Draft Lead

What Could Have Been: 2008 NBA Draft Edition

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On May 22nd, 2008, the basketball empire of Chicago rejoiced after the Draft Lottery. Despite only having a 1.7% chance to win the lottery, they defied the odds and won. After pulling the second largest upset in lottery history behind the 1993 Orlando Magic, the Bulls were officially on the clock. With the #1 overall pick, they drafted Derrick Rose, a homegrown point guard from Simeon Career Academy in Chicago and played college ball at Memphis.

After Rose, the rest of the draft went as usual. Trades were made, players fell, players were taken too early, and fans were either happy or disappointed. Most players had small impact. Milwaukee’s Joe Alexander lasted only two years in the league. Despite showing immense potential, Anthony Randolph was never able to put it all together. O.J. Mayo and Michael Beasley both have dealt with marijuana problems in their NBA careers.

Now being able to look back at the players selected, some teams became so close to making a great pick. Even though the players who flamed out were viewed differently at the time, we have to look back at what could have been.

Heat drafting their Big Man of the future

The 2007-2008 season was a bit of a doozy in South Beach. While it marked their 20th season in the NBA, their record of 15-67 was identical to their record in their first season in the league. Along with the disappoint season came a time of change for the Heat. Hall of Fame center Alonzo Mourning suffered a torn patella tendon in his right knee, and eventually led to his retirement. The Heat traded another HOF center in Shaquille O’Neal to the Phoenix Suns in exchange for Shawn Marion and Marcus Banks. Finally, the Heat lost a legendary coach in Pat Riley, who decided that the 07-08 season would be his last. Another problem the Heat encountered was the health issues of franchise icon Dwyane Wade. He missed the last 21 games of the season to undergo OssaTron treatment on his left knee.

Issues were a plenty on the court, and off the court it was not much better. Outside of Wade, there was no real player on the Heat roster who had star potential. After landing the 2nd pick in the draft, one prospect that stood out was Michael Beasley. Beasley was an absolute stud at Kansas State. In 33 games with the Wildcats, he averaged a double double, playing to the tune of 26 points and 12 rebounds per game.

The Heat had multiple holes in their roster– especially at power forward and point guard. While Beasley was the top big man available, there was a point guard out of UCLA who made the case to go 2nd. Russell Westbrook. Even though Beasley put up gaudy numbers in college, Westbrook showed development from his freshman to sophomore year at UCLA. With more playing time his sophomore year, him and star freshman Kevin Love lead the Bruins to a Final Four appearance.

What could have happened if the Heat took Westbrook?

In Miami’s eyes, the development Westbrook showed was not enough, so they selected Beasley. While Beasley has had his career overshadowed by marijuana problems, Westbrook blossomed into a star with the Thunder. A backcourt duo of Wade and Westbrook would have been quite possibly the most athletic backcourt in the NBA. It also could have changed the possibility of LeBron James and Chris Bosh and coming to Miami. With Westbrook in the fold, both Bosh and James might not have liked how ball dominant Russell is. The Heat traded Beasley to the T-Wolves so they could form the Big 3. Miami would now be in a dilemma between keeping Westbrook with Wade, or by Trading him to another team. Now, the Big 3 could not have even formed due to cap restrictions or due to the ball dominant type of play from Westbrook.

The Grizzlies make the right move…..until they don’t

Man, wasn’t the Grit N’ Grind era one of the coolest era’s in the 21st century of basketball? Watching Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph bully teams with death by points in the paint. Then, if the offense was having issues, Mike Conley would come in and save the day. Tony Allen chanting “first team all-defense” after getting steals! The pace was slow, the offense wasn’t sexy, but it was a true sight to fans who loved tough-nose basketball.

Obtaining the 5th pick in the draft, Memphis thought that it would have been ideal to find another guard to be a running mate with Conley. The spot they were looking to trade to was at pick number 3, held by Kevin McHale and the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Grizzlies liked O.J. Mayo, while McHale had his eyes on Kevin Love. McHale wanted to take Love at #3, but thought that it was “a reach” and would not be able to “maximize on their potential value.”

During the ’07-08 season, the Grizzlies traded Pau Gasol to the Lakers in exchange for the rights to Marc GasolKwame Brown (yikes), Javaris Crittenton, Aaron McKie, and two first round draft picks (2008/2010). While there was a need for both a new big man and a guard, there was some debate in the Memphis management. Love participated in a workout in Memphis against center’s Joey Dorsey, DeAndre Jordan, and JaVale McGee. Kevin absolutely dominated his workouts, which lead to the debate. Head coach Mark Lavaroni and player personnel director Tony Barone Sr. wanted to keep Love, who they drafted 5th overall. However, General Manager Chirs Wallace and Owner Michael Heisley disagreed, and wanted to do what ever it took to acquire O.J. Mayo. The Grizzlies pulled the trigger, sending the rights to Love, Mike Miller, Brian Cardinal and Jason Collins in exchange for Mayo and a bag of basketballs.

Would the Grit and Grind Era been the same with Love?

Despite the fact that Z-Bo played a big part of the Grit and Grind Era, its not that hard to imagine the Era without him. While Z-Bo came to the Grizzlies a year later in exchange for Quentin Richardson, keeping Love would have been the smarter move. Love was a dominant player during his time with the Timberwolves, and would have fit perfectly next to Gasol. While Mayo had two great seasons in Memphis, he was never able to put it all together. Along with his marijuana issues, the Grizzlies are definitely regretting the trade. If Love was on the Grizzlies, the Grit and Grind Era would still be at its peak.

Bobcats select the wrong international Big Man

The Charlotte Bobcats had a rough 2007-2008 season. After finishing 32-50, Larry Brown became the new coach. With the poor season, the Bobcats got the 9th pick and later acquired the 20th pick from the Denver Nuggets. With the 9th pick, point guard D.J. Augustin came off the board to the Bobcats. Then, Charlotte selected Frenchman center Alexis Ajinca with the 20th selection. While Ajinca was a decent back up in the league, there were better players him. Ryan Anderson went after Ajinca to the New Jersey Nets. However, at the 24th pick came the real kicker: Serge Ibaka.

Ibaka came into the league as a raw big man just scratching the surface of his potential. The Congo native showed immense potential during the Summer League, and it transitioned to the regular season. Ibaka eventually earned the nickname “Serge Iblaka” for his highlight reel blocks. He became the defensive leader during the Thunder’s short-lived reign in the West.

Could Ibaka change the current Hornets team?

The Hornets encountered multiple poor seasons, and a second star was a priority. Drafting Kemba Walker helped the franchise immensely, and signing Al Jefferson helped. But a player like Ibaka would have been the second star that would have meshed well with Walker and Jefferson. Ibaka, Walker and Jefferson could have established Charlotte as a true contender in the East. Instead of having a center who settled on the bench, the Hornets could have had a defensive centerpiece.

Even though these teams really missed on star talent, drafting is a hard form of art. Having every single resource on every single process is a necessity. Drafts can even cause splits in management, as what happened in Memphis. Looking back, this draft class is mesmerizing. Franchises and dynasties were a pick away from happening. DeAndre Jordan has been a defensive staple in the paint. Goran Dragic has proved many wrong. And Omer Asik became a solid, everyday center. While these were all second round picks, the first round talent has done well. But, rewinding back 11 years, to the moment Derrick Rose found out he was going to be playing for his hometown team, to the moment the Chicago Bulls defined the odds and won the lottery, only one thought pops up.

What Could Have Been.

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