It's an experience like none other, being an NBA draft prospect. There are so many things to be done before reaching that point, like learning and falling in love with the game, developing your ability to play, finding a way on to some of the better programs in the country to hopefully put yourself on the map and have your name placed on an NBA Scouts list, honing your skills and becoming one of the select few draft night prospects just hoping to hear your name called.
All that work and processing and you aren't even in the league yet. Even on draft night the work still continues. You have to first, hope that you get drafted, there after hope you get drafted into a good situation, and lastly, think about all the other aspects of your life that will be maneuvered around where your new job is located. Even for the guys running the teams, you have to look at all the available prospects, hope to choose the best player for your team, and hope no one takes anyone better after you.
All these things culminate into what NBA fans all around know as the NBA draft. Now many times some of us like to look back on past draft nights and re-do them based off of how the players of a given draft class' respective careers have gone, or look at some trades that affected the possession of draft picks and how that changed some players careers.
We at The Sportster decided to do a little bit of research and came to find some surprising conditions on what could have been for some of your favorite NBA players. And here they are – 15 current NBA stars who almost began their pro careers playing for another team.
15 Kawhi Leonard: Indiana Pacers
Kawhi Leonard is known for being one of the best two way players in the game, a quiet soul, and probably the most emotionless player in the league which all make him a perfect fit for the San Antonio Spurs. Since entering the league he has slowly grown into one of the best players in the game, but he actually wasn't originally with San Antonio. With the 15th pick in the 2011 NBA draft, the Indiana Pacers selected Leonard and later traded him to the Spurs for George Hill, who is a good player, but just doesn't hold much of a candle compared to Kawhi. That being the case, especially considering how close the Pacers once were to getting to the NBA Finals, maybe they should have kept that one. The duo of Paul George and Kawhi Leonard would have been devastating on both defense and offense.
14 LaMarcus Aldridge: Chicago Bulls
Also almost starting their career elsewhere is Kawhi’s teammate, LaMarcus Aldridge. Aldridge was the 2nd overall pick in the 2006 NBA draft and was originally selected by the Chicago Bulls. He would later be traded to Portland where he spent the first nine seasons of his NBA career and lead them to numerous playoff berths and overall success. The Bulls on the other hand - well - they ended up with the No.1 overall pick just two seasons later so… do with that information what you will. The point is that LA12 had shown how skilled of a player he is throughout his career and based on that, as well as the lack of success that has followed the Bulls since ‘06, Chicago probably should have considered keeping Aldridge on board.
13 Steven Adams: Toronto Raptors
We all have come to know Steven Adams to be one of the bigger stars in Oklahoma City over the past few years. He was one half of the tandem formerly known as the Stache Bros with Enes Kanter, and could pass as a doppelganger to Jason Momoa. All jokes aside, he had developed from a young prospect into one of the most underrated yet very appreciated players in the game. We've been able to see him grow before our very eyes with the Thunder, but what you probably didn't know about him is that he almost did not start his career in Oklahoma City. Adams was taken by the Thunder with the 12th overall pick in the 2013 NBA draft, a pick that originally belonged to the Toronto Raptors. So instead of spending his entire career thus far in OKC with Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, he could have been a part of a quite endearing frontcourt out north with Jonas Valanciunas and grow alongside the likes of DeMar DeRozan.
12 Isaiah Thomas: Chicago Bulls
We all know the story surrounding Isaiah Thomas. The last pick in the 2011 draft, he started his career as one of the more underrated players in the game in Sacramento, signed to Phoenix and drastically declined, got traded to Boston and revived his career in the biggest way and then got shipped off to Cleveland this past Summer. It's been a trip to say the least for IT, but there is a lost chapter in his story. The last pick in the 2011 draft originally belonged to the Chicago Bulls but it was traded to Sacramento, resulting in Thomas landing there to start his career. Now the Bulls at the time had 2011 NBA MVP Derrick Rose, but given everything that happened with him since then, maybe the Bulls would have been better off keeping this pick.
