Category Archives: What If?

If The NBA Playoffs Started Today

The playoffs start in the last weeks of April, and it should be a good one this year. For starters there is the return of the injured Derrick Rose to the Chicago Bulls, the new big three in Cleveland, and the always powerful western conference. These results were based off the week of November 14-17.

If for some strange reason the playoffs kicked off tonight there would be quite a mix-up of the usual teams that are in the playoffs each season. 

For example, the defending champion San Antonio Spurs with the eight seed would face the hot Memphis Grizzlies with the first seed.

That is one of the surprises early in the season.  Yes we know that it will never happen having playoffs in the middle of November, but wouldn’t it be fun to see some of the other irregular playoff matchups as of now. 

Let’s start with the always powerful Western Conference

We discussed the defending champs taking on the Grizzlies.  These teams actually battle it out come playoff time, but most of the time the Spurs are first place while the Grizzlies are in the eight seed.  

The Spurs and the Grizzlies are two great teams.  So whether one is first, last, or vice versa.  These playoff bound teams will always put on a show in the stacked western conference.

Next, there is the battle of the 2 and the 8 seed.  There is the second seed Houston Rockets, and the 7th seed New Orleans Pelicans. 

The Rockets, since picking up James Harden and Dwight Howard are always a force coming out of the west.  They are no strangers to the playoffs.

The New Orleans Pelicans on the other hand are the new kids on the block but with their star Anthony Davis having a stellar season and their offense improving since last season; it is not farfetched to see the Pelicans chasing the Larry O’Brien Trophy. 

The third seed in the west in this young season is the Golden State Warriors and their young high flying team.  With names like the “Splash Brothers” both Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry lead this team with fast-paced offense and high percentage shooting. 

Besides their superb shooting, they also have big men that can hold down the paint, and yes take great shots.
The team that they will face off against will be the Phoenix Suns. 

The Suns were not even a playoff team last year, but with star Eric Bledsoe showing the league and the naysayers criticizing him of his big contract in the off season why they paid him so much. 
He also has the likes of Goran Dragic, and Isaiah Thomas in the starting lineup it is time to consider that the ever so difficult has improved even more with the Suns stepping it up this season. 

They are moving in the right direction to be a force in the west for the next few years.

If this team were in the eastern conference it would be a playoff team without a doubt.  That just shows how difficult the West is.  Not only do you have to win, but win a lot. 

The Phoenix Suns should be in the playoffs come April, but we shall see how that goes. 

The final hypothetical matchup is one between the Dallas Mavericks and the Portland Trailblazers.  The Blazers have the 4th seed while the Mavs have the 5th seed.  These two teams are always in the mix. 

The Mavs won it all back in 2011.  They were able to take care of the Miami Heat in six games.

These teams still have a tough long road ahead of them.  In this hypothetical situation there is a  team that  finished in second place last season, but are not even in the playoffs. 

This team is the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The Thunder has an excuse a pretty good one at that.  They are missing not one but two of its stars.  The Thunder had initially started out with their biggest star, Kevin Durant. 

Durant’s loss was an instant impact.  Durant is the defending NBA scoring champ, so you know that the Thunder is missing that.  

If that was not enough of a tough loss, a few games in the season they lose their other star Russell Westbrook. 

The Thunder look to get their stars back sometime during the season, and hopefully they are able to bounce back and be in the playoffs again.

Now let’s look at the Eastern conference.  The East has been known to have a handful of good teams. 

Yes they are not as stacked as the West is but the teams that are in the playoffs and most notably the top five or six are constant visitors to the playoffs. 

The first mock matchup comes with the number one Toronto Raptors vs. The Brooklyn Nets.  The Raptors are looking to bounce back from last season. 

This matchup will be a rematch of last years first round playoffs where the Raptors who were the Atlantic Division champs and the 3rd playoff berth. 

The Raptors are one of the hottest teams this season.  They stumbled in the playoffs where they were able to take the Nets to seven games, where they were able to beat the Raptors.

With young stars like Demar Derozan and Kyle Lowry the Raptors look to continue being on top of the Atlantic and what looks like the Eastern Conference as well.  

They face off against the Brooklyn Nets.  The Nets are kind of a mystery at times. 

They are not talked about as much as other notable Eastern Conference teams.  With a combination of young and old stars the Nets are always in the mix come playoff time. 

The current leading scorer Joe Johnson, Deron Williams, Kevin Garnett, and Brook Lopez it’s hard to say that they cannot succeed in April.
The next matchup comes with the seven seeded Miami Heat vs. the Washington Wizards. 

The Heat coming out of the NBA Finals a loser, and losing their biggest player in the offseason look to show what they got without the services of LeBron James.

They still have the majority of their core in Miami, with Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh.

Yet, without James the Heat struggle, but that does not mean that they will get it together and show why they went to the NBA Finals for four straight years.

The Wizards, who are trying to go back to the playoffs after they took on the heavily favored Chicago Bulls and taking care of them in five games.  

