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NBA What Ifs…

Well, a week into the season, the NBA is chugging along without any great surprises.  After their opening night stinker, the Heat have looked good, the Lakers are destroying people, and the Suns couldn’t defend a chair.  So, there’s not much really to talk about, except… some what ifs!

1) What if the Miami Heat had drafted OJ Mayo instead of Michael Beasley with the number 2 overal pick in the 2007 draft.

This summer the Miami Heat gave away the number two pick in the 2007 draft and 3 million in cash for a 2011 second round pick.  Think about that for a second, the Heat selected a player two years ago with the second pick who was so irrelevant to their future that they paid Minnesota to take him.  Pat Riley is going to win executive of the year for this season and deservedly so, but that’s a colossal waste of a high pick.  What makes it particularly galling, is that Riley knew it was a bad pick at the time.  He did everything he could to trade out of that pick and kept threatening to pick OJ Mayo… So, what if he had picked Mayo?  At the time, the problem with Mayo for the Heat, was that he was too similar to Dwayne Wade (albeit nowhere near as good), now however that’s exactly the player the Heat need.  With LeBron James acting as the de-facto point guard, the Heat don’t need a traditional point guard, they need someone who can defend and shoot.  Carlos Arroyo has been manning the position, but… come on.  Mayo’s a good defender and a great shooter.  In his two years in the league he has comfortably averaged 18 points a game on 45% shooting from the floor, with 38% three point shooting.  Of course, by dumping Beasley’s contract, the Heat were able to squeeze out enough money to offer Mike Miller his deal, but a) with Mayo they wouldn’t have needed him and b) if they really still wanted the long haired sharp shooter, I’m sure they could have found a way to make it work.  Now, the Heat are going to win 64+ games anyhow, so at some point it’s just an embarrassment of riches, but Mayo is exactly the kind of guard that the Heat want starting next to Wade and James.

2) What if the Knicks had not traded Jared Jeffries and Jordan Hill to the Rockets last February?

Desperate to get Jeffries contract off their books in hopes of landing LeBron, the Knicks gave Hill (meh), money, and draft picks in 2011 (swap) and 2012 for Tracy McGrady.  The move did allow them to clear enough salary cap space to grab a second max free agent, but when Joe Johnson re-upped with Atlanta, Bosh (made irrelevant by Amare’s signing) and Wade joined in Miami, all the Knicks’ eggs were in the James basket… We all know how that ended and for all their efforts, the Knicks ended up Raymond Felton as their second banana…  Making matters worse, Hill and those picks are exactly what the Knicks need as they desperately pursue Carmelo Anthony.  If the Knicks had not made that deal, then they could offer up a package to Denver that involved their 2012 pick, Jeffries and Curry’s expiring deal (which would allow Denver to shed a onerous contract along with Carmelo) and a couple of young prospects out of A. Randolph, J. Hill, D. Gallinari, and K. Azubuike.  At this point, when Denver knows that Carmelo’s gone and nobody really wants to offer them much for him, that looks like enough to bring him to MSG (where he might need a hard hat, but that’s another topic for another day…).  Instead, the Knicks will have to hope that the Nuggets get desperate as the trade deadline approaches, because as it stands they don’t have the pieces to pull a Carmelo trade off.

3) What if the Zombie Sonics had drafted Joakim Noah and Steph Curry?

I sort of touched on this in my NBA Preview blurb on the Zombies, but I think I’m going to elaborate a little more and toss Curry in as well.  As I said then, I think that Sam Presti is easily one of the five best GMs in basketball, but there are two glaring examples of mistakes he made in the draft, that are holding back what could be a dominant franchise.  First, in 2007 he took Jeff Green fifth instead of Noah.  As I said two weeks ago, Green’s a nice player, but Noah’s the sort of hustle, rebounding, defense, unselfish player that helps teams win championships.  People are always talking about the Scottie Pippen to somebody’s Jordan, well Noah’s would have been the Dennis Rodman to Kevin Durant’s Jordan.  Only, you know, without the wedding dress, tattoos, and tantrums.

On top of that, the Zombies could have picked Steph Curry to pair in the backcourt with Russell Westbrook.  Look, I think it’s too early to throw James Harden under the bus, he’s only 21 and may still develop into a solid NBA player, but looking at him right now his ceiling seems more dependable rotation player than perennial all star.  Curry on the other hand is the sort of incredibly gifted, incredibly intelligent player who would pair perfectly with both Durant and Westbrook.  As John Hollinger points out in today’s PER Diem (Insider, sorry), the Thunder have underperformed people’s expectations this season in large part because nobody besides Durant can shoot.  Curry came out of the womb knocking down threes and he would help cure what ails the Zombies.  I know that Russell likes being a point guard and that’s fine, because with him, Curry would just slide into being the shooting guard (and what’s in a name anyway?); a position from which he would bomb threes hand out dimes, and make opponents pay for doubling Durant.  It would be awesome to behold and they’re all so young that it would just be a really fun decade of hoops in Seattle (what, if I’m changing their picks, I’m dam sure changing Howard Schultz selling them to an ownership group that was obviously moving them to Oklahoma.  Shame on you Howard, shame…).

The Zombies’ lineup (or, in this case, should I say the Sonics’ lineup) would be:

PG – R. Westbrook

SG – S. Curry

SF – K. Durant

PF – N. Collison

C – J. Noah

Bench: N. Krstic, S. Ibaka, T. Sefolosha, D. Cook, E. Maynor, C. Aldrich

Solid.  Too bad Presti missed out on those picks (and Shultz sold to Bennet and company), because that is a squad I really would have enjoyed watching…

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