What if Miami Won the Derrick Rose Lottery?

Derrick Rose Heat

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. 

Miami operates with a firm “best player available” rule. Michael Beasley may be a better fit as a forward next to Dwyane Wade, but through the draft process it becomes clear that Memphis point guard Derrick Rose is the better prospect. So when their No. 1 pick comes up in the 2008 NBA Draft, they don’t hesitate to take Rose and figure out the fit a bit later.

That hastiness doesn’t do Rose or the Heat any favors. He looks good when given the chance to attack the rim as he’d like, but with Wade monopolizing the ball those opportunities are few and far between. The tension is so thick that Rose’s hometown team, the Chicago Bulls, eventually calls Miami to make an offer for Rose. The Heat refuse, and Chicago winds up very thankful that they did. After all, had they acquired Rose they never would have entered the 2009 NBA Draft in position to draft a far better point guard, but coach Vinny Del Negro’s frustrating year and Chicago’s roster without scorers gives them the league’s seventh worst record and a desperate need for playmaking. So they grab Davidson’s Stephen Curry and never look back.

Year 2 of the Rose era is more of the same, and by season’s end the team becomes determined to deal him if their lofty free agency goals are met. So to clear the cap space necessary to sign Chris Bosh and LeBron James to join Dwyane Wade, they trade Rose to Minnesota for a future draft pick.

Minnesota is thrilled with the return on their meager investment. Rose turns his career around playing next to Kevin Love and even competes for an MVP award in Minnesota. It is eventually won by James, who goes on to win a total of five straight, but the Rose-Love combination finally gives the Timberwolves some hope in the post-Kevin Garnett era.

As his five MVPs suggest, LeBron wins quite a bit in Miami. They win the Eastern Conference in his first season with the team and the championship in his next two. But eventually, the Curry-Tom Thibodeau combination overcomes the old and worn down Heat in 2014. They lose to San Antonio in the NBA Finals, but in asserting themselves as the new conference leaders they essentially force LeBron’s hand in leaving Miami for Cleveland.

James, Kyrie Irving and Andrew Wiggins on one side, Curry, Jimmy Butler and Thibodeau on the other. No one can imagine a more intriguing Eastern Conference rivalry, especially with the winner likely to take on Rose and Love’s Timberwolves in the NBA Finals.

 

What if Minnesota Drafted Stephen Curry?

Stephen Curry Wolves

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. 

Minnesota general manager David Kahn likes to think outside of the box. Why is it, he wonders, that most NBA teams use only one point guard? Surely you could benefit from having two floor generals on the court together? So he enacts his master plan on draft night, take Spanish point guard Ricky Rubio with the No. 5 pick, and then pair him with another point guard at No. 6. Initially, he plans on Syracuse’s Jonny Flynn, but when he tells Rubio’s agent at the last minute he is informed that Rubio will stay in Spain if Minnesota takes Flynn. The pair settle on a compromise: Kahn will take Davidson’s Stephen Curry and turn him into an off-ball shooting guard.

The plan pays immediate dividends. Curry and Rubio pair together brilliantly, as Rubio’s passing and defense allow Curry to focus on his shooting. The point guard duo along with Kevin Love makes Minnesota the envy of coaching staffs around the league. They pass so willingly, work so well as teammates, that it’s surprising when they don’t create a good shot.

Golden State, meanwhile, settles for Flynn and regrets the pick almost immediately. The Syracuse point guard is a disaster from the get-go, and the Warriors finish with one of the worst records in the league. The one benefit is that it puts them in position to draft promising young center DeMarcus Cousins in 2010. Of course, without a point guard to get him the ball, his rookie season is nothing to write home about.

They decide to cut bait with Flynn only two years after drafting him and go into the 2011 draft eager to replace him. They end up with UConn hero Kemba Walker. This devastates the Charlotte Bobcats, who wanted Walker badly. They settle on San Diego State’s Kawhi Leonard. The surprise of the night, though, is when San Antonio trades up to No. 15 to snag Washington State’s Klay Thompson. Rival executives groan. Of course the Spurs grabbed the one player who fell without a good reason. What else is new?

Gordon_Hayward041W_article

Those two drafts prove equally fruitful for Minnesota. In 2010 their pass-happy offense adds yet another selfless stud in Butler’s Gordon Hayward, and a year later they snag Kansas’ Marcus Morris at the bottom of the lottery.

Their defense is laughable, but by the 2012-13 season Minnesota sports the NBA’s best offense. Teams simply can’t stop that combination of shooting, ball movement and Kevin Love’s low-post dominance. Rick Adelman wins NBA Coach of the Year, and Minnesota loses a tough series to San Antonio in the second round en route to their best season since the Kevin Garnett era.

Adelman doesn’t take Minnesota any further. He retires after a first round loss in 2014. Luckily for them, Golden State fires head coach Mark Jackson after his failure to connect with Cousins for two years. Kahn signs him in the hopes that his defense-first attitude will rub off on the team. The Warriors miss out on first choice Steve Kerr, who goes to the Knicks, and are forced to settle for retread George Karl. Sooner or later, they have to find someone who can coach DeMarcus Cousins.

The Jackson hire carries Minnesota over the top. Kahn urges him not to mess with their league-best offense, so he leaves it in the hands of Rubio and Curry so that he can focus solely on defense. Nobody confuses them for stoppers, but they’ll gladly settle for average with the offense they boast. They avoid the Spurs thanks to a Round 1 upset at the hands of the Clippers, and LeBron James’ aging Heat are just too slow to keep up with Minnesota in the Finals.

When Curry stands on the podium to accept his Finals MVP award, coaches from the lowest youth leagues on up smile. Minnesota plays basketball the right way. They can help children do the same. The Timberwolves make passing cool again, and that is their greatest contribution to the game of basketball.

