By: Will Burchfield
@burchie_kid

If only, if only.

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According to Tayshaun Prince, the Pistons could have won up to four championships if they had drafted Carmelo Anthony over Darko Milicic in the 2003 NBA draft. But they took Milicic No. 2 overall, and a potential mid-2000’s dynasty fell by the wayside.

“I think if we did take Melo, maybe two, maybe three, maybe four championships,” Prince told Nick Kostos on the Crossover. “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.”

The Pistons won it all in the 2003-04 season before losing in the Finals the season after. From there, they lost in the Eastern Conference finals for three consecutive years.

Milicic played a minimal role in 2003-04 and 2004-05, before being traded midway through the 2005-06 season. Nearly everything the Pistons accomplished with Milicic on the roster was in spite of him.

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Rip Hamilton, a CBS NBA analyst, said the success of Dirk Nowitzki increased Milicic’s value in the draft, given their similar European backgrounds.

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

Milicic was a bust. Meanwhile, Anthony quickly blossomed into a superstar for the Denver Nuggets, who selected him No. 3 overall. During the Pistons’ extended run of contention from 2003-04 to 2007-08, Melo averaged 24.4 points per game. Milicic, in the same time, averaged 5.5 points per game.

Then again, as CBS Sports’ Matt Moore points out, it’s no guarantee that Anthony would have been a fit on the Pistons:

“However, it seems too obvious to just assume everything would work out. After all, there’s just as good a chance that Anthony, always prideful and stubborn as a mule, especially when he was younger, would balk at having to come off the bench, upsetting the chemistry of a group whose success was defined by it. Or that Melo’s defensive liabilities would diminish what made that Pistons team so great, even with Chauncey Billups, Hamilton and multiple-time Defensive Player of the Year Ben Wallace around him. It’s an unknowable counter-factual, but it is fascinating to think about.”

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The Pistons lost in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals in 2008-09 and then missed the playoffs for the next six seasons.