I saw this tweet yesterday, and I started thinking about the biggest ‘what-ifs’ in the recent history of the NBA. Grant Hill is definitely one of them but there are so many others to choose from so let’s take a look:
What if Derrick Rose Never Got Hurt?
Derrick Rose had an era-defining 2011 season, becoming the youngest MVP ever at age 22. That season Rose averaged 25/4/7, leading the Bulls to a 62-20 record, the best record in the NBA during the season. The Bulls reached the Conference Finals for the first time since 1998, but fell to Lebron James and the Heat in 5 games. Despite the crushing loss, 2011 was special for Rose and the Bulls. Rose was the only player that season to rank top ten in points (2,026, 4th) and assists (623, 8th). He became the second Bull, alongside Michael Jordan, to average 25 points and seven assists per game. Plus, The Bulls’ 62 is the largest win total in Bulls’ history by a non-Jordan team. Rose became the third Bulls player to average 25 points per game, with Bob Love and Michael Jordan. The season finale was certainly less than ideal, but the future looked bright for Chicago in 2012, and expectations were high. In a shortened year the Bulls once again finished first in the East, with a record of 50-16. Rose had another impressive season, averaging 21/3/7, and reached his third all-star game, but only played 39 games due to injury. The Bulls matched up against the 76ers in the first round, and that’s when it came crumbling down. Rose tears his ACL in game one. The Bulls lost in six to the 76ers
Rose missed the remainder of the playoffs, and then missed the whole 2012-2013 season rehabbing his knee. Then he played only ten games in the 2013-2014 season before tearing his right meniscus. Rose has stayed in the league and remained a solid player. Sadly, he has never been the same. Rose was special when healthy and you can’t help but wonder.
What If The Thunder Win Game Six In 2016?
Ah, 2016, what an exhilarating and special year for the NBA. The Western Conference Finals, featuring a sharpshooting Golden State team and a determined, extremely talented Oklahoma City team, was no different. The Thunder had control of the series. Taking a commanding 3-1 lead, the Warriors would take game five at home. Still up 3-2, with game six at home, this was the Thunder’s opportunity to eliminate the splash brothers. The Thunder were up by eight to start the fourth, then game six Klay Thompson happened. Klay Thompson went OFF in game six, scoring 41, 19 of those coming in the fourth. Thompson set an NBA playoff-record with 11 threes, including going 5 for 6 from deep in the fourth. The Thunder were up 7 with 5:48 left in the game, with an 88% chance of winning. Thanks to Klay’s clutch performance in the fourth, the Warriors would come back, winning 108-101. The Warriors then returned home and took game seven, ending the series. Imagine, the Thunder win game six, and advance to the finals. They would face the Cavaliers, if the Thunder win, does Durant stay with the Thunder?
KD going to the Warriors changed so much, but if he stayed with the Thunder that would bring up a few possibilities. The Thunder could win multiple titles with KD and Russ, or Durant signs a two-year extension and enters free agency in 2018. Who does he sign with then? Plus, on the flip side, how much does this change for the Cavaliers? The Cavs’ won it all in 2016, but do the Thunder stop them? With Durant staying in OKC, that Warriors juggernaut isn’t there so do the Cavs win multiple titles against Steph and Klay? So many possibilities, but one thing we know for sure is that game six changed the future of the NBA.
What If Grant Hill Never Got Hurt?
The initial question that got me thinking about all of these ‘what-ifs’ of the NBA. Grant Hill came into the NBA in the 1994 draft. He was considered to be the next face of the NBA. Hill was selected third overall by the Pistons and took the league by storm. In his first game, Hill posted 25 points, 10 rebounds, five assists, and three blocks. Hill was named an all-star starter in his rookie year, averaging 19/6/5. He was named co-rookie of the year in the 1995 season with Jason Kidd. Over the next six seasons, Hill averaged 21.6 points, 7.9 rebounds, and 6.3 assists per game. Hill was making a name for himself as a guy who could do it all. But things would soon change for Hill. April of 2000 was when Hill started to experience ankle problems. Hill played on his weak ankle late into the regular season and in the playoffs. The Pistons would lose to the Hawks in the first round. Later, Hill found out that it was his Achilles heel that was plaguing him. After that season, Hill ended up in Orlando and teamed up with Tracy Mcgrady. Unfortunately, Hill was never the same. He only played four games in his first year in Orlando, then just 14 the next year. Then only 29 in year three, and didn’t play at all in the 2003-2004 season. Hill played a total of seven seasons in Orlando, during that tenure he had five ankle surgeries and a staph infection that could have killed him. Hill was sidelined 292 out of 492 regular-season games in Orlando. Hill left the Magic in 2007 and had a bit of a resurgence in Phoenix. Hill played five seasons with the Suns, and only missed 35 games during that span. Even playing the full 82 games in the 2008-2009 season. In 2010, Hill finally made it out of the first round of the playoffs. The Suns made it to the conference finals before losing to the Lakers. Hill played one year with the Clippers, the 2012-2013 season before retiring. Despite all the injuries, Hill still managed to play 19 seasons, was a seven-time all-star, and made the hall of fame in 2018. Still one hell of a career but it certainly could have been even better.
What If David Stern Doesn’t Veto The Chris Paul Trade?
The Lakers, Hornets, and Rockets all agreed to a trade that would send Chris Paul to Los Angeles, Pau Gasol to Houston, and Luis Scola, Lamar Odom, Kevin Martin, and a first-round pick to New Orleans. A blockbuster trade that would have sent one of the league’s best guards to team up with Kobe. But the trade was vetoed by commissioner David Stern, for “basketball reasons.” The Lakers would have had a core of Chris Paul, Kobe Bryant, and Andrew Bynum. The Lakers would have probably still signed Dwight Howard the following summer. Something tells me that experiment would have gone a little different with the presence of Chris Paul. The Lakers would have probably stayed atop of the league’s best, and maybe we could have seen a Kobe-Lebron Finals matchup. Sadly, we will never know. Paul did end up in Los Angeles that season, but it was with the Clippers. Since then, current commissioner Adam Silver has banned the rule to veto trades.
What If James Harden Stays With The Thunder?
Probably the biggest what-if in recent NBA history. The Thunder made the finals in 2012, ultimately losing to the Heat in five games. But everyone thought the Thunder would be back and why wouldn’t they? Going into the 2012-2013 season, the Thunder had a top-five player in Kevin Durant, top ten player in Russell Westbrook, and a top 20 player in James Harden. All of them were under the age of 25, and Harden flourished in the playoffs. The Thunder’s future looked bright, to say the least. There was one problem, Harden had one year left on his current deal. Harden asked for $60 million and the Thunder offered $54 million. The Thunder then sent Harden to Houston, where he signed a four-year extension worth $60 million. Harden bloomed into a star with Houston, even winning MVP in 2018. Some have questioned if Harden becomes the star he is today if he stays with the Thunder and is the third option. Fair to ask, but you would have to imagine a team with three top 20 players all under 25 would not have only won a championship but could have been a potential dynasty.
I know, I missed multiple moments I could have named. There are just so many moments to choose from. These are the ones that stuck out to me, especially in recent NBA history.