In Bill Simmons' The Book of Basketball, he has an entire section on the biggest "What Ifs" in NBA history. He goes super granular on those topics (similar to the rest of the book) in making some assessments on how certain things would've turned out differently throughout the history of the NBA. I thought it might be interesting to look at what I think are the 4 biggest "What Ifs" since the Celts acquired KG back in the summer of 2007.
1. What if the Hawks hadn't made the playoffs in 2008? Let's not forget they only won one more game than the Pacers that year (37 wins for Atlanta vs 36 for the Pacers) and had actually lost the tie-breaker to Indiana that year 2-1 in regular season matchups. I remember as the playoffs were approaching that year hoping the Celts would draw Atlanta, fearing Indiana having a deja-vu experience back to when they were pretty good earlier in the decade and giving Boston more than enough of a problem.
We all know what happened. The Hawks snuck into the playoffs, took the C's to 7 games, and unlike Chicago this season, actually catapulted from their success into the 2nd round of the playoffs in 2009. Now in 2010 they're pretty much considered one of the top 5 teams in basketball. What if they didn't make the playoffs? Where does the energy come for the 2009 season? Do they underachieve again? Does Woodson get canned? Someone else get traded?
2. What if Memphis didn't hand over Gasol to the Lakers? Not to beat a dead horse on one of the most lopsided trades in NBA history, but Chris the Buffoon Wallace giving Gasol to the Lakers for not one rotational player really has had a huge impact on the league since the Celts signed KG. Remember back in the 2008 season the Lakers only won the conference by 1 game over New Orleans and a mere 7 games separated teams 1 to 8. When LA acquired him, they were right in the middle of the pack in the Western race.
We know how it turned out. In 2009 the Lakers won their conference by 11 whole games and went on to win the title. If Gasol's not in the equation I don't envision it being quite so easy. Yes they're still a quality team but with a frontline of Bynum, Odom and Artest and the bench they currently have, are they really leaps and bounds better than everyone out West? Thanks again to the Buffoon for making a bigger positive impact on our most hated enemy than he did while being the Celts general manager for like 10 seasons.
3. What if the Pistons hadn't traded Chauncey for Iverson? Sure you can make the argument they were washed up as constructed and needed a new breath of life. You can also say they were in 6 straight conference finals and were a pretty damn good basketball team. What if they kept Chauncey and tried to add other pieces around him? Or traded him for a better fit? Isn't it feasible to think they could still be a top 5 team in the league now?
We all know how it turned out. The Iverson trade was a catastrophe, causing the Pistons to implode and become irrelevant. The best part of this is how "Deeee-troit Basketball" is also now irrelevant.
4. What if James Posey resigned with the Celts for 2009? It came down to New Orleans offering the same money as Boston, but a one year longer contract. An undermanned Celtics team took Orlando to 7 games before bowing out in the 2nd round. If Posey is there do the C's advance in that series? Does that give KG enough time to come back from the injury? Are our beloved Celtics now the "Back to Back Defending Champions"? Listen Lewis was a bitch to guard in that series with Scalabrine doing all he could. I think everyone would agree Scalabrine's a poor man's James Posey.
We unfortunately know how this one turned out. Posey went to New Orleans where he's now wasting away with a team looking to shed payroll and save face. In Boston, I still feel there's an intangible or two out there that aren't present game to game. Posey could still be the difference maker.
All in all these were 4 pretty big "What Ifs". As the 2010 midway point is upon us, they are still questions I think are important to ponder.