DBWI: What if the Detroit Pistons drafted Darko Milicic in 2003?

The 2003 NBA Draft is arguably the greatest draft class of all time, and we of course know that the Detroit Pistons managed to get the second pick, and Joe Dumars decided at the last minute to draft Carmelo Anthony instead of the European Darko Milicic. Dumars simply stated that come draft day, he had a gut feeling that he should choose Anthony instead of Milicic. The Pistons dodged a bullet as Milicic was a terrible pick for the Nuggets whereas Anthony became a very important piece of the mid-2000s Pistons, who as we know dominated the mid-2000s, sweeping the Lakers in the 2004 finals (to everyone’s shock), defeating the Spurs in the 2005 finals in 6 games, defeating the Mavericks in 5 games in the 2006 finals, rematching the Spurs in 2007 and defeating them in a very close 7 game series which went down to the wire, and defeated the Lakers in 6 games in the 2008 finals after squeaking past the Celtics in the 2008 ECF. After 2008, as we all know much of the Pistons core left, leaving Anthony alone, and he remained on the team until 2012 where he chose to sign with the New York Knicks as a free agent, where he remained until today. This really makes me question: what if the Pistons made the horrid decision to draft Darko Milicic instead of Carmelo Anthony? Here’s what I think would change:

1. The Pistons dynasty is stopped completely. Though I could see the Pistons still winning in 2004 against the Lakers, I think the Spurs would manage to defeat them ever so slightly in 2005, and I think that the Heat would defeat the Pistons in 2006 without Anthony. From there, I think the team would break apart earlier and Ben Wallace would leave earlier. I could see the team making the ECF up until 2008, but I don’t see them winning any more than 2 championships. Boston likely wins the championship in 2008, giving Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce the championships they never got IOTL. I think the Pistons only win one championship in 2004, and it won’t be a sweep. Pistons fans would always look back to the 2003 draft and be angry at the fact that they passed up on Carmelo Anthony.

2. Carmelo Anthony’s career would be ruined IMO. His very early years on the Pistons were VERY important for his character development and player development. In the ‘03-‘04 season, Larry Brown and the rest of the team taught Anthony the importance of team basketball. Brown always told Anthony that he had to earn his minutes. Of course both Rasheed and Ben Wallace were famous for intimidating Anthony in games where he played sub-par defense. Anthony very quickly learned both to play on a team very well and how to play defense very effectively. Though Anthony is not a lockdown defender, Anthony’s defense is definitely very good, thanks to his early years with the Pistons where he was forced to either learn defense or get benched. If Anthony gets drafted by the Nuggets, I think it will SEVERELY hurt his development as a player. I think he would be known to people today as a me-first, ball-hog player who doesn’t work well as a team player due to him getting the ball all the time during his early years in Denver, in stark contrast to the team play and discipline he developed during his early years in Detroit. Also, Anthony would likely have no rings and would not win two finals MVPs as he did in 2007 and 2008. I highly doubt Denver would be able to build a championship-contending team around him.

3. The NBA does not have as much of an emphasis on defense today. Without the Pistons dynasty, the idea of a very defense-oriented, fundamentals-based team would not appeal to many. I think that the amount of emphasis on defense being important in today’s NBA would be much less if the Pistons only win one championship in 2004 as opposed to the complete dominance they enjoyed IOTL.

All of the NBA would have changed dramatically. What do you think would have been different?
 
I think that the amount of emphasis on defense being important in today’s NBA would be much less if the Pistons only win one championship in 2004 as opposed to the complete dominance they enjoyed IOTL.

Would that be a bad thing? No one wants to go back to the nadir of the 2010 Finals with scores like Spurs 59, Magic 56 and Magic 62, Spurs 61. Even today it's rare to see crucial games end with the winner having triple digits.
 
Would that be a bad thing? No one wants to go back to the nadir of the 2010 Finals with scores like Spurs 59, Magic 56 and Magic 62, Spurs 61. Even today it's rare to see crucial games end with the winner having triple digits.
I personally like the defensive style we see in today’s NBA a lot, though admittedly I’m one of the few who do. I personally like it a lot better than the small ball style which is starting to get popularized because of the Golden State Warriors.
 
I personally like the defensive style we see in today’s NBA a lot, though admittedly I’m one of the few who do. I personally like it a lot better than the small ball style which is starting to get popularized because of the Golden State Warriors.

As a coach, playing the defensive style is a safe bet, and yeah, I personally like it too, but to a lot of fans out there, it simply made the game boring.

Consider that the Grizzlies, the Super Sonics, the Hornets, the Clippers, the Nets and the Kings were each moved around to different cities at least three times in the 'Dark Ages' of 2006-2016 because of low attendance. The finances of the franchises and the league were so bad during this period, that the above teams had to merge with other teams (or with each other) and the league contracted to 24 teams, though the Super Sonics eventually moved back to Seattle and merged with the Grizzlies (with the help of Micro$oft and Boeing).

