Sunday, November 28, 2010

What If: A look back at various decisions and the impact they made.

So that’s it. Season over. Again. As Kevin Durant continues to prove he deserves to be in the conversation of the 2-4 best players in the NBA, leading the league in scoring yet again with 28 ppg, Greg Oden, the man with who he will be forever compared, has suffered a season ending injury for the third time in his career. Through his first 3 seasons, Durant has averaged 20.3, 25.3, and 30.1 points per game. It took Kobe 5 seasons to eclipse 25.3, and 10 to surpass 30.1 (although he did get 30.0 after 7 years in the NBA). LeBron’s single best season output was 31.4, also recorded in his third year in the league. Wade topped 30.1 in his sixth season. In other words, Durant’s rise into the NBA elite has been quicker than the guys with whom he currently shares the position. Despite the tragic choice to select Oden ahead of Durant, the Portland Trail Blazers are holding their own in the Western Conference.

The thing about professional sports today is that every decision a team or player makes is analyzed, re-analyzed, and then analyzed again a few years after the fact (and then re-analyzed again). A single choice can have highly significant consequences for the future and everyone knows this. You can’t help but ask…

What If… The Portland Trailblazers were better at drafting?

This goes back to a simple question that NBA GMs (and fantasy owners) must face every year. Should I draft the powerful, dominating center or the flashier scorer? Should I draft based on need or based on talent? For Portland, they decided that a big 7 footer would be more beneficial than a shooting guard-small forward. Unfortunately, this decision would come to haunt the organization for the rest of its history, particularly for the first 13 years following the decision. No, this is not a discussion on Oden and Durant. This is a discussion on an even more poorly conceived decision. Portland elected to draft Sam Bowie with the second overall pick in the 1984 draft, passing on a man named Michael Jordan. As Bowie served as the team coat hanger, Michael Jordan went on the produce the most dominating career in American Sports History. You’d think that when faced with the decision again nearly 25 years later, the front office would remember what can only be described as the biggest blunder in the existence of sports. As philosopher, George Santayana, once said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Well, I guess that would make the Blazers condemned.

Lets pretend they did select Durant. What would this mean? Well, they were already fortunate enough to have young superstar, Brandon Roy. So, with both, you would have to put Portland down as one of the best teams in all of the NBA for the next 5 years. The really scary thing is, as good as Roy and Durant are, they may not been in their primes yet. They are two of the most unselfish and dedicated young stars in the association. Together, they would be like Wade and LeBron in Miami except people would love them.

Here are some other hypotheticals.

What if LeBron took his talents to the windy city?

From the moment the LeBron sweepstakes first took off, I said there was no better fit for LeBron than Chicago. They have one of the leagues best point guards, some terrific defenders, and a fantastic supporting cast that is already good enough to play tough in the postseason the last 2 years. What were they missing? A superstar scorer.

Derrick Rose is currently averaging 25.6 points per game, third most and the highest for point guards. After the aforementioned Durant, Rose might be my favorite player in the league. He has unmatched quickness, tremendous vision, and outstanding leadership. The thing about Rose is that he has unfair responsibilities. He has to run the offense, facilitate, and be the go-to scorer. There’s lots of great point guards right now, but I would argue, given expectations and requirements, Rose is the best. He doesn’t have the talent around him to facilitate like Rondo. He doesn’t have the best scorer in the league like Westbrook. Deron Williams and Chris Paul are the only ones I could conceivably rank higher. But, what if he had LeBron, or should I say, what if LeBron had him?

The simple answer: They would both be surefire top 10 players. Rose could finally become more of a 1 than a 2, but teams would need to respect his ability to shred them on his own. He would almost never get double teamed, since that would be an invitation to sling it to LeBron, in which case, he could destroy most man-to-man defenses. As for LeBron, his assist numbers might decline, but his rebounds would probably increase. Even scarier, his ppg could go up too. With Rose, James could finally become the post presence that he so needs to be, at least on occasion. If Rose could increase his steals and FT%, his admittance into the fantasy elite would be unquestioned. The Bulls would be a better team than the Heat are currently, or will be come May. If LeBron and Wade are Tony Park and Eva Longoria, Rose and LeBron would certainly be Jay-Z and Beyonce (my appeal to different audiences. I think that made sense).

What if Antonio Gates went pro in basketball?

The NFl’s best tight end never played football at Kent State University. He played basketball for the school, averaging 16 and 20.6 points over the course of two years. However, at 6’5, Gates was told he was too small to play in the NBA. He looked towards football. The Chargers signed him as an undrafted free agent. Since 2004, only Marvin Harrison, Randy Moss, and Terrell Owens (the three best receivers since the retirement of Jerry Rice) have more touchdowns. Although fantasy TE overall rankings change from year to year, there should be no reason to draft anyone ahead of Gates. Ever. If Gates went into the NBA, he would have probably been a role/defense/hustle player on some top 10 team and probably never see a starting role on a fantasy squad. What a sad fate that would have been for one of the most valuable of fantasy stars.

What if Wade Phillips was fired when he should have been (this could be anything from he earliest of last season to the latest of week 4 this year)?

I’ve been calling for the firing of Mr. “I Don’t Know Where I am, What I am Doing, or If the Game Just Ended or is About to Begin” for two years now. Finally, after months upon months of frustration, Jerry Jones decided to say goodbye. I just don’t understand how Wade lasted until the end of week 9.

Honestly, the answer to the question at hand is very, very simple. If Wade was not the coach of the Dallas Cowboys at all this season, Dallas would probably be 6-4 at worst and 8-2 at best. I understand that players need to take accountability for poor performances, but it was apparent that the entire team lost all confidence and respect in him. If he was fired after the 1-4 start, at which point things started to get really ugly, I would have to assume that Dallas could have been 4-6 or 5-5 at this point, getting ready to make a San Diego-esque run for the playoffs. You would have to therefore figure that the numbers for every offensive player would increase. Yeah, Romo would still be done for most of the season (he would probably make an effort to come back at the end if his team was actually competitive), but even with Kitna at QB this team has enough weapons to air it out, run the ball effectively, and play consistent defense.

Unfortunately, the removal of Phillips from the organization has brought an abrupt stop to all the jokes being made at his expense. Therefore, I now present my farewell to Wade Phillips in the only way I know possible...

When asked about the upcoming week, Phillips responded by saying, “I don’t even know who we play next.” When asked about the game he just lost, Phillips responded by saying, “I don’t even know who we just played.”

Wade once spent an entire game getting red in the face because none of his players were listening to him and Dallas seemed to totally abandon their game plan. It wasn’t until the fourth quarter he realized he was at a Maverick’s game.

Wade has developed tennis elbow on 17 different occasions due his repeated tendency to plant his right hand against his forehead.

Wade once held the world record for going 3 days without blinking (This award was taken when a committee decided he was using the “squint” approach that had been made illegal 4 years earlier).

The password to Wade Phillip’s computer is “Tony Romo”
The password to Tony Romo’s computer is “Fire Wade Phillips”

Nobody really knows what’s going on in Phillip’s head during games, but I guess it would be something like this:

What if this article ended before those sad attempts at humor?

It would have been better.


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