11 Damian Lillard: Brooklyn Nets
Damian Lillard is one of the most underrated players in the entire NBA today. He is a top scorer and is a great leader, and throughout his NBA career he has made strides that have went on to prove these things about him. What you may not know is that he probably shouldn't be a Trail Blazer right now. So Nets fans, you remember when Brooklyn traded with Portland to acquire Gerald Wallace? Well unfortunately, that is why Damian Lillard, one of the best point guards in the entire NBA, is in Portland and not Brooklyn. The irony of it all is that the Nets made this trade looking to construct a championship contender. This was one of many mistakes made by the Nets in years past, and they didn't stop there…
10 Draymond Green: Brooklyn Nets
This is another one of those mistakes. Yes, Draymond Green almost played for the Nets as well. Another name to chalk up on the list of players that Brooklyn has missed out on next to Markelle Fultz, Jaylen Brown and Damian Lillard, among others. The Nets traded away a future second round pick to the Golden State Warriors in what was considered one of those throwaway deals that happen in the NBA every now and then. Little did they know, that throw away pick would turn out being one of the most versatile, elite players and best all-around performers in the game today, not to mention a key contributor to the best team in the league today. Moral of the story: stop trading draft picks, Brooklyn.
9 Eric Bledsoe: Miami Heat
Earlier this season, Eric Bledsoe made waves onto NBA headlines for his desire to exit from the Phoenix Suns. The 18th pick from the 2010 NBA draft has had a rather interesting career considering how he has been able to develop his game and be considered one of the upper-tier players in the game today after starting out his career as your average role player. Now what you know is that he opened his NBA career as the backup to Chris Paul with the Los Angeles Clippers, and as a free agent opted to sign to Phoenix with the desire to be a starter. Fast forward a couple of years later and we reach to where he was traded to Milwaukee. However, his career could have possibly began in Miami, as the Heat originally had the rights to the 18th pick in 2010. Meaning there was a strong chance that Bledsoe could have played with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh during the Heat’s championship runs. Wouldn't that have been something?
8 Marc Gasol: Los Angeles Lakers
I guess the Gasol name was always meant to be connected to the Los Angeles Lakers. Fans of the NBA from from the 2000s know that Pau Gasol was a key contributor to the Lakers championship run in the later part of the decade. In the trade that went down between the Lakers and Grizzlies centered around the Lakers acquiring Pau, it involved the Lakers second round pick in the 2007 NBA draft which ended up being Pau’s little brother, Marc. Funny how that worked out huh? The trade worked out for both sides involved as the Lakers went on to win a couple of more championships and the Grizzlies gained a future top tier center, but it still would have been pretty cool to see Marc Gasol rock that Laker gold and purple.
7 Kevin Love: Memphis Grizzlies
Now Marc Gasol ending up in Memphis was great for the Grizzlies, as it created a duo between him and Mike Conley that the Grizzlies would get to build around in 2007. In 2008, however, they made a move that might have reshaped their fortunes. Holding the 5th-overall pick in 2008, Memphis selected Kevin Love, a future champion who would prove to be a key component to any team with his ability to score and rebound the ball early in his career. Looking at the level of success that the Grizzlies were able to attain with Gasol and Conley leading the way, it may have been in their best interests to have retained Love and have him grow alongside Conley and Gasol. Who knows what they could have achieved together.
6 Andrew Wiggins: Cleveland Cavaliers
Of course, Kevin Love did not stay in Minnesota. He was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the summer of 2014, and this guy in the photo above is why. LeBron James had made a decision to return to Cleveland to help bring the city a world championship, putting the Cavaliers back into “win-now” mode. Andrew Wiggins not exactly being in good position to gel with the newly built Cavaliers was seen as better fit for a team looking to rebuild. The Wolves just so happened to be that team, and they had the star player that worked best for the Cavs. And so the deal was done, and while it has worked out for both sides as the Wolves are back into playoff contention now and the Cavs have a championship under their belt, it would have been a sight to see having AW play alongside LeBron and Kyrie in Cleveland.
