Before Greg Oden or Kevin Durant played their first professional basketball game, the debate had already begun. At least in those days gone by, the playing field was at least a little even. Oden was coming off a season in which he led his team to the NCAA title game with his good hand tied behind his back. Durant was the skinny freshman from UT that ran off with a mess of NCAA Player of the Year Awards. Fast forward to the eve of training camp 2010. The Durant-led national team captures the FIBA World Championship gold. A 65 game season from Oden may merit a parade down Broadway.
Yesterday as part of their weekly One-on-One feature, ESPN’s Chris Broussard and Ric Bucher took a crack at the question, asking, “Should we be critical of the Portland Trail Blazers for taking Greg Oden over Kevin Durant?”
Bucher basically represents the Blazers in the debate:
Bucher: To go back now and say the Blazers made a mistake is easy. But no one had a valid reason for saying that the night of the 2007 draft.
Broussard doesn’t take long in his counter argument to bring up the one name that will likely haunt Oden for as long as he plays for Portland, probably for as long as he plays in the NBA. Here is Broussard’s second offering to the debate:
Broussard: Does the fact conventional wisdom said take 7-footer Sam Bowie over 2-guard Michael Jordan mean Portland didn’t blow it in 1984? No, sports writers and fans aren’t paid six and seven figures to make these decisions — but GMs are. They’re expected to know better; they’re paid to know better. Yeah, it’s a tough part of the job, but it comes with the territory.
From that point the discussion devolves primarily into a “Oden’s no Bowie,” versus a “Durant’s no Jordan,” debate with Broussard and Bucher each making his share of salient points. After Broussard pulls out some Bowie stats, 10 points per game, 8 rebounds per game, and almost 3 blocks per game in 76 games as a rookie, Bucher provides one of the few pro Oden comment of the entire segment.
RB: Oden, 19, and playing with his weak hand, led Ohio State to the national championship game and was a monster on the big stage; Bowie was, at best, solid in his last season at Kentucky at age 22.
In his 21 games last season, Oden began to show he could be exactly what Portland had hoped: a rebounding and shot-blocking beast.
One of the most common arguments against taking Durant that you hear in Portland, even to this day as he’s quickly becoming an MVP favorite before the season even begins, is that he wouldn’t fit well with the pieces Portland has in place. By pieces, most people mean Brandon Roy, and the fact that he and Durant both need to see a lot of the ball to be effective. Broussard and Bucher take this on too.
CB: Even if your premise that KD isn’t a fit in Portland were true — and it’s not — KD is the type of player you make changes for. If Aldridge didn’t fit with KD, it’s simple: Trade LaMarcus.
Bucher isn’t quite as quick to take apart the Blazer’s roster:
RB: With the Blazers loaded at the swing positions, already having a proven go-to scorer in Roy and a jump-shooting PF in Aldridge, taking Oden made all the sense in the world.
The Blazers weren’t looking to rebuild around a new superstar, they were looking for the last piece to their championship puzzle. Oden wasn’t a “need” pick.
Neither analyst really drops any knowledge that settles the score once and for all. Let’s face it, that’s no fun. Bucher does get one shot in at the end in regards to Durant’s collection of college hardware:
RB: You’re dreaming if you believe anybody saw Durant being this good (coming out of college). You know who else won five national collegiate POY awards? Christian Laettner.
Broussard gets the final word of the debate, and closes with some nice, but damning words for the Blazers organization.
CB: No one is killing Oden or the Blazers for that decision. All I’m saying is that they made the wrong choice, which is obvious now. Oden could/should become a very good player, maybe even an All-Star. But Kevin Durant is better — much better at this point.
I don’t have a whole lot to add to this whole debate. I’m a fan of Oden, and I think that in time, with a couple of injury-free seasons behind him, he will be a dominant force. I also agree that you would have to be completely insane not to imagine how great a Roy-Durant 2-3 combo would be. That’s not going to happen. We’ve got Oden, and like Broussard says, Durant is the much better player at this point.
Lets hope 2010-11 is the year Oden breaks out, hitting that 65-game mark and then some. Sixty-five games from Oden in 2010-11 won’t really narrow the gap between him and Durant, but it would at least make him part of the discussion, and not just an after thought to how good KD is and how badly the Blazer brass dropped the ball on draft night.