Weighing In

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First, a quick amen for SJ’s post. And for Casey Holdahl calling Simmons out. My turn.

Now Bill, all I want from you is a real basketball explanation — that, and the sense that you’ve actually watched the Blazers ever in your life.

Let us begin with the ceilings, which need explaining. Every single player, in any sport, ever, has a ceiling. This is simply the nature of our human bodies. The reality is, few players, as great of athletes as they are, ever approach their ceiling. MJ had a ceiling, and he hit it, proven simply by the rings, the mvp’s, and all-defensive selections. To say Durant has no ceiling is completely asinine. He has a reputation for a great work ethic which was tarnished a bit by the Orlando workouts but is still a key element in approaching one’s own ceiling. As Rocky Balboa said, “it’s your ability to get hit and keep moving foward.” Durant has that, but so does Oden. Durant just seems to get more credit for it because he has a much quieter demeanor and, as some others have put it, is not a very well balanced individual. Oden is looked at having an “inferior” attitude because he isn’t shy and has a good sense of humor. I think people may be afraid of him having Shaq’s work ethic of ’03-’04.

We all know the bar can be set pretty high on Durant’s scoring ability, nobody can deny this, but what about the rest of his game, which you rarely hear anybody talk about. With Oden, we hear he is a defensive presence and a winner with a developing post-up game (considering he’s just now got his hand back). With Durant we hear about the first-half of the Kansas game but nobody mentions Oden’s NCAA Final — which as SJ pointed out, even Mr. Simmons forgot about.

So what about the rest of Durant’s game. Well, he averaged 1.3 assists last year, albeit in a poorly designed offense. This is not to say he will not develop into a playmaker (other than scoring) but those numbers can go two ways. By comparison, MJ only averaged 2.1 assists his junior year at UNC while Adam Morrison averaged 2.8 his freshman year at Gonzaga, a number that dropped to 1.8 his sophomore year. We all know the most successful swingmen are the ones who learn how to use an offense and their teammates, but we have no clear indication of which way this will go.

And defense. Defense, defense, defense. We all know Oden has it. Does Durant? He’s got his 1.9 blocks and 1.9 steals per game. Good numbers, but mostly on the helpside. Ever heard Durant mentioned in the same breath as a lockdown guy like Corey Brewer? Not yet at least. I