What are the greatest draft day "What Ifs" of the modern NBA era?

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The NBA Draft can be a dicey proposition for most teams. On one hand, there are only so many ways to improve your team and the draft is looked at as a “natural building process.”

Also, if your organization has trouble luring free agents to your location, then the draft might be your best bet.

On the other hand, mess up a top pick and it could set your franchise back multiple seasons. It a high risk high reward option that deserves its lottery association.

This week Tayshaun Prince, formerly of the Detroit Pistons, told CBS Sports that if the Motor City had picked up Carmelo Anthony instead of Darko Milicic, then their team could have gone on to win anywhere from two to four more championships.

This is admittedly conjecture but, it is hard to argue with Prince because of the way that both of those 2003 Draft classmates’ careers have unfolded. This leads to a fun thought experiment, what are the best draft “What If’s” from the era since then?:

Atlanta drafts Chris Paul instead of Marvin Williams

Like most of these selections, this looks good in hindsight. Williams was a star in high school and a champion in the college game. He helped the North Carolina Tar Heels capture the 2005 national title. The power forward also scored the go-head bucket in the deciding game.

He’s been productive in the NBA, even recently having a bit of renaissance in Charlotte last season, but he is no Chris Paul. It was clear from their rookie seasons that CP3 should have been selected higher.

With Byron Scott, he instantly stabilized the Hornets and led them back to respectability. Atlanta has always seemed to be lacking in the star power department and this scenario would have provided them with a true star. Hawks fans will always wonder.

Minnesota drafts Stephen Curry instead of Johnny Flynn

Cover your ears Wolves fans. This possibility has been thrown around a lot since Curry’s ascension the last two seasons. But, in Minny’s defence, they thought they had the next Magic Johnson in Ricky Rubio.

Readers will laugh now but, everything circulating around the Spanish Sensation pointed toward his eventual stardom.

Rubio is a solid player and a great defender at the point guard position but, Curry is a two-time MVP. The Chef is also the greatest offensive threat in the NBA right now. But, as his production wasn’t this from day one, it is a little bit easier to accept this decision in hindsight.

Portland drafts Kevin Durant instead of Greg Oden

Here is arguably the greatest draft day “What If” since Michael Jordan and Sam Bowie in 1984. KD and Oden looked like the logical first and second picks in 2007. The Ohio State center’s college career was excellent.

To be frank, he looked like a man amongst boys. But, his is a cautionary tale as his body repeatedly betrayed him in his early years. The former Buckeye would come back, perform decently, and then inevitably get hurt again.

Durant would blossom into the de-facto second best player in the league. Blazers fans are left wondering how volatile their team would have been with the Durantula in tow.

Stephen Curry
Golden State Warriors
Pacific Division
Western Conference
Chris Paul
L.A. Clippers
Eastern Conference
Kevin Durant
Oklahoma City Thunder
Northwest Division

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