There’s a lot of "what if" discussions going on now that Greg Oden is out for the year. Primarily they focus on "how would I feel right now if we had gotten Oden?" We’d still have Al Jefferson but we’d have wasted one more year of Paul Pierce’s career and he’d likely be looking for the nearest exit stage right. Oh yeah, and Kevin Garnett might be bouncing around Los Angeles talking about how he’s going to bond with Kobe Bryant.
But why stop there? There are all sorts of "what ifs" you could look at all day (and that’s the plan).
If we had gotten the number one pick, would we have even picked Greg Oden? We know that Ainge was a huge fan of Durant. Would he have had the guts to select him? Would he have gotten overruled by the owners or other members of the team? I have no problem pointing out that I was a big proponent for picking Greg Oden over Durant. It was more about defense over offense than it was "safe pick" over higher upside. Just goes to show that there are no safe picks.
But we got the 5th pick and traded it. What if we didn’t trade it for Ray Allen? Scott Souza points out that the team was ready to select Yi Jianlian. Here’s his take:
You can just imagine the reaction from the blogger and message board crowd the first time Doc Rivers was asked about Jianlian and his reponse was: "We probably won’t know for a couple of years." Close your eyes and you can actually hear him saying it too. Kinda makes you shudder, huh?
Take it back a whole year now. What if Ainge pulled off the two deals he was working on and we landed Carlos Boozer and Allen Iverson for Al Jefferson (and other players)? That would have been an interesting team, but would it have been a championship contender?
And what about all those albatross contracts that were eventually used to trade for Garnett and Ray Allen? What if the team had never taken on bad contracts like that? If we didn’t sign Mark Blount, would we have had Wally Szczerbiack? If we had never traded for Raef LaFrentz, would we have Theo Ratliff? If we had just kept Antoine Walker and let his contract expire the first time around, would that have put us in a better position or kept us from trading for the guys we got this summer? Was the cost of all those bad contracts worth the right to pick up KG and Ray?
Or would we have had lots of smaller contracts that would have been easier to move? Or would we have lots of cap space? Would we have signed Rashard Lewis and Darko Milicic this summer? Would we have overpaid for someone last summer?
Of course in all of this you have to consider the butterfly effect. Say the team drafted Amir Johnson instead of Orien Greene a couple years ago (Ainge tried to get out of the promise to Orien but couldn't). Would that have changed what the team was willing to include in trades? Would it have shaped other personel decisions (like draft choices) in relation to the forward positions? You can see how something as small as a promise to a second round draft pick was just as critical as any of the other transactions that eventually led up to this summer. Go back in time and change that one thing and you might have a completely different outcome down the line.
I guess we’ll never know. But it is fun to consider. Feel free to expand upon these thoughts or add your own scenarios.