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.

Nets GM Sean Marks denies wild Gregg Popovich 'Godfather offer' rumor

Nets GM Sean Marks denies wild Gregg Popovich 'Godfather offer' rumor

Could Kevin Durant and Gregg Popovich team up in Brooklyn?

As unlikely as the scenario is, there is a rumor floating around the NBA Twitterverse that the Nets are preparing to try to lure the legendary coach away from the San Antonio Spurs.

Stick with me here.

During a recent episode of the "Let's Get Technical" podcast, former NBA player Gerald Brown joined hosts Rasheed Wallace and Bonzi Wells, and guest Amin Elhassan. Brown said this:

"There's a story going around that the owner of the Brooklyn Nets is looking to make a 'Godfather offer' to Gregg Popovich, and when I say the 'Godfather [offer], it's something he can't refuse," Brown said. "Hearing this news, and it's probably going to circulate more in the days to come, I'm not really buying it at all."

Brown didn't cite a source on this rumor. But back in March, ESPN's Stephen A. Smith did mention Popovich's name as one of three candidates for the Nets' job (H/T The Spun), along with former Cleveland Cavaliers coach Ty Lue and former Warriors coach Mark Jackson.

The Pop-to-Nets rumor had enough legs to make it all the way back to Brooklyn GM Sean Marks, who was asked during an interview on WFAN radio in New York about the idea of pursuing the longtime Spurs coach.

"Pop has a job," Marks told Joe Benigno and Evan Roberts on Friday. "So I will say that. And, obviously, we all know he’s an amazing, amazing coach, and to be quite frank, an even better leader. So I’ll let Pop continue to coach for the Spurs, and He owes it to them and they owe it to him. I’m sure he’s quite happy there."

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But would it make sense for the Warriors nemesis to leave San Antonio for Brooklyn?

The Nets need a permanent coach for the 2020-21 season. Brooklyn fired Kenny Atkinson in March, and interim coach Jacque Vaughn will guide the bare bones team through the NBA restart in Orlando, but he might not be the answer in the long run.

Durant and fellow NBA superstar Kyrie Irving are going to want a coach with experience and a proven plan. While Lue won an NBA title with the Cavs, and Jackson laid the foundation for the Warriors, they aren't the sexy picks.

Why would Popovich leave San Antonio, where he's coached for 24 seasons? The Spurs have been considered the gold standard for NBA teams for the last two decades, but they've fallen on hard times. Their streak of 22 straight NBA playoff appearances likely will come to an end this season, and they don't have a bonafide superstar to build around for the next few seasons.

So maybe it's time for Pop to chase a new challenge. Of course, he's 71 years old and has been coaching in the league since 1988, so maybe his next move is to hang up the clipboard.

But if Popovich wants one more chance to win a ring, bolting for Brooklyn might not be the worst idea, especially if the Nets are willing to make a "Godfather Offer" to him.

[RELATED: Durant all smiles on Dubs anniversary]

There would also be the strange twist of Durant teaming up with Warriors coach Steve Kerr's mentor.

If Pop really did make the move, the Warriors wouldn't have to deal with him in the Western Conference, but if they return to NBA title contention, they might be looking at Popovich, Durant and Irving across from them in the NBA Finals.

Now that's a juicy storyline. NBA Twitter might explode if that happened next summer.

Heat guard Tyler Herro studies Warriors' Klay Thompson to improve shot

Heat guard Tyler Herro studies Warriors' Klay Thompson to improve shot

Klay Thompson's shot is that of near perfection. Steph Curry might be regarded as the greatest shooter in NBA history, but his fellow Splash Brother's form is picturesque. 

Miami Heat rookie Tyler Herro is taking note, too. The shooting guard has taken advantage of his time away from the court before the NBA's restart by watching film on Thompson and other greats.

"Klay Thompson, Ray Allen, CJ McCollum, Steve Nash and Bradley Beal are the guys that’s I’ve watched, just picking different things from each player," Herro recently told reporters, via the South Florida Sun Sentinel's Ira Winderman. 

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Herro, 20, is averaging 12.9 points per game for the Heat while shooting an impressive 39.1 percent from 3-point range. As a rookie, Thompson shot 41.4 percent from deep and has a career 41.9 shooting percentage from beyond the arc. They don't make many like Klay. 

Miami's young sharpshooter is studying one specific part of Thompson's game, too.

"You know, Klay and Ray, they do the catch-and-shoot very well," Herro said. "So that's the thing that I pay attention to when I'm watching them. But every player that I watch, or the coaches have me watch, I can dissect something new or something different from their game to try to add it to mine."

[RELATED: Steph has funny prediction for Warriors-Cavs bubble rematch]

Herro and the Heat resume their season Aug. 1 against the Denver Nuggets in Orlando. In just his first season, he has helped the Heat become a contender as a feared outside shooter and will play a big role once the NBA returns. 

Rested, healthy and full of more knowledge from hours watching film, we'll soon be able to see what exactly Herro picked up from Thompson other great shooters.