As a history student, one thing I have been consistently taught is to avoid dabbling in the counter-factual. Counter-factuals, for those that do not know, are where you take something that did not happen, and ask "what if?" What if the Sixers won the 1993 NBA Draft Lottery? Well, they didn't, we'll never know. What if Ray Allen missed the three point shot in the waning seconds of Game Six? Well, he drained it, we'll never know. What if the Sixers never hired Eddie Jordan? Well, they did, and now everyone and their mother has Evan Turner egg on their face.
But sometimes, a counter-factual is so pertinent that the question must be explored. Change one thing, and the NBA as we know it might be completely different. If we go back and explore one what if, we can realize the magnitude it ultimately had on not just the Sixers, but the entire landscape of the NBA.
What if the 76ers never traded for Andre Miller?
In the NBA, there are a very few number of players I actively dislike. Even on rival teams, do I really dislike Carmelo Anthony? Of course not. I can appreciate what he does well, note the flaws in his game (especially if I'm in a trolling mood), but on the whole, I can't say that I dislike him as a player.
But Andre Miller, oh Andre Miller is a different story. Oh, and Billy King as well but now he has turned the Brooklyn Nets into the most awesomest mediocre team that can never win a championship so all is kind of forgiven there.
Because Andre Miller almost single-handedly screwed the Sixers. Andre Miller is a huge reason Sam Hinkie is needed today. For the Sixers, Andre Miller was nothing more than a saboteur* disguised as a good player on a crappy crappy team.
*Thus making him a perfect casting choice as The Mole or the Whodunnit? Killer if ABC ever brings those shows back.
Let's go back to the day the Sixers traded away Allen Iverson for Andre Miller and other parts. The Sixers were dead last in the entire NBA. They were 5-19 through 24 games and just an abomination of a basketball team. Allen Iverson was a shell of his former self and by this time Chris Webber had completed his successful transformation from dominant basketball player to the walking dead*. It was bad, and with the 2007 draft being what it was, it was glorious. Beautiful glorious tanking. This was going to be it. Greg Oden, Kevin Durant, Joakim Noah, Al Horford, Kevin Effing Durant. All the pieces were in place to get a potential generational talent that could re-shape the entire franchise.
*TNT knew what they were doing when they paired him with Dick Stockton on broadcasts. Oh snap.
And Andre Miller exploded onto the 76ers with a heavy barrage of successful long twos that Doug Collins orgasm'd over. Thanks to Andre Miller shooting 46.4% with 416 assists and playing well, he ensured the Sixers went from crap team to mediocre team good enough to win some games. Andre Miller was too good for the team's good, and took them from contention to 1st overall pick to 12th overall pick and blew any chance the Sixers may have had at drafting a healthy Kevin Durant. Miller's absurd hot streaks left the team in an inescapable rut they did not get out of until earlier this year when the Sixers hired Sam Hinkie and he initiated the rebuild. All the while a hormonally confused teenaged me could not help but watch Miller and scream "screw you you fat pig!" while inadvertently striking the house cat with the TV remote.
With the 12th overall pick that year, the Sixers ended up drafting Thaddeus Young. The only saving grace about this draft outcome was Spencer Hawes was picked two picks before. And while Thad is a nice basketball player, he is not a franchise altering player, which is the only thing that could have saved the Sixers. 2006-07 was a fantastic year to tank, and Andre Miller put the tank to a complete halt.
It is impossible to say how the draft lottery would have panned out had the Sixers not traded for Andre Miller. Change one thing, change everything. You can't assume the worst team in the NBA gets that top pick in the draft.
What if the Sixers never traded for Andre Miller? The Sixers have a shot at landing Kevin Durant. And if things had gone right on lottery night and draft day, Kevin Durant is contending for NBA Championships as a superstar on the Sixers. Think about how the NBA would be so much different if Durant is drafted by the Sixers. The Sixers could possibly be right up there with the Heat right now. Instead, it took an ownership change and Sam Hinkie to set the Sixers up to be where they should have been in 2007.
The 2006-07 Sixers were a mess on wheels and Andre Miller took them and made them just mediocre enough to miss the playoffs while costing them any semblance of a good draft pick. If the Sixers used that Iverson trade to exclusively acquire future assets instead of a 31-year old Miller, they could have been a very special breed of awful and in doing so could have easily had a top 3 pick in the 2007 Draft. Andre Miller cost the Sixers a shot at Kevin Durant. Think about that and think about the last six years and cry yourself to sleep like you haven't been doing so since then even though we all know you have.
All of this Durant dreaming, of course, also assumes the Sixers had fired Billy King in the off-season. Otherwise the Trail Blazers would have picked Oden at #1, and the Sixers would have taken on the Yi Jianlian experiment at #2. Don't you dare think what ended up happening to his career was the absolute worst case scenario. You never saw Yi Jianlian: #2 pick in the 2007 NBA Draft and you never saw Yi Jianlian: Philadelphia 76er. Oh and Durant's still on the board, the Thunder draft him #3 overall, and absolutely nothing about the NBA landscape changes.
Yep. That's the more likely scenario. The late 2000 76ers could have never had such a nice thing.
But screw Andre Miller for never even giving the Sixers the opportunity at something great.