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THE MOST UNKNOWN NBA "WHAT IF" OF ALL TIME That would make the Warriors look like a G League team


Ethan Sherwood Strauss’s book revealed the Warriors tried to trade Steph and Klay for Chris Paul in 2011. Not only that, one GM said, “The Warriors were blind lucky that they were unsuccessful in trading Steph and Klay together for the stars they offered them together for. There were many, many people they tried to get and failed.” A monster trade that would alter the past NBA decade, but still not the most impactful “what if” in NBA history.

In 1984, the Houston Rockets had the opportunity to trade Ralph Sampson to the Portland Trailblazers for Clyde Drexler and the number 2 overall pick in that year’s draft, which could have resulted in a Rockets lineup lead by Drexler, Olajuwon, and Michael Jordan.

In his autobiography, Living the Dream, Olajuwon mentions an intriguing draft trade offered to the Rockets that would have sent Clyde Drexler and the number two pick in the 1984 NBA draft from Portland in exchange for Ralph Sampson. Rockets were offered Clyde “The Glide” Drexler and the 1984 #2 pick in exchange for Ralph Sampson. They already had the #1 pick in that 1984 draft, which they used to take Hakeem. They could have then used the #2 pick to take Michael Jordan, who famously went #3 to the Bulls after the Blazers took Sam Bowie at #2.

Sampson was a 7’4 college phenom who won NCAA Player of the Year twice and was considered as a monstrous physical specimen, which would later form the original Twin Towers with Hakeem. However, though he would make the HOF in 2012, Sampson would have an ultimately disappointing career, with injuries forcing him into early retirement after ten seasons (but only about four full seasons worth of quality games). His best season was probably his 21-11-2 w/ 2 blocks on 52-66% as a rookie.

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If the Rockets had pulled the trigger on that trade, they could have potentially had Hakeem, Jordan, and Drexler on the same team, all straight out of college. Drexler was Hakeem’s Phi Slama Jama teammate in college at Houston. He led the Blazers to two Finals appearances, and his peak NBA season was a LeBron-esque 27-8-6 with 2.7 steals on 50% shooting. Jordan is the consensus GOAT, and was throwing down obscene numbers even in his early 20s (28 ppg on 51.5% as a rookie, 35-5.9-5.5-1.6-3.2 on 53.5-84% as MVP and DPOY in his 4th season), but couldn’t get past the Bad Boys Pistons in the playoffs until he got a better team around him.

As much as the league salivated over the idea of a twin-towers setup, the Blazers drafting Bowie at 2 was considered a reach at the time, mostly due to his injury history. After the 1980-1981 college season, a stress fracture in his left tibia was discovered. The injury caused Bowie to miss the entire 1981–82 season. The stress fracture did not heal completely, and Bowie sat out the entire 1982–83 season as well. He was in a cast for 44 weeks. The Rockets choosing MJ is the more likely scenario.

Sportswriter Sam Smith speculates that such a trade “would have changed league history and maybe the entire Michael Jordan legend.

Imagine what kind of a dynasty the Rockets could have had with those three HOFers playing together--from day one, and potentially for the next decade or even more. Hakeem and Jordan combined to win eight straight titles from 1991 to 1998 (three Jordan, two Hakeem, three Jordan). Imagine them playing on the same team from day one as rookies, along with Clyde the Glide in his second season.

These hypothetical Jordan-Hakeem-Drexler super-Rockets would have had to compete with the Magic-Kareem-Worthy Showtime Lakers (5 titles, 9 Finals in 11 seasons from 1979-80 to 1990-91), Bird-McHale-Parish Celtics (3 titles, 5 Finals in 7 seasons from 1980-81 to 1986-87), and Isiah-Laimbeer Bad Boys Pistons (2 titles, 3 Finals in 3 seasons from 1987-88 to 1989-90) for titles. Not even mentioning the Stockton-Malone Jazz and other great teams of that era.

All we know is that Michael Jordan, Hakeem Olajuwon, and Clyde Drexler are one of the best players in league history, so it would have been great to witness them play on the same team.

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