Fake NBA Trade of the Day 6/19/16: Kevin Love to Denver

Kevin Love Nuggets 1

Every day, Pick and Popovich will post one fake trade and explain why it makes sense for every team involved to make it. There are no parameters beyond fitting within the salary cap. Sometimes the trades will involve stars, others role players. They are not grounded in actual rumors, they just make sense on paper. During the 2016 NBA Playoffs, each week will feature seven fake trades of one star player. This is Kevin Love Week. 

Cleveland_Cavaliers_2010.svg                                                   gs5fgn4fn5pd6gmfs0re4lvcx

 

Cleveland Cavaliers Receive:                                                  Denver Nuggets Receive:

Danilo Gallinari                                                                           Kevin Love 

Wilson Chandler

 

 

Why Cleveland would make this trade: Yet another three-and-D trade for the Cavs, though this one has the highest ceiling offensively.

Why Denver would make this trade: Because they’ve wanted Kevin Love since the Bronze Age, and now they actually have some players to put around him. The defense would be miserable, but the offense would be fun.

Fake NBA Trade of the Day 6/18/16: Kevin Love to Dallas

Kevin Love Mavs1

Every day, Pick and Popovich will post one fake trade and explain why it makes sense for every team involved to make it. There are no parameters beyond fitting within the salary cap. Sometimes the trades will involve stars, others role players. They are not grounded in actual rumors, they just make sense on paper. During the 2016 NBA Playoffs, each week will feature seven fake trades of one star player. This is Kevin Love Week. 

Cleveland_Cavaliers_2010.svg                                                         Dallas_Mavericks_logo.svg

 

Cleveland Cavaliers Receive:                                               Dallas Mavericks Receive:

Wes Matthews Jr.                                                                    Kevin Love

Chandler Parsons                                                                    J.R. Smith

Justin Anderson                                                                       Mo Williams

 

 

Why Cleveland would make this trade: You want three-and-D? Here’s three-and-D

Why Dallas would make this trade: Because Kevin Love is a cornerstone they can build around after Dirk Nowitzki retires. It would be a defensive disaster this season, but this is a trade for the next decade.

*Deal depends on Chandler Parson agreeing to a sign-and-trade

Fake NBA Trade of the Day 6/17/16: Kevin Love to New York

Kevin Love Knicks 1

Every day, Pick and Popovich will post one fake trade and explain why it makes sense for every team involved to make it. There are no parameters beyond fitting within the salary cap. Sometimes the trades will involve stars, others role players. They are not grounded in actual rumors, they just make sense on paper. During the 2016 NBA Playoffs, each week will feature seven fake trades of one star player. This is Kevin Love Week. 

Cleveland_Cavaliers_2010.svg                                                         NYKNICKS_Logo-Final

 

Cleveland Cavaliers Receive:                                                  New York Knicks Receive:

Carmelo Anthony                                                                        Kevin Love

 

 

Why Cleveland would make this trade: Because Carmelo Anthony is LeBron’s friend, and that matters for some reason.

Why New York would make this trade: If you’re going to have an all-offense forward, better to have one who’s 27 than one who’s 32.

Fake NBA Trade of the Day 6/16/16: Kevin Love Returns to Minnesota

Kevin Love Wolves1

Every day, Pick and Popovich will post one fake trade and explain why it makes sense for every team involved to make it. There are no parameters beyond fitting within the salary cap. Sometimes the trades will involve stars, others role players. They are not grounded in actual rumors, they just make sense on paper. During the 2016 NBA Playoffs, each week will feature seven fake trades of one star player. This is Kevin Love Week. 

Cleveland_Cavaliers_2010.svg                                                         minnesota-timberwolves-logo

 

Cleveland Cavaliers Receive:                                                  Minnesota Timberwolves Receive:

Andrew Wiggins                                                                        Kevin Love

 

 

Why Cleveland would make this trade: To the crowd who says Cleveland never should’ve made the Kevin Love trade in the first place, here’s your chance to be proven right. If Wiggins develops into the defensive player we hope, this could be a decent trade for the Cavs. If he continues to play this much isolation ball on offense? Not so much.

Why Minnesota would make this trade: With Tom Thibodeau, Karl-Anthony Towns and Ricky Rubio the Wolves could protect Love on defense more than just about any other team, and the fit with Towns offensively is incredible. They’d use the No. 5 pick and their cap space to fill out the wings, but this team could jump right into the playoff race right away.

Fake NBA Trade of the Day 6/15/16: Kevin Love to Miami

Kevin Love Heat 3

Every day, Pick and Popovich will post one fake trade and explain why it makes sense for every team involved to make it. There are no parameters beyond fitting within the salary cap. Sometimes the trades will involve stars, others role players. They are not grounded in actual rumors, they just make sense on paper. During the 2016 NBA Playoffs, each week will feature seven fake trades of one star player. This is Kevin Love Week. 

Cleveland_Cavaliers_2010.svg                                     miami-heat-logo

 

Cleveland Cavaliers Receive:                                                  Miami Heat Receive:

Chris Bosh                                                                                     Kevin Love

Josh Richardson                                                                          J.R. Smith                                                                 

Luol Deng*                                                                                   Mo Williams

 

 

Why Cleveland would make this trade: Richardson and Deng are both very valuable three-and-D players, but the real play here is for Bosh. It’s obviously a huge risk, he might never play again. But if he can get healthy, he’s the perfect big man for a LeBron team.

Why Miami would make this trade: It gets them a sure thing in Kevin Love compared to the huge risk that comes with Bosh’s health. They’d then just bring back Dwyane Wade and Hassan Whiteside and have an extremely talented, if not oddly fit, roster.

*Deal depends on Luol Deng agreeing to a sign-and-trade