Welcome to the second installment of the SB Nation NBA summer theme days, with this week's theme being "What if..." Yes, simply put, what if "something had or hadn't happened."
There were several possible scenarios, one of which could have been "What if the NBA hadn't approved the sale of the Nets, for whatever reason, to Mikhail Prokhorov..." would they still be in New Jersey? Would they still be recovering from 12-70? What if, what if, what if...
For me, I think the biggest "what if..." has to be the Nets "failing" in their many attempts at pursuing Dwight Howard as he tried to shake free from Orlando and join the Nets back in 2012. Think about it: what if Dwight hadn't opted in, making a trade with the Nets all but moot, which in turn essentially "forced" the Nets to re-sign Brook Lopez? What if he had not picked up the option and the Magic decided to trade him to the Nets in a package revolving around Lopez?
Can you imagine where the Nets would be now? Lopez, an All-Star who is now just entering the prime of his career, is a cornerstone player who legitimately seems thrilled to be in Brooklyn. Howard, on the other hand, while among the best bigs in the NBA -- arguably, when healthy, the best in the NBA -- could have led the Nets on a similar journey as the one he put the Los Angeles Lakers through last season.
If he thought playing in LA was tough, playing in Brooklyn, season one, with the New York media at his heels might have done him in even sooner. Then what? A trade request? An uninspired big man on a max contract? Would we see "Please love us, Dwight!" banners all around Brooklyn?
This is all speculative, of course, but can you imagine where this team would have been with Howard at center and Lopez playing in Orlando, instead? Hey, it may have worked out, and maybe Howard and Deron Williams could have led the 2012-13 Nets to a second-round meeting in the playoffs against the Miami Heat. It's possible.
One thing is for sure, though, had they gotten Howard in 2012, we wouldn't be watching Lopez develop into one of the best bigs in the NBA -- at least not in Brooklyn -- and there would be no hopes to having a starting lineup consisting of Williams, Lopez, Joe Johnson, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.
I'm certain that, today, there are more Lopez advocates in Brooklyn then there are Nets fans still kicking the can down the road, wanting so desperately to re-do the Dwightmare and live in a world where Dwight Howard was a Net and Lopez was a member of the Orlando Magic.
It seems, in the end, to have worked out for the best, for everyone... except maybe the Lakers.