Steph Curry has revolutionized the NBA and been the key figure in ushering in an unprecedented era of Warriors basketball. He has been absolutely essential to the heights Golden State has achieved in recent years, and it's scary to think of all that likely wouldn't have occurred if he had been anywhere else.
Before Curry could begin making his case as the greatest player in Warriors history, he nearly didn't get the chance. Back during the 2009 NBA Draft, Steve Kerr -- the Phoenix Suns' general manager at the time and the Warriors' current coach -- thought he had secured a trade for the eventual unanimous MVP in which the Suns would acquire Curry's rights in exchange for Amar'e Stoudemire and the No. 14 overall pick.
Kerr eventually got his man, but not in the way he envisioned at the time. The Warriors backed out of the trade as soon as it was confirmed that Curry would be available at their own No. 7 overall pick, and the rest, as they say, is history.
But, what if the Warriors hadn't backed out? What if they had acquired Stoudemire and missed out on one of the best point guards of all-time? It's not a pretty picture, but one Bleacher Report's NBA staff included among it's biggest "what-if" trades that nearly happened.
Just as the rumored trade in which the Warriors would have sent the Splash Brothers to the New Orleans Hornets for Chris Paul, trading Curry for Stoudemire and the 14th pick would have crippled the franchise for many years to come.
While Stoudemire would have provided Golden State with the star power it so desperately desired, it's unlikely it would have lasted more than one season. Following the conclusion of the 2009-10 campaign, Stoudemire exercised an early termination clause that voided the final three years of his contract in order to orchestrate a sign-and-trade with the New York Knicks, where he wanted to end up. So, even if Stoudemire played at an MVP level for the Warriors that season, he likely would have forced his way to the Big Apple anyway. Which would have left Golden State with ... yikes.
Stoudemire would have made the Warriors a better team in 2009-10 than they were in Curry's rookie season, but it's difficult to envision him doubling the team's win total (26), which is what it would have taken to qualify for the playoffs that year. So, the Warriors more than likely would have been a mid-lottery team in the 2010 NBA Draft -- which is what they were anyway.
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The Warriors drafted Ekpe Udoh with the sixth overall pick in 2010. With some additional victories, maybe they end up a few spots further down. Gordon Hayward went ninth to the Utah Jazz. Let's say he ends up in Golden State in this scenario.
So, entering the 2010 season, the Warriors would be led by a core of the rookie Hayward, Monta Ellis and David Lee -- who, ironically, was acquired by the Warriors from the Knicks via trade one day after New York acquired Stoudemire.
Hayward has developed into an All-Star, but sorry, that team isn't better than what the Warriors actually had in 2010-11. Curry was far more productive in his second season than Hayward was as a rookie, averaging 18.6 points and 5.8 assists over 74 games played. So, in this scenario, the Warriors likely would have won fewer than the 36 games they did that season, meaning they likely would have been picking higher in the 2011 draft.
In reality, the Warriors entered the 2011 draft with the 11th overall pick, and used that to select Klay Thompson. It was a tremendous pick, as Thompson is, at worst, the second-best player from his draft class. But in this scenario, Golden State would have been picking several spots earlier, and frankly, that wouldn't have worked out nearly as well.
Jan Vesely, Bismack Biyombo and Brandon Knight were drafted sixth, seventh and eighth overall, respectively. Given the construct of the Warriors' roster, Biyombo probably would have made the most sense at the time, so we'll go with that.
How many games does a roster led by Ellis, Lee, Hayward and Biyombo win in the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season? Probably more than the 23 victories the Warriors accrued in reality, as Curry was limited to only 23 games due to injury. No Curry likely means Golden State doesn't trade Ellis to the Milwaukee Bucks in exchange for Andrew Bogut. More games from Ellis likely means more victories, which in turn means a worse draft pick. And therein lies the problem.
In reality, the Warriors' own pick in the 2012 draft was top-seven protected, but if it fell outside the first seven overall selections, the pick would have been conveyed to the Utah Jazz. They finished tied for the seventh-worst record with the Toronto Raptors, but they were able to hang onto the seventh overall pick in the draft by the luck of a coin flip. Even a single additional victory would have meant sending the pick to Utah, and that would've occurred in this hypothetical scenario.
So, no lottery pick for Golden State in 2012. The Warriors would still have the 30th and 35th overall picks, which, in reality, they used to select Festus Ezeli and Draymond Green. But given the fact the Warriors just drafted Biyombo the year before, Ezeli wouldn't have made much sense, and without the earlier lottery pick -- which was used to select Harrison Barnes -- Golden State likely doesn't have the luxury of selecting Green in the second round.
If we assume the Warriors don't luck out and get early contributors with either of those selections, they would enter the 2012-13 season with the same core as the year before, only with one more year of experience. How many games do Ellis, Lee, Hayward, Biyombo and filler win in 2012-13? I'm not sure, but it's not a playoff team in the ultra-competitive Western Conference.
No playoffs mean no coming-out party on a national stage by upsetting the Denver Nuggets in the first round and giving the San Antonio Spurs a run for their money in the second. No series victory -- and no Curry -- likely means Andre Igoudala never wants to come to Golden State.
No trade for Iguodala means the Warriors would have retained their own first-round picks in the 2013 and 2014 NBA Drafts. It also likely means they would have re-signed Ellis heading into the 2013-14 season. Let's say Golden State -- without all of the core players of its recent championship rosters -- drafts Kentavious Caldwell-Pope eighth overall in 2013. In theory, the Warriors would have had a starting lineup of Ellis, Caldwell-Pope, Hayward, Lee and Biyombo.
Again, not a playoff team, but also not bottom of the barrel.
So, in all likelihood, Golden State ends up with a middle-of-the-pack lottery pick in 2014. Nik Stauskas, Noah Vonleh, Elfrid Payton and Doug McDermott were drafted eighth through 11th, respectively. All of them would have been decent role players, but none would have drastically changed the trajectory of the organization.
Steve Kerr was hired by the Warriors shortly after the conclusion of the 2014 season. Does he take the job if Curry, Thompson, Green, Barnes and Bogut aren't there? I suppose we can't know for certain, but it seems highly unlikely that he would have found the job nearly as appealing.
Without Kerr, there's no 73-9 season.
Without a 73-9 season, Kevin Durant doesn't come to Golden State.
Without Kevin Durant, there are no back-to-back championships.
Without Curry, there's no dynasty.
What if Warriors had traded Steph Curry for Amar'e Stoudemire in 2009? originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area