5 Devin Booker: Orlando Magic
The Orlando Magic had possession of the 5th overall pick in the NBA draft in 2015 and decided to take Mario Hezonja, a pick that thus far they are surely regretting, especially considering who else was available at the time. What a lot of you probably didn't know was that the guy taken at number 13 overall, Devin Booker had a pretty good relationship with Magic management and believed that he would have been drafted by Orlando. Not only would drafting Booker have been better for Orlando, given how the careers of Hezonja and Booker have gone thus far, but it also would have been better for Devin himself. He would he have been paired up with Aaron Gordon, creating a dangerous duo to build around, and together they would probably have the Magic competing for a playoff spot in the Eastern conference by now. Guess both Phoenix and Orlando will have to stick it out a little longer at the bottom of the well.
4 Rudy Gobert: Denver Nuggets
As some of you may know, the Utah Jazz have a phenomenal young rookie who looks like he will be a franchise player moving forward – Donovan Mitchell. The Jazz acquired Mitchell by trading for his rights with the Denver Nuggets on draft night. Nuggets fans are probably still upset about that but what they probably don't realize is that this is the second time this has happened. Back in 2013, Rudy Gobert was taken with the 27th overall pick, a pick that originally belonged to - you guessed it - the Denver Nuggets. Had Denver kept possession of that pick the could have had a frontcourt of Nikola Jokic and Gobert. On top of that, Denver basically handed Utah two of their current best players. A word of advice, next time you're in trade talks with the Jazz involving a first round pick, don't do it.
3 Gordon Hayward: New York Knicks
Staying with players connected with the Jazz, we all know about how Gordon Hayward has developed into one of the better players in the league over the years since entering into the NBA in 2010 and how that all lead to him getting paid top dollar to join the Celtics in this past offseason. What you may not know is that he almost started his career with a Celtics division rival in the New York Knicks. The 9th-overall pick in the 2010 NBA draft originally belonged to the Knicks but it was traded to Utah, hence Gordon Hayward playing the majority of his career thus far with the Jazz. Realistically speaking, because of the kind of player he was considered to be at the start of his career, he likely would have been a part of the Carmelo Anthony trade in 2011. We don't really know, but that doesn't change how interesting it could have been to see Gordon dawn those Knicks colors.
2 Stephen Curry: Minnesota Timberwolves
Timberwolves fans, I can't tell you how happy I am that your team has finally got it going and is set to make the postseason again. Because if not, the 2009 NBA draft would haunt you for quite a while. The Minnesota Timberwolves had the 5th and 6th picks in the draft. And even in knowing the downside to Steph’s physical build going into the draft, it’s still hard to grasp that not only did you pass on him twice, you selected two point guards over him, the guy who won back-to-back MVP awards in 2015-16, a two time champion, and the greatest shooter in league history. I still have a hard time getting past that. You could have paired him with Kevin Love and thereby created a pretty competitive team in the Western conference for years to come. Instead you took Ricky Rubio and Jonny Flynn. Come on now.
1 Kyrie Irving: Los Angeles Clippers
Uncle Drew is without a doubt a top tier player in the league today as well one of the all time players in Cleveland Cavaliers history in spite of how he exited from the franchise. It is nearly impossible to even think about him without taking into consideration all the things he did for the team and the city as a whole. It's even crazier when you realize that he almost never made the team. Irving was the very first pick in the 2011 NBA draft by the Cleveland Cavaliers. Now while the Cavs in the 2010-2011 were pretty bad, they weren't “first pick in the draft” bad. What did happen was that they acquired the first pick of the Los Angeles Clippers and with that, were able to pick up Irving. It would have been interesting to see Irving get paired up with Blake Griffin and. To see him bring his ballhandling ability to the bright lights of Los Angeles. If he starts his career over there, you’d have to think that LeBron wouldn't leave Miami, thus reshaping the league as a whole. This instance and many others listed before just make you think about how different the NBA could have been if some transactions never happened.