The Warriors, the Raptors, and the revamped Sonics are currently experimenting with the Euroball style, run-and-gun basketball where everyone runs, try to get a shot within 10 seconds, and shoot threes (even the centres). Yeah, those teams are currently in the middle of the pack, and the constant lead-changes would give any coach out there a heart attack, and their 120-points-per-team games are ludicrous, but they are also the biggest money-makers in the league right now, simply because it's more exciting and entertaining for the general public out there.
 
3. The NBA does not have as much of an emphasis on defense today. Without the Pistons dynasty, the idea of a very defense-oriented, fundamentals-based team would not appeal to many. I think that the amount of emphasis on defense being important in today’s NBA would be much less if the Pistons only win one championship in 2004 as opposed to the complete dominance they enjoyed IOTL.
However, focus on defensive strategy by NBA led to viewership decline by 30%. As people wanted more goals. We don't see three-digit scores these days.
 
OOC: Carmelo Anthony was well known for not being able to play defense for shit. How the hell does his presence on the Pistons turn the NBA defense-heavy? And five titles in a row for any team is pushing it; five in a row for that Pistons team is flat-out ASB.
 
OOC: Carmelo Anthony was well known for not being able to play defense for shit. How the hell does his presence on the Pistons turn the NBA defense-heavy? And five titles in a row for any team is pushing it; five in a row for that Pistons team is flat-out ASB.

OOC: Also add in the fact that Larry Brown wasn't keen on playing rookies in general. IMO I doubt Anthony gets much if any playing time on the 2003 team due to his lack of defense which could cause serious chemistry problems. I just don't see it as overly likely that he responds the way that the OP posits especially if he's taken #2 overall. If he does struggle in Detroit and upset team chemistry, perhaps he's traded at the deadline to get Rasheed Wallace instead?

I also doubt that the Pistons winning would change the NBA. Rule changes that favored offense were put in place during the 2004-05 season IIRC as a direct response to the Pistons shocking the "Super team" Lakers. The NBA knew that the Pistons brand of basketball doesn't put bums in seats and worked to change it in OTL ASAP. A Pistons team that kept winning with defense would be an unmitigated disaster for the NBA and IMO they would work as hard as possible to discourage that style of play if they ran off a string of championships like you posit. Likely this takes the shape of additional rule changes earlier.
 
I also doubt that the Pistons winning would change the NBA. Rule changes that favored offense were put in place during the 2004-05 season IIRC as a direct response to the Pistons shocking the "Super team" Lakers. The NBA knew that the Pistons brand of basketball doesn't put bums in seats and worked to change it in OTL ASAP.

The Pistons winning was part of it, but even if the Lakers had won as anticipated, we'd probably have seen rule changes fairly soon. It wasn't just the Pistons, 2003-4 was the height of defense and the bottom of offense across the whole league, and it was a trend. If you butterfly the Malice at The Palace and get a Spurs/Pacers (two stingy teams) Finals in 2005 with very low ratings, that'll be an equal kicker.
 
2. Carmelo Anthony’s career would be ruined IMO. His very early years on the Pistons were VERY important for his character development and player development. In the ‘03-‘04 season, Larry Brown and the rest of the team taught Anthony the importance of team basketball. Brown always told Anthony that he had to earn his minutes. Of course both Rasheed and Ben Wallace were famous for intimidating Anthony in games where he played sub-par defense. Anthony very quickly learned both to play on a team very well and how to play defense very effectively. Though Anthony is not a lockdown defender, Anthony’s defense is definitely very good, thanks to his early years with the Pistons where he was forced to either learn defense or get benched. If Anthony gets drafted by the Nuggets, I think it will SEVERELY hurt his development as a player. I think he would be known to people today as a me-first, ball-hog player who doesn’t work well as a team player due to him getting the ball all the time during his early years in Denver, in stark contrast to the team play and discipline he developed during his early years in Detroit. Also, Anthony would likely have no rings and would not win two finals MVPs as he did in 2007 and 2008. I highly doubt Denver would be able to build a championship-contending team around him.
Come on, let's not get bamboozled into drinking the Larry Brown kool-aid to this degree. Anybody could have won championships with that roster.

Carmelo Anthony's PER increased every time he was given more minutes, and it started high to begin with. Look at LeBron James. Some guys are just ready to go their rookie year. Without Brown stifling his development, Anthony could come into his own much sooner. What was the Nuggets cap situation like back then? Free agents would be lining up to play with a rising star.

Yeah, the media wouldn't be able to hype up Anthony vs. LeBron as the NBA's Brady vs. Manning, but that's a good thing as far as I'm concerned.
 
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