They still look to continue from last years success and after adding some help on the bench and starting lineup its looking good for Washington’s chances. 

They have the services of John Wall, and the veteran Paul Pierce to help them get there.

The next matchup is the Chicago Bulls vs.  The Milwaukee Bucks.  The Bulls who were taken care of by the Wizards last season look to come back to the playoffs with a chip on their shoulder. 

They will also have their young star Derrick Rose somewhat healthy after missing all of last season and only playing 10 games in the last two seasons. 

Besides Rose’s return they were also able to add the team with the Spaniard Pau Gasol joining the Bulls this season, after he left the Lakers for the Windy City.  

The Bucks are a surprise team right now even early in the season, but yet they are still in the mix.  Who knows if that will continue this season. 

Yet they have a stacked roster on paper.  There is O.J. Mayo, Brandon Knight, Jared Dudley, Larry Sanders, and Zaza Pachulia it’s easy to say they are playoff bound.

The final matchup is the fourth seeded Cleveland Cavaliers and the fifth seeded Atlanta Hawks.  The biggest news of the offseason was in Cleveland. 

For starters the Cavs got the first overall pick again, the return of LeBron James, and the signing of Kevin Love. 

The Cavs are the favorite to win the NBA Finals now that they have both James, and Love, but you cannot forget the young Kyrie Irving it is difficult to bet against this new big three. 

The Hawks on the other hand are playoff bound again after last season where they were able to nab the 8th seed before being taken out by the number overall seed Indiana Pacers.  

Yet they continue to be there when playoffs start.   Paul Millsap, Jeff Teague, and Kyle Korver are the ones leading the Hawks to the top of the east, but can they push through the first round of the playoffs or will it be the same story as the last few years.

Talking about the ones that are currently not in the mix is the former first seed in the Eastern Conference the Indiana Pacers. 

The Pacers have a dismal record and look pretty bad in this young season.  They are also missing their star Paul George, who was injured playing with Team USA in the FIBA championships. 
They are trying to come back and be a force in the east how they have for the past two years.  They took on the Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals last two years.

So you know they are doing something right, but will that be the same this season.

We will hypothetically see this season, to see if these teams will be in the same spots they are now. 

Or will we see one of the teams that are currently out of the playoffs be the first seed or will they stay out?  Will teams that were in the conference finals, that are now out of the playoffs make a run again. 

We will see but if the playoffs started today it would still be a good two months of playoff basketball.


What If Atlanta Never Trades Adam Wainwright?

By Murphy Powell

December 13, 2003. A day that, for the purposes of this post, is pretty important. That’s the day that Adam Wainwright was traded from the Atlanta Braves, along with Ray King and Jason Marquis, to the St. Louis Cardinals for J.D. Drew and Eli Marrero. Keep in mind this is all theoretical. There’s a chance Adam Wainwright doesn’t turn into Adam Wainwright if the trade doesn’t happen, just like there’s a chance the Braves don’t make the 2004 playoffs without J.D. Drew.

In 2004, the lone year of the J.D. Drew Experience in Atlanta, the Braves won the division with a 96-66 record, 10 games better than the Phillies. Drew was worth 8.6 WAR that year according to Fangraphs, so, in theory, the Braves could have sent out Charles Thomas every day instead of Drew and Marrero (1.6 WAR) and still won the division.

Thomas actually had a really productive half-season. I didn’t know that before, and now I’m actually a little upset that’s not what they did. Why didn’t he get another shot after 2004? He got on base a lot, played good defense… no, no. This isn’t about him. Sorry to get sidetracked.

So now we’re left with the Braves pre-trade. Marquis had a decent year as a starter for St. Louis in 2004, and might do something similar with the Braves. He spent time in the rotation and in the pen the year before, so it’s not crazy to think he might do something similar in Atlanta. He would maybe have taken innings away from Chris Reitsma, which wouldn’t have been the worst thing in the world. Ray King was alright, and he may have been the only lefty in the Braves pen. He would have been taking innings from the lefties that did throw, like Sam McConnell, Dan Meyer, Armando Almanza, you get the idea.

Now for Wainwright. This was written the day after the trade. Bill Shanks knew Waino was a big price to pay before he threw a big-league inning. If you choose to read a little bit of that link, you’ll run across, “With the Braves placing Horacio Ramirez off limits, St. Louis General Manager Walt Jocketty was smart to go after Wainwright next.”

Read it again.

One more time.

Horacio Ramirez was off limits. The Braves could have traded Horacio Ramirez instead of Wainwright. Ouch. But hindsight is 20-20, so I don’t guess we can fault the Braves too much there. Ramirez was major-league-ready, and Waino was two years from actually making it to the show as a reliever.

