“What ifs” in sports can run deeper than still waters. What can be a simple question or proposition on the surface, may also result in major changes to a player or players’ careers and, in some instances, even swing titles.
Anyone who drinks water and breathes air is aware of the Miami Heat’s 23-game win streak (second-best in NBA history). The obvious comparison is the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers record of 33 consecutive wins. What people fail to mention when they talk about that ’71-72 Lakers streak is the fact that Elgin Baylor, the best power forward in NBA history at the time, retired after the ninth game of that NBA season. The Lakers, at the time of Baylor’s retirement, were 6-3 and had started out the year 4-0. The Lakers won game 10 of that season. They also won game 42 of that season, as well as every game in between. What if Elgin had never retired? Does the streak happen? We’ll never know, but it makes for an excellent debate. Another tangent is that an aging, ringless Elgin Baylor walked away from a loaded Laker team and seemingly a guaranteed title, something you would never see in today’s NBA, but that’s another story for another time.
The NBA Draft always brings up some of the best and most interesting “what ifs”, and hindsight is always 20/20. The one everybody enjoys talking about is the 1984 NBA Draft. What if Portland drafted Michael Jordan over Sam Bowie? That could be a whole column in itself. A more recent example, and a pick I cannot grasp to this day, occurred two picks into the 2005 NBA Draft. As we all know, the Atlanta Hawks chose Marvin Williams over Chris Paul. To take it even further, Paul was passed on a second and (gulp) third time, as Portland traded their No. 3 pick to Utah for the Jazz’ No. 6 pick (Martell Webster), No. 27 pick (Linas Kleiza) and a 2006 No. 1. That 2006 No. 1 turned out to be Tyrus Thomas, who was flipped for LaMarcus Aldridge, so I’ll give Portland a pass.
Utah selected Deron Williams over CP3 and we all saw how that played out. What irritates me the most about this is that Atlanta desperately needed a point guard, and Chris Paul was the best player in the 2005 Draft heading into it. Eight years later, they still need a point guard, unless you’re completely sold on Jeff Teague. More on him in a bit.
The 2012-13 season has been a major stepping stone for the 2009 NBA Draft class. This year, two of the players from this class were first-time All-Stars, one made his second in two years, another was the biggest All-Star snub of the season and displayed it on national television by dropping a mean 54 at Madison Square Garden. A few have fallen from the graces since their stellar rookie campaigns and a few have showed up those who passed on them. Without further ado, here is my 2009 NBA Draft Re-do.
The only “rules” that apply are that the team drafting selects the player that they would select today, could they go back and do it again, knowing everything they know now. The drafting team can select based on any combination of their current roster, who’s available, salary, need and how well a player has performed due to the coaching up they’ve received from Gregg Popovich. You’ll understand this a little more as we proceed.
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1. Los Angeles Clippers – BLAKE GRIFFIN, PF, Oklahoma
After missing the 2009-10 season, Blake has been nothing short of incredible. He’s the most exciting player to watch, and plays on the most exciting team to watch. He was gift-wrapped the best point guard in the NBA and continues to develop his game and take advantage of it. Anyone who thinks Blake Griffin is all dunks only watches SportsCenter. He has a solid all-around post game for a player who possesses his athletic talents, his jumper is coming along and he continues to get better at doing the little things necessary to win big-time basketball games. He’s already a prevalent All-Star and it won’t be long until he acquires the “best power forward in the NBA” label. The Clippers made the correct pick from the get-go.