Today marks the seven-year anniversary of one of the worst picks of all time. To whit, in the latest edition of NBA history "what-ifs", I present to you the following hypothetical: What if, instead of taking legendary bust Anthony Bennett with the first overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft, the Cleveland Cavaliers selected Victor Oladipo?
Bennett was a wildcard of a choice. Oladipo had a great college career and a resume worthy of the first overall selection. It's the most likely what-if scenario, given nobody knew that Giannis Antetokoumpo (15th overall) or C.J. McCollum (10th overall) would be this good. Oladipo went second. How would the tides have changed if the Cavs picked the Indiana superstar?
Now, it's important to remember that the Cavs wouldn't be getting the Oladipo we see now in a Pacers uniform. It took a while for his career trajectory to really skyrocket, and in this alternate history, he may never even reach the heights he enjoyed before going down with a serious injury last year. In Oladipo's rookie season in Orlando, he averaged 13 points per game. Nothing crazy, but significantly better than Bennett's 4.2 PPG in Cleveland. Oladipo would have been a solid sidekick to the Kyrie Irving show.
Bennett and the Cavs stunk so bad in 2014 they ended up with the first overall pick in that year's draft, too. They took Andrew Wiggins, LeBron declared his intention to come home, and the two first overall picks were shipped off to Minnesota for Kevin Love. NBA conspiracies about first overall picks being given instead of decided by chance aside, let's assume Oladipo's talent allows the Cavs to win a few more games. They end up with the third overall pick instead. They select Joel Embiid.
Now what? It seems probable that not much would change, since everybody knew Embiid would miss a good portion of the season at least after hurting his foot before the draft and LeBron wanted to win right now with a third star. The less-fun outcome of all this is that the Timberwolves end up with an Oladipo-Embiid core, which would be pretty awesome. It would also mean they probably wouldn't take Karl-Anthony Towns, and instead take one D'Angelo Russell. Funny how that works out.
But what if LeBron saw a young Dwyane Wade in Oladipo and decided he wanted to keep him around? The Cavs wouldn't have been the powerhouse they were in 2014-15, but they would have been better. The following season, they trot out Irving, LeBron, Oladipo, Embiid, and Tristian Thompson. That's a pretty good starting five, even if Embiid's injury issues may not go away in this alternative reality. It could even be enough to take down the Warriors in the Finals, given their only true weakness during those dynasty years was dominant big men.
Fun to think about, at least!