Here's why even a Rockets "Dream" scenario doesn't guarantee a thing

Composite image by Jack Brame.

Have you seen this show on NBA TV, What If? It's an old series that, like history, keeps repeating itself. Each episode poses a hypothetical question and former and current NBA players and so-called experts speculate what would have happened … if only.

Last night’s episode asked, how many NBA titles would your Houston Rockets have won if they had accepted the Portland Trail Blazers alleged trade offer in 1984 of the No. 2 draft pick and Clyde Drexler for Ralph Sampson?

That was the year that the Rockets already had the No. 1 pick and took Hakeem Olajuwon. Portland, holding onto No. 2 selected Sam Bowie, which turned out to be one of the biggest blunders in NBA Draft history. Of course the Chicago Bulls snared some guy named Michael Jordan with the next pick and the rest was history - for the rest of the league.

The Rockets supposedly turned down Portland’s offer because management had heightened expectations of teaming Olajuwon and Sampson as the “Twin Towers.”

If the Rockets had taken up Portland on the trade, it would have meant The Dream, Air Jordan and The Glide on the same team for the next 10-15 years. How many titles would the Rockets have won? All sorts of crazy numbers were tossed around, up to 10 championships.

Please stop.

Nobody is worse at predicting the NBA than the NBA.

The favorites to win the East this year? The Brooklyn Nets with Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving colluding to wreck the league. Who was going to beat a team boasting perhaps three of the Top 10 players in the whole league? As it turned out, the Nets had an often-injured but undeniable superstar, a petulant spoiled brat with a wandering eye, and an anti-vax oddball who played a cameo role this season by choice. The Nets barely made the playoffs and were promptly dispatched in a 4-0 sweep by the Boston Celtics.

The favorites to win the West this year? The Los Angeles Lakers with LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook who also dictated where they’d play. It turned out the Lakers’ Big 3 was a Magnificent 1 (LeBron), with Davis getting nicknamed “Street Clothes” and Westbrook labeled “Westbrick.” The Lakers didn’t even make the playoffs and the coach was fired before the final buzzer stopped buzzing. It was enough to make you feel sorry for LeBron James.

You don’t have to look past the NBA Draft to see how awful the NBA is at predicting its own future. This year’s favorite to win MVP is Philadelphia big man Joel Embiid. He was picked No.3 in the 2014 behind Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker. Wiggins is a nice third option with the Golden State Warriors. Parker is out of the league.

Last year’s MVP was Denver center Nikola Jokic. He was taken No. 41 in the second round of the 2014 draft.

Two-time MVP (2019 and 2020) Giannis Antetokounmpo was drafted No. 15 in 2013. The No. 1 pick that year was Anthony Bennett. He lasted only four years in the league, played for four different teams, and averaged only 4 points for his “career.” Then he was four-gotten.

What do the following players have in common: Zion Williamson, Markelle Fultz, Ben Simmons, Andrew Wiggins, and Anthony Bennett?

Answer: they were No. 1 overall NBA Draft picks within the past 10 years. NBA teams who spend millions on scouting college and European players miss half the time on who’s the best available player in the draft. Half the time!

And it’s not “too soon” to hang bust on Zion. He's fat. And the New Orleans Pelicans marketing department isn’t using Zion in its sales pitch for next season. Meanwhile former No. 2 pick Ja Morant is dropping 47 against the Warriors this week.

Other topics debated on the NBA TV series ask what if the Minnesota Timberwolves had drafted Steph Curry in 2009 when they had two shots at the 3-point deadeye? By the way, two years later the Timberwolves passed on Klay Thompson, the other Splash Brother. Minnesota, do better.

Also, what if the Seattle SuperSonics had kept their No. 5 draft pick Scottie Pippen instead of immediately trading him to Chicago for Olden Polynice in 1987?

The answers to all these questions is … nobody knows. If they did, Nike would be selling billions of Air Bowie sneakers, there’d be 10 championship banners hanging in Toyota Center and the NBA would be drooling over a Nets-Lakers finals this year.

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

ESPN Houston 97.5 FM
This is getting out of hand. Photo by Ronald Martinez/Allsport/Getty Images.

Dr. Rick warns his patients, young homeowners who are turning into their parents, you can expect to pay more for snacks and drinks at a movie theater. It's the same deal at a professional sports venue. Three years ago, I put a down payment on a cheeseburger at Toyota Center ... I still have three more payments to go before I get it.

But this is ridiculous. The PGA Championship, the lesser (least) of golf's majors, is charging $18 for a beer, a 25-ounce Michelob Ultra, at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa. It's $19 for a Stella Artois. You can buy a six-pack for less at the supermarket. Aren't there laws against price gouging, like during a hurricane? Isn't Tulsa where the Golden Hurricanes play? Get FEMA in here. Did tournament directors get together and ponder, how can we piss off our fans? Sure, it's Tulsa and there's not much else to do, but that's no excuse.

Charging $18 for a beer makes the concession stands at Minute Maid Park look like a Sunday morning farmer's market. A 25-ounce domestic beer during an Astros game is $13.49. A 25-ounce premium beer is $14.45. Yeah, that's high for a beer, but at Minute Maid Park there are lots of hands in the till. Aramark wants to make a profit, the taxman has big mitts, and the Astros want their cut, too. Look, you want to sign Kyle Tucker and Yordan Alvarez to an extension or not? Then drink up and don't complain. Some quiet grumbling and head-shaking is permitted, however.

You know the PGA Championship is charging too much for a beer when even the rich pampered players take notice. "18 (!!!!!) for a beer ... uhhh what," former PGA Championship winner Justin Thomas tweeted. "Good thing I don't drink a lot."

Like he will be in line for a beer at a public concession booth, anyway.

Of course there will be fans sneaking in beer in baggies strapped to their ankles, like stuffing your pockets with store-bought Snickers before going to the movies. It doesn't have to be this way. The Masters, the most prestigious golf event, charges only $5 for both domestic and imported beer. I know it's a gimmick, part of The Masters mystique along with pimento sandwiches for $1.50, but still it's a welcome gesture. You never lose when you treat the public fairly. When Mercedes-Benz Stadium opened in Atlanta, Falcons owner Arthur Blank insisted that food vendors charge the same inside the stadium as they do at their regular restaurants. Same thing when Denver International Airport opened, fast food restaurants couldn't jack up their prices to their captive customers. Here? There needs to be a loan window outside the Cinnabon booth at Bush-Intercontinental.

Except for the Masters in Augusta, golf's majors aren't tied to a city. A major comes to a city maybe every few years or in most cases never. There's no need to ride into a city like the James Gang, rob the local bank, and high tail it out of town. Golf should be the last professional sport to stick it to fans. While the game has made strides to open its arms to lower-income youths, golf remains an elitist, extremely expensive sport for regular folk. Equipment is expensive, private courses are exclusive and country clubs are exclusionary. Public courses are less expensive but still expensive and crowded. Plus there's never been a professional sport more dangerously dominated by one person than golf. I can imagine network executives on their knees praying that Tiger Woods makes the cut and plays on weekends. Otherwise, TV ratings go straight into the toilet, you know, like whatever team Mattress Mack is betting on. (I joke because I love, and frankly a little scared.)

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome