Every Wednesday, Pick and Popovich will dive down the rabbit hole and explore a different NBA “What if.” The only rule is that the scenario must come from a place that is somewhat realistic and grounded in at least somewhat believable rumor or hearsay. Otherwise, anything goes.
Young athletes do stupid things. It’s a given. Jay Williams is just lucky that the Bulls caught wind of his plans to buy a motorcycle, because once they did they strongly urged him not to do so and reminded him of the clause in his contract reminding him that he isn’t allowed to do so. Williams relents, and the Bulls breathe a sigh of relief. Their young point guard is safe from at least that sort of disastrous off-court injury.
And he develops into a very nice young player. Williams averages 17 points per game as a sophomore and that number hangs out around 20 for the next few years. He even makes an All Star team in 2006 as the Bulls return to playoff form. But Williams never quite becomes the superstar Chicago expected.
A point guard who does become a superstar, though, is Derrick Rose. The New Jersey Nets luck into him with the first pick in the 2008 NBA Draft through a gift from the lottery gods: they jumped all the way up from the No. 8 slot to nab the Memphis product No. 1 overall. They immediately start gearing their team towards Rose, trading the veteran Vince Carter and taking Terrance Williams and Paul George in the next two drafts to surround him with the proper wings.
Of course, neither of them stick around for very long. When Carmelo Anthony hits the trade market during the 2010-11 season, the Nets offer both along with a cavalcade of other assets to nab him. Anthony is at first resistant, but the idea of playing with Rose warms him up to waiting for the move to Brooklyn. With a pairing of Rose and Anthony, the Nets feel as though they can compete with anyone in the East, even LeBron James and the Heat.
Of course they don’t get the chance. They lose in back-to-back second rounds to the Tom Thibodeau-Jay Williams pairing in Chicago. It’s hardly a satisfying consolation, as Chicago winds up losing to Miami just as consistently, but hey, there’s no shame in making the Eastern Conference Finals and losing to a better team. At least the Nuggets enjoy their part of the deal. Paul George is looking like the best young Nugget since David Thompson.