Thu. Feb 13th, 2020

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The Best NBA “What If?” Scenarios in History

Basketball fans everywhere dreamed of what Derrick Rose or Brandon Roy could of been if injuries did not derail promising young careers. Another common one is what if the Thunder had held on to Durant and Harden. Every NBA fan has their favorite what if, I’m here to recognize some of the best.

What If #1: Jordan, Drexler, and Olajuwon together in Houston

NBA What-If - MJ, Drexler, and Dream
The Houston Rockets could have had arguably, the best team in NBA history if the Ralph Sampson trade went through. Photo Credits to

Before the 1984 NBA draft, the Rockets denied a trade offer for Ralph Sampson that would of included #2 pick and Clyde Drexler. Houston then drafted Hakeem Olajuwon with the first pick, and not needing a big man, most likely would of passed on Sam Bowie with the second. Passing on Bowie leaves Michael Jordan. Looking back at it this is what everyone assumes the Rockets would have done. Assumptions aside, a trio of Drexler, and two of the best players of all time would have been perennial championship contenders.

Their would of been a massive ripple effect across the league if this is how the 1984 draft played out. What would of Scottie Pippen been? Does Malone and Stockton even make the NBA finals with this trio in the league? How many rings does Jordan end with? Do these three mesh playing together? An all time great NBA what if situation, and deservedly so. When talking about a trio that includes two of the best players in NBA history, it takes the cake when talking about NBA what ifs.

What If #2: Carmelo Anthony in Detroit

Where would the Pistons of been if they had drafted Carmelo instead of Darko Milicic? Photo Credits to

Detroit ended up winning the finals after drafting Darko, but only one championship with the likes of Richard Hamilton, Chauncey Billups, Rasheed Wallace, and Ben Wallace seems like they did not hit their potential. Now lets imagine that the Pistons took who everyone expected to go #2 in the 2003? Throw Carmelo Anthony in the rotation alongside the previously mentioned four, the Pistons would have been a very deep team, and with how Melo progressed, championship contenders after their first ring.

And for Anthony, would he have that championship ring he has dreamed of? Most likely. Possibly, more than just one ring, the Pistons would have had the depth, youth, and talent to compete for the championship through the 2000s. Melo is an all-time great, but he lacks a championship ring. A what if that includes getting an one of the best scorers in NBA history a championship slots in at number 2.

What If #3: Tim Duncan in Orlando

In 2000, the Magic almost signed Tim Duncan. However, Doc Rivers denied Duncan’s family coming on flights to some games, deterring Duncan from signing with the Magic. Photo Credits to

A trio of a Grant Hill, Tracy McGrady, and Tim Duncan would have been one of the best trios in NBA history. However, Doc Rivers turned down Tim Duncan’s offer of allowing his family to ride on flights to some games, making Duncan stay with San Antonio.

This what if would have had the biggest ripple effect out of all these scenarios. Duncan signing with Orlando would have kept San Antonio out of the championship. So teams like the Suns, Lakers, and Mavericks would have had more championships because the Spurs would not have existed. Duncan going to Orlando would cause the biggest effect in NBA history, making it one of the best NBA what if scenarios.

What If #4: Minnesota drafts Stephen Curry

Assuming Curry progresses similar to the progression he made in Golden State, do the Wolves with a duo of Curry and Kevin Love win a championship? Photo Credits to

The Timberwolves passed on Stephen Curry and took Jonny Flynn and Ricky Rubio. If the Timberwolves took the guard out of Davidson, the league would have a total power shift. Kevin Love does not get traded if Curry is MVP caliber in Minnesota.

Without Kevin Love, does LeBron James consider going to Cleveland? No Curry in Golden State steers Kevin Durant away from signing there as well. Without Steph on the Warriors, Klay Thompson probably does not progress into the star he is today. I do not know if the Timberwolves win the championship if they drafted Curry, but the power shift that would of occurred makes this a very interesting what if to think about.

What If #5: Len Bias

One of the best prospects coming into the 1986 NBA Draft, Len Bias tragically passed away two days after being drafted. Photo Credits to

One of the most talented forwards in college basketball at Maryland, Len Bias played all four years and had some all time battles with Michael Jordan at North Carolina. His senior year he averaged 23.2 points per game and 7 rebounds per game. After his four years, he was drafted #2 by the Boston Celtics in 1986, but never played a game, passing away from a cardiac arrhythmia.

But many think back to what could of been with Len Bias and the Celtics. Playing alongside of Bird, McHale, and Parish, the Celtics could have extended their success, and would have had youth alongside of some of the all time greats. RIP Len Bias.

What If #6: Kawhi Leonard and Paul George team up 8 years earlier

If the Pacers had not traded for the 15th pick in the 2011 draft, there was a good chance Paul George and Kawhi Leonard would have been playing together in Indiana. Photo Credits to

A trade that sent George Hill to Indiana and Kawhi Leonard to San Antonio is looked back on horribly. At the time, the trade seemed fair for both sides, but picture a young Kawhi and Paul George playing together in the eastern conference. Would the Heat have won the two championships they did? Kawhi wouldn’t of had the role in Indiana as he did in San Antonio, so maybe he does not become the star he was. That being said, a team with Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, and a younger David West could have beaten the Heat.

The Pacers came very close to winning the eastern conference without Kawhi Leonard in 2013. Swap out George Hill for Kawhi Leonard who was a Finals MVP against the Heat in 2014, and the Heat could have only won one championship.

Honorable Mentions

  • Portland drafts Kevin Durant over Greg Oden
  • The Thunder keep James Harden over Serge Ibaka
  • Greg Oden and Brandon Roy stay healthy, play alongside Lamarcus Aldridge in Portland
  • Derrick Rose stays healthy
  • Arvydas Sabonis comes into the NBA earlier
  • Hurricane Katrina does not strike, and Oklahoma City is not discovered as a basketball town. Are the Seattle Supersonics are still around?
  • Klay Thompson does not lead the charge to win against the Thunder in game 6 of the western conference finals
  • Kobe stays in Charlotte
  • Benji Wilson is not killed.
  • The referees did not fix game 6 of the Kings vs. Lakers series in 2002.
  • The Thunder do not trade Paul George to the Clippers

There are a ton of different NBA what if scenarios throughout the years. Injuries, questionable draft choices, free agent decisions and trades are the majority of all these hypothetical scenarios. NBA what if scenarios are a fun way of exploring what could of been and what will be.

Featured Image. The Blazers with Clyde Drexler And Michael Jordan is the NBA’s Biggest ‘What If’. Photo Credits to

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