NBA: Top 10 ‘What ifs’ from the 2010s

NBA Oklahoma City Thunder James Harden #13, Kevin Durant #35 and Russell Westbrook #0 (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
NBA Oklahoma City Thunder James Harden #13, Kevin Durant #35 and Russell Westbrook #0 (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) /
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NBA Golden State Warriors Stephen Curry ( Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) /

3. What if Stephen Curry had never slipped on a wet spot in the 2016 playoffs?

I know, I said earlier that injury what-ifs were not allowed, but this one was such a freak occurrence with such monumental stakes that I had to include it.

Had Stephen Curry not slipped on the wet spot from Donatas Motiejunas’ back sweat, I believe that the 2015-16 Warriors would have won the NBA Finals. Curry still had a few iconic games, but there were many other moments where the dynamo appeared far less than 100 percent. The Oklahoma City series still goes the distance, but I believe that the Warriors easily handle Cleveland in five games with a fully healthy Curry. (You can say the same with a non-suspended Draymond Green).

So what are the widespread ramifications of this? The 2016 Warriors are universally recognized as the greatest team of all time. While Kevin Durant is still interested in joining Golden State, he decides to kick the can down the road and signs a one-year deal back with Oklahoma City. The 2017 Thunder never get to avenge their loss from the previous season, but they make the NBA Finals, defeating the Spurs in the Western Conference Finals.

The 2017 Finals is a classic, with Cleveland barely coming out on top in seven games. Even immediately following a title run, Kyrie Irving wants out of Cleveland, so the Celtics/Cavs trade still happens. Instead of signing Gordon Hayward, the Celtics sign free agent Kevin Durant to a two-year deal, and to go all-in, trade Jaylen Brown, Avery Bradley and picks for Paul George. The Celtics repeat as champions in 2017 and 2018 with a Kyrie Irving/Paul George/Kevin Durant/Jayson Tatum/Al Horford starting lineup.

Oklahoma City does not skip a beat since they never trade Victor Oladipo before he breaks out. Gordon Hayward never leaves Utah, so the Jazz is an even more formidable Western Conference team. The Rockets make the Finals in 2018, and the Warriors win the West again in 2019. James Harden has two MVPs. And Kevin Durant’s legacy still remains very complicated. As it turns out, Stephen Curry getting injured during the 2016 playoffs worked out in the long run for Golden State.