The short version of this, I guess, is “don’t trade front-line pitching prospects.” If Wainwright made it to the bigs in 2006 with the Braves, he’s probably a reliever like he was with St. Louis. In 2007, maybe he’s a reliever again, but maybe he starts. If he did, he’d be a 3-4 starter, behind Tim Hudson, John Smoltz and maybe Chuck James. In 2008, he’s a starter again, maybe still in the middle of the rotation. But the Braves really weren’t good at that time. In 2009, he’s a mid-rotation guy, I’m guessing. By that time, the Braves would have had four years of Wainwright, without much to show. I’m telling myself he would be traded, or would have left for another team when he hit free agency in 2011.

I do have to give John Schuerholz (Braves GM at the time) for going for it. GMs can’t just assume every prospect will hit their ceiling and be great players like fans want. He took a chance, and, in this case, may have come up a little unlucky, considering Drew didn’t stick around and Wainwright turned out to be Wainwright. The year of Drew was great. He was stellar. But Schuerholz was going for “win now,” and that’s what the Braves did.

Murphy Powell is a creator of Scouts Alley. You can follow him on Twitter @MurphyPowell.

The Darko Dynasty Disaster

By John Stoeter

Photo Credit: By flickr user Dave Hogg (flickr) [CC-BY-2.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

The 2002-2003 Detroit Pistons advanced to Eastern Conference Finals in which they got swept 4-0 by the New Jersey Nets. Needless to the say, this was a very good team who was just a piece or two away from serious NBA Finals contention. Luckily for the Detroit Pistons organization, they were in the perfect position to better themselves immediately with an early draft selection. The Detroit Pistons found themselves in a rare predicament in which they hoisted the second pick of the upcoming 2003 NBA Draft. In 1997, the then-Vancouver Grizzlies traded their 2003 first round pick to the Detroit Pistons for Otis Thorpe.

So there we have it, the Detroit Pistons were in prime position to upgrade their squad and change NBA history forever. With the second pick of the 2003 NBA Draft they selected Darko Milicic, passing on the likes of Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, and Dwayne Wade. Not to mention, they passed up on numerous role players who would have helped the team significantly more than Darko Milicic did. Chris Kaman, Josh Howard, David West, Kyle Korver, and Kendrick Perkins are just a few names on a big list of players who would have produced far more efficiently.

But instead of focusing on all of the NBA talent that the Pistons passed up, I simply want to focus on one player. Carmelo Anthony. Carmelo was one of the first few stars to do the whole one-and-done experience. As a freshman at Syracuse, Anthony averaged 22.2 PPG and 10 RPG. He was the true definition of a star in the making, arguably the best player in college basketball. And the greatest part about Carmelo Anthony was that he had just led Syracuse to a NCAA National Championship. He dominated the tournament while also winning the Final Four Most Outstanding Player Award. Had it not been for LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony would’ve virtually been a shoe-in for the number one draft pick.

But the Detroit Pistons decided it was in their best interest to draft the seven-footer, Darko Milicic. At the time many would argue that the Pistons had made the right decision. With International players really starting to make a mark on the league it may have seemed safer to draft players across seas. The Pistons more than likely looked at Darko as Dirk Nowitzki 2.0, or the future big man of the NBA. And being one piece away from a serious NBA Finals run, the Pistons thought Darko was the future and the piece needed to win it all. The combination of Ben Wallace and Darko Milicic was supposed to be the key that led them to the promised land.

Fortunately, for the Pistons they went on to win the NBA Finals that year in a 4-1 series win over the Los Angeles Lakers. However, it was the mid-season acquisition of Rasheed Wallace that would lead them to a NBA Finals title, not Darko Milicic. As a matter of fact, out of the seventeen players who qualified, Darko Milicic’s -0.2 Win Shares registered as worst on the team. 

With the small amount of play time Darko MIlicic saw, he showed little to no improvement. However, in his defense it is hard to see improvement whenever you barely get any minutes to play. The whole Detroit Pistons organization has to be somewhat at fault for the way they handled his minutes and playtime. It is very easy to shake up the confidence of a player that young. The Pistons should have done a better job providing a role in which he could succeed in early on. When a young athlete’s confidence is destroyed, it can be a very hard thing to regain. Especially whenever the whole culture in which you are experiencing is all relatively new and unfamiliar.

Tayshaun Prince was selected with their first pick in the 2002 NBA Draft so the need for another small forward wasn’t necessary.  Prince was a premier defender, good three-point shooter, and showed many signs of potential.

However, when a talent like Carmelo Anthony comes through the draft and you have the opportunity to draft him, you draft him with no questions asked. Carmelo Anthony demonstrated once in a lifetime potential. That type of talent and star power is rare and should never be passed upon.

The Detroit Pistons went on to go to six consecutive Eastern Conference Finals from 2002-2007. After their title in the 2003-2004 season they went to a second straight NBA Finals in which they lost to the San Antonio Spurs in a decisive win-or-go home Game 7. Could Carmelo have powered these Detroit Pistons into a dynasty that was capable of running off a few titles? Now nobody knows how the future would have unfolded had they drafted Carmelo Anthony instead of Darko Milicic but you have to wonder “what if”?

John Stoeter is a creator of Scouts Alley. You can follow him on Twitter at @Stoeter850.