Biggest What Ifs in NBA History


Kevin Durant was one inch away from sending the Nets to the 2020-2021 Eastern Conference. There have been a lot of What-Ifs questions since. What if KD was behind the line? How would the dominos fall if certain decisions or different outcomes took another turn? SRA takes a look at some of the biggest What Ifs in NBA History.   

The NBA Never Vetoed Chris Paul to the Lakers Trade? 

 A decade ago, a blockbuster deal blocked by the NBA would have tipped the balance of power. The Lakers, who won back-to-back championships, agreed to a trade for Chris Paul from the New Orleans Hornets. Paul was considered the best point guard in the league. Commissioner David Stern ran the team as the NBA waited for someone to buy the franchise. Paul could have a ring, and many of the Western Conference teams may not have championships. Also, Kobe would tie MJ with six rings, enhancing his legacy. 

What if the Pistons Draft Carmelo Instead of Darko? 

The Pistons could’ve had a future HOF instead; they got Darko Milicic. It did make some sense at the time because the Pistons only had the high pick through trade and were a playoff team. The team had already had a great wing in Tayshaun Prince. But the Pistons should’ve looked towards the future. Would Carmelo be good for the Pistons? Would they have won multiple championships? Or would Anthony’s play prove detrimental to Detroit’s foundation? Melo is talented; I think he could make it work.  

What if the Thunder Don’t Trade Harden? 

The Oklahoma City Thunder had one of the best young rosters in the history of the league. Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, and Serge Ibaka were all under 25. In 2012, they had just made the Finals against the Miami Big 3 and lost in 5 games. The Thunder for the next decade. Harden, Westbrook, and Durant could have dominated the west. Would all these players win MVPs? Probably not, but there is a scenario in which the three superstars could’ve found a way to co-exist on the court. If the Thunder signed Harden instead of Ibaka, the NBA likely would have three different MVPs. The Thunder possibly would’ve been a dynasty and an all-time great team.  

What if Kevin Love and Kyrie didn’t get hurt in the 2015 Finals  

The Cavs were in the series without them, so what if they win? That means the team breaks the Cleveland championship drought a year early. The Warriors would make a few minor changes in the offseason other than the ones they originally made. The Warriors probably don’t go 73-9, and the 3-1 comeback in the Finals never happens. The 3-1 comeback doesn’t happen, KD doesn’t come to the Warriors, and the dynamic of the NBA is changed.  

What if the malice in the palace doesn’t happen? 

Ron Artest and his Pacers had established themselves as serious championship contenders and MVP individually, for Artest. The Pacers had a savvy vet in Reggie Miller, a young stud in center Jermaine O’Neal, and one of the deepest benches in the league. The Pistons main competition in the East lost half their team. If the brawl never happens, Artest possibly would have an MVP, the Pacers play the Spurs in the finals, and Reggie Miller has another chance to win a ring which in 2004 was his last shot.  

Honorable Mention 

What if several star players don’t get injured?  

There are too many players to dive deep into; these players could have changed the course of NBA history if they never got injured. Grant Hill, Derrick Rose, Penny Hardaway, Brandon Roy, Shawn Kemp, these players either would’ve won championships or become sure-fire Hall of Famers.  

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S.K. Patrick is a sports journalist from Louisville, Ky with over 5 years of sports journalism experience. Patrick graduated from the University of Louisville with his BA in mass communications and a minor in marketing. Patrick has been part of Louisville's local sports community for several years. He’s a former high school football player and little league football coach. Patrick has covered press conferences and games for U of L’s Sports Information Office. He now covers the ACC, along with Western Kentucky University and the University of Cincinnati. He has reported on Rick Pitino, Bobby Petrino, Jimbo Fisher, Roy Williams, Mike Krzyzewski, and many others. Professionally he has covered the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl and the NFL Scouting Combine.

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