How Clippers drafting Steph Curry No. 1 would have changed NBA forever

How Clippers drafting Steph Curry No. 1 would have changed NBA forever

Stephen Curry left his New York hotel room 11 years ago and headed to Madison Square Garden for the NBA draft with an uncertain feeling.

"I just officially got butterflies," Curry said at the time. "I'm out of my element now."

In 2009, Curry -- a 6-foot-3 guard from Davidson College in North Carolina -- was the draft's biggest conundrum. A sharpshooting combo guard from a small school that not many people had ever heard of, in a league not ready for the revolution he would lead in the decade to come. Hours later, he'd watch as six names, including four guards, went ahead of his.

In hindsight, Curry's wait shouldn't have been so long.

Three titles, two league MVPs and a Hall of Fame-caliber run later, it begs the question: How would the NBA landscape have changed if Curry, not Oklahoma big man Blake Griffin, had been the No. 1 overall pick in that draft?

A year earlier, Curry decided to return to Davidson with that goal in mind. As a sophomore, he had averaged 25.9 points, shooting 48.3 percent from the field, and helped the Wildcats reach the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament. He returned for his junior season, wanting to show he could be a lead guard.

A year later, Curry improved, bumping his scoring average to 28 points per game. Still, he wasn't able to play his way into being a top-3 pick, and Griffin remained the top choice.

That summer night in New York, Curry was reminded how far he had fallen. He put his head in hands when Griffin was picked No. 1 by the Los Angeles Clippers, as expected. Curry took a deep breath when the Grizzlies selected 7-foot-3 center Hasheem Thabeet No. 2. He softly clapped when the Thunder selected James Harden -- who was seated a table over.

The Kings took Tyreke Evans at No. 4, and the Timberwolves famously took Ricky Rubio and Jonny Flynn -- both point guards -- at No. 5 and No. 6, respectively. Curry finally put his hands in prayer when the Warriors picked him No. 7.

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But had hindsight prevailed, Curry would be a Clipper, rising from college basketball's unknown to the NBA's black sheep.

On the court, Los Angeles' "other team" was a disaster. Its best player, Zach Randolph, was months away from being traded to the Grizzlies. Former Warriors point guard Baron Davis had failed to match his Golden State magic in his hometown.

Worse yet, team owner Donald Sterling had been sued multiple times for housing discrimination. Four years after Curry was drafted, tapes of Sterling making racist comments surfaced, forcing his dismissal from the league.

Toxic employer aside, assuming Curry's early career ankle problems persisted, questions would've remained about his long-term viability. As Curry reconciled his future, Hornets guard Chris Paul was plotting a path out of New Orleans in 2011, preferring a trade to the Orlando Magic, New York Knicks or the Los Angeles Lakers.

Six months after Paul's trade demand, NBA commissioner David Stern -- acting as an owner of the Hornets -- vetoed a deal that would've sent the guard to the Lakers, opting for a trade with the Clippers in exchange for Eric Gordon, center Chris Kaman, forward Al-Farouq Aminu and a first-round draft pick.

Had Curry been a Clipper at the time, he presumably would be in the deal, providing him an opportunity to revitalize his career along the banks of the Mississippi River. A year later, assuming the Hornets still would have finished with the league's second-worst record, they would've selected Kentucky big man Anthony Davis, pairing a future MVP with an All-NBA power forward.

Or, if Stern let the Hornets trade Paul to the Lakers, could it have birthed an inter-city rivalry between Curry and the mighty Lakers? With Kobe Bryant, and perhaps Dwight Howard, probably not.

The Clippers drafting Curry would've meant no Warriors-LeBron James rivalry. In 2009, James still was with the Cleveland Cavaliers, a year away from his departure to South Beach. Without Curry, Golden State isn't a league-shifting team, meaning no NBA titles, no 73-win season, no light-years and probably no Kevin Durant in free agency. James' biggest rival wouldn't exist, meaning he'd have a better chance of chasing Michael Jordan's six NBA titles.

The "what ifs" extend to the draft table. If Curry goes No. 1, does Griffin go No. 2 to Memphis? If so, Grit and Grind doesn't happen with Randolph back in LA. Or, is Griffin picked No. 2 by his hometown Thunder?

[RELATED: Curry wanted Knicks to draft him]

Curry and Griffin's place in the 2009 draft was an indictment on the league's thinking at the time. Over decades, from George Mikan to Wilt, to Kareem to Shaq and Hakeem, you built teams around big men, complimenting them with shooters. To his credit, Griffin was a pillar for the Clippers, helping lead them to the NBA playoffs six times alongside Paul. But Curry represented the league's future, a walking, shooting revolution who changed the way offense is played forever.

But at that moment in New York, it wasn't seen, and Curry punished the league for the rest of his career as a result of the oversight.

Chris Paul admits Steph Curry crossed him in viral 2015 ankle-breaker

Chris Paul admits Steph Curry crossed him in viral 2015 ankle-breaker

Fans don't forget.

Oklahoma City Thunder guard Chris Paul brought Steph Curry onto his Instagram Live on Monday, and the two point guards went through a myriad of topics.

Once Curry joined, however, fans couldn't stop bringing up the infamous 2015 play where the Warriors star absolutely mixed Paul during his days with the Los Angeles Clippers.

The flood of comments eventually led to this hilarious exchange between Curry and Paul.

"Listen man, listen, listen, he got me," Paul said while laughing.

"The funniest part of [it is] how many times we've all been dropped," Curry responded. "You done dropped me at least three times, I got you that one time in L.A., Brandon Jennings got me my rookie year. Like, you can never, ever live it down."

The two also agreed on an important lesson they impart to young players who attend the stars' offseason basketball camps.

"If you play defense long enough, it's gonna happen," Curry said finishing Paul's sentence.

[RELATED: Trae says he'll catch Steph as NBA's best shooter in 1 year]

The two-time MVP also joked that he "don't play defense half the time."

Curry's definitely come a long way defensively in his NBA career from this, though.

At least Steph got his jumper to fall against Paul.

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Warriors' battle vs. Clippers too big on night unlike any they've had

Warriors' battle vs. Clippers too big on night unlike any they've had

SAN FRANCISCO -- On a night unlike any other the history of the NBA, the Warriors walked into an unfair fight.

They took the court Tuesday night to confront a Los Angeles Clippers team built to win a championship, and they did it while trying to suppress emotions and ignore mystery.

How does a predominantly young team composed of players from various parts of several countries, strangers not so long ago, come together in the face of looming danger and play its best basketball?

The Warriors did not, and they should not be blamed.

They took a profound beating, 131-107, and they earned every bit of it. The Warriors in their injury-ravaged state are vastly inferior and, under these circumstances, simply could not summon the level of focus and zeal required to make the Clippers at least break a sweat.

With the thinnest crowd of the season filing into Chase Center in the midst of a disease quickly spreading around the globe -- and already forcing mass cancellations of events large and small -- the Warriors trailed by 10 after four minutes, by 20 after 20 minutes and by 30 after 25.

“Well, I don’t think we gave our fans much of a reason to cheer,” coach Steve Kerr said. “We were down big right away.

“It looked like the crowd got bigger as the game went along. I thought early, as the game began, it didn’t look like there were many people here. Then, later in the game, it looked like it was much more filled in.”

There were late arrivals, to be sure, but thousands of seats remained unoccupied. It contributed to a low-energy environment, with several the Warriors operating under a thick cloud of what feels a lot like denial.

“The virus is obviously scaring a lot of people,” rookie forward Eric Paschall said. “The media is really doing a lot, just putting stuff out there and scaring a lot of people, with a lot of states of emergency. But at the same time, you’ve just got to live your life.”

Center/forward Marquese Chriss insisted that he didn’t notice vibe inside the arena.

“I’m so focused on the game that I don’t really think about anything else,” he said. “You can tell that there was a little (crowd) scarcity. At the end of the day, it’s a basketball game for us, and we are going to try to compete the best way that we can.”

Chriss clearly was speaking for himself. He competed well enough against two very different LA big men to finish with 10 points and a team-high 10 rebounds. He also conceded that he “doesn’t work for the CDC, so I don’t really have the inside scoop on what’s going on.”

Nobody really does. That’s what makes this disease so chilling, and why it is fostering such rampant anxiety.

“I feel like we’ve been educated well enough to know about it,” Paschall said.

Yet the way the Warriors opened the game was very much like a team preoccupied with other matters and it didn’t change much until the fourth quarter, when the game was well out of reach.

The Clippers? They went about their business like a veteran team with a sole purpose. They acknowledged concerns with the coronavirus but were able to compartmentalize the distraction.

“We are no different,” Paul George said. “Everyone is pretty much worried about the virus. It makes no difference. We have a job to do, just like everybody else has a job to do and they go out and do their job. If it’s fans or it isn’t fans, we play ball, we hoop, and we’ll go with it.”

[RELATED: KD will return to Bay, attend Warriors-Nets game at Chase]

The NBA has made no announcement regarding the possibility of holding games without fans. But it has been, and continues to be, discussed. If it comes to that, the magnitude of the matter will be impossible to ignore.

And it certainly would be, at least temporarily, the prudent thing to do.