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5 Biggest What-ifs of the past decade

Los Angeles Lakers v Los Angeles Clippers
Chris Paul was minutes away from being a Laker to play alongside Kobe Bryant
Alex Aroko

What one action could change the course of NBA history the most?

I lean towards my Houston Rockets not taking the trade the Blazers offered that could have possibly resulted in having Hakeem Olajuwon, Clyde Drexler, and Michael Jordan all on the team. The Blazers offered the Rockets the number 2 pick in the 1986 draft and Drexler for Ralph Sampson. The Rockets declined and the birth of the “Twin Towers”-Ralph and Hakeem, happened. Whether Clyde and Jordan would be able to co-exist back then will be a question of the ages, but still, what if?

In the past decade, there’s been a flurry of activities and questionable decisions in the NBA that made or broken franchises. From a single foul call that possibly costs a championship, to passing on prospects that have become game changers, to career altering injuries, we chronologically list the biggest what-ifs of the past decade as a result:

Honourable Mentions:

  1. What if Portland were more fortunate?
Greg Oden & Brandon Roy, Portland Trail Blazers.
Greg Oden & Brandon Roy, Portland Trail Blazers.

First, the Trail Blazers picked Greg Oden with the first pick in the 2007 NBA Draft, passing on Kevin Durant. Their roster already had a good up and coming frontcourt of LaMarcus Aldridge and Zach Randolph. A wing player would make more sense. KD ends up becoming a perennial superstar while injuries riddled Oden’s career.

Secondly, Brandon Roy. His career was cut short after four stellar seasons, in which he earned the NBA Rookie of the Year Award in a near-unanimous vote. He was selected as a reserve to three All-Star games - 2008,09, and 2010. On December 10, 2011, Roy announced his retirement from basketball due to a degenerative knee condition.

What if they picked Kevin Durant and Brandon Roy stayed healthy?

NOTE: This is just in the past decade, the Blazers need a full article for their what ifs.

2. What if Carmelo entered free agency in 2010?

Miami Heat v Denver Nuggets
Carmelo Anthony, Denver Nuggets

The big three in Miami was initially planned for Melo, LeBron James, and Wade. Instead of Melo signing a rookie scale 3-year contract, he opted for a five-year contract with an option to opt out after the fourth. He claimed that he belongs to Denver and that the fans appreciate him. This means that his free agency came a year later.

Fast forward, he ended up forcing a move to the New York Knicks and everyone knows what transpired there. What if the banana boat reunion happened earlier than expected?

#5 2007: What if Robert Horry never hip-checked Steve Nash?

Horry checks Nash
Horry checks Nash

In Game 4 of Western Conference Semi-finals in 2007, the Phoenix Suns were up three (100-97) with about 24 seconds to go. That's when Robert Horry hip-checked Steve Nash into the barricade breaking his nose as a result. This was the Phoenix Suns’ last chance to show the world that the “Seven Seconds or Less” offense can lead to a championship(s).

Nash’s teammates-Amare Stoudemire and Boris Diaw, were suspended a game each for leaving the bench during the incident. The Suns lost the series after slipping in Game 5 without their key big men. Had Diaw and Stoudemire played Game 5, they might have had a good chance to not only take the series and win it all (the Jazz made the Western Conference Finals and the Cavaliers won the East; neither was truly elite back then).

#4 2009: What if the Timberwolves didn’t pass on Steph Curry, twice?

<p>Enter caption</p><p>R
Ricky Rubio & Johnny Flynn

The Timberwolves passed up Stephen Curry twice in the 2009 draft, electing to draft Ricky Rubio at 5 and Johnny Flynn at 6 while Curry went at 7 to the Golden State Warriors. Steph would make them regret this decision by leading the Warriors franchise to three straight finals, winning two in the process.

Rubio, while being a solid point guard, has never been an all-star and was recently traded to the Utah Jazz. Johnny Flynn hasn’t been in the NBA since 2012.

I’m thinking Steph would be Steph in any organization. Minnesota already had an All-Star caliber shooting forward in Kevin Love. Image Love and Curry knocking down long-range bombs in Minneapolis, would they have been the Splash Brothers?

Sorry Wolves fans, your team would be so different now.

#3 2011: What if Chris Paul joined the Lakers?

Los Angeles Lakers v New Orleans Hornets - Game Four
Chris Paul, New Orleans Hornets

Chris Paul was subject to a trade to the Los Angeles Lakers back in 2011.

The trade looked like this: Lakers get - Chris Paul; Rockets get; Pau Gasol, Hornets get; Kevin Martin, Goran Dragic, Luis Scola, Lamar Odom, and a first-round pick. Instead, this happened: Clippers got - Chris Paul, Hornets got - Eric Gordon, Chris Kaman, Al-Farouq Aminu, and a draft pick.

Succumbing to pressure around the league from owners and advisers, David Stern (former commissioner) vetoed the trade, citing “basketball reasons”.

The possibility of Kobe and Paul on the same team is mind-boggling. There was a high chance of more rings in Los Angeles, specifically for the Lakers. The domino effect of the trade would mean no Harden in Houston because of Gasol’s big contract and a better post CP3 era in New Orleans.

#2 2012: What if James Harden stayed in Oklahoma?

Oklahoma City Thunder v Miami Heat - Game Five
Oklahoma City Thunder v Miami Heat - Game Five

After consecutive trips to the Western Conference Finals (2011,12) and losing to James and the Miami Heat in 2012 NBA Finals, the Oklahoma City Thunder decided to let go of one of their young core pieces, James Harden. They had to choose between Harden and Serge Ibaka, and they went ahead with the latter.

OKC’s contract to Harden was six million less than the league’s maximum and he was given an hour to decide whether he was going to accept it or not. Contrary to popular belief, Harden was traded to the Houston Rockets before deciding on the contract offer.

As per Harden:

“We had big plans, that we were gonna win championships for years… it’s been four years and I still think about it. What if?”

The Thunder were destined for greatness if it weren’t for the questionable decisions by the front office. Harden is now a perennial superstar and MVP candidate as the face of the Houston Rockets.

#1 2012: What if Derrick Rose never got injured?

Chicago Bulls v Miami Heat
Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls

After stealing the 2010-2011 regular season MVP from LeBron James, Chicago Bulls fans believed they had found their next big superstar since Michael Jordan in Derrick Rose. He was destined for greatness in the NBA.

In the 2011-2012 season, Rose suffered niggling groin and ankle injuries but still managed to return in time for the first round of the Eastern Conference finals. Bolstered by the league's top defense and the fifth-ranked offense, The Bulls had a legitimate chance to win the title.

Unfortunately, he tore his Anterior Cruciate Ligament playing against the Sixers, in the first round of the 2011 Playoffs, while being on top of the basketball world.

The injury altered his career and stopped Rose from possibly becoming one of the best players of all time. He suffered multiple knee and ankle sprains and tears since then and has just never been the same.

The Cleveland Cavaliers are his third team in as many years and what's more surprising is he's playing on the veteran's minimum contract.

Edited by Yash Matange

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