Tayshaun Prince: The Pistons could have won 4 championships if they drafted Carmelo Anthony

With the Detroit Pistons season right around the corner, the inevitable reminder that they drafted Darko Milicic No. 2 overall instead of Carmelo Anthony,  Dwyane Wade, or Chris Bosh in 2003 is sure to come, and boy did it ever.
However, this time was different. It wasn’t just fan hyperbole and what-if scenarios powering this hypothetical, it was a pair of former Pistons who were on the team that drafted Milicic over his sure-fire hall of fame counterparts. Tayshaun Prince and Richard ‘Rip’ Hamilton, members of the Pistons 2004 championship team, joined CBS Sports Digital’s “NBA Crossover”, and Prince said the Pistons could have won as many as four championships during the ‘Going to Work’ era had they drafted Anthony instead of Milicic.

“I think if we did take Melo, maybe two, maybe three, maybe four championships,” Prince said. “And then after my fourth or fifth year, now you have to decide what you want to do. But at least you know going in, if you take Melo we got a guy. And who knows, he comes off his bench the first year or two, or maybe they insert him into the starting lineup, whatever.

“But we knew coming in, if he could come in off the bench and accept that sixth man role, we’d be pretty awesome for the next five or six years before they make the decision if they’re going to keep me or him.”

Hamilton said the success of Dallas Mavericks European star Dirk Nowitzki played a role in then-President Joe Dumars’ decision to draft Milicic.

“You had a guy like Dirk Nowitzki on the Dallas Mavericks, and everyone was trying to find the next Dirk,” Hamilton said.

The Pistons picked Milicic, and Anthony went one pick later at No. 3 to the Denver Nuggets. In recent years, Anthony has been branded as a selfish player who doesn’t play defense and either can’t win, or just doesn’t care enough to win. It’s fun, although played out, to speculate how the narrative of Anthony’s career would be different had he started his career with a Pistons team whose calling cards were team-ball and tough defense. Anthony came into the league as an extremely athletic and gifted scorer who had just come off an NCAA championship run his only year at Syracuse.

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It’s reasonable to assume the Pistons would have been better long-term had they drafted Anthony, and would have still probably won the championship in 2004, which would have killed the ‘Anthony isn’t a winner’ narrative before it ever had the traction to get started. It’s also reasonable to assume that getting Anthony would have meant the Pistons would have needed to part ways with one or more of the 2004 starting five in order to focus the team’s future around Anthony. The most likely candidates that would have been shipped out? Prince and Hamilton.

There’s also questions as to whether or not the Pistons would have made the move for Rasheed Wallace in February of 2004 if they had such a promising young player like Anthony waiting to get his shot. Being that the Pistons only had to part ways with Chucky Atkins, Lindsey HunterBobby Sura, and Zeljko Rebraca, as well as a first-round pick, it;s safe to assume the Pistons still would have pulled the trigger.

The reason this hypothetical is always fascinating is because there is so many different angles to it. How would Anthony have fit with the Pistons? What does Denver do? If they draft Dwyane Wade at No. 3, how does that ultimately effect his career, as well Lebron James’? Does Anthony still force his way to the Knicks? There’s so many things to consdier when thinking about the ‘what could have been?’ that it is a disservice to only look at the Pistons aspect of this. The landscape of the NBA as a whole could have shifted dramatically.

Being considered one of the all-time bust in sports history would be a pretty big ego hit for just about anybody, but considering the last we checked in on Darko, he was shirtless while chugging and sharing beer with his tattoos, something tells me he’s doing alright.


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