matched with arguably the greatest player of all time, could have been the greatest duo of all time.
This hypothetical combination would have had a vast impact on the history of the game.
First, Scottie Pippen would most likely not have been traded for by the Bulls.
Secondly, the Stockton-Malone combination would not have existed, and who is to say how either of their careers would have played out?
Thirdly, the Jazz and Bulls rivalry throughout the '90s would probably not have existed. The Bulls beat the Jazz twice in the NBA Finals and proved to be the sole reason why Stockton and Malone never won a championship.
With Malone on the Bulls, the threat of the Jazz would have been removed and Malone would have had a relatively easier path to the finals. The most notable moment of the Jazz-Bulls rivalry, Jordan’s infamous pull-back “J” on Byron Russell in the 1998 NBA Finals, also would not have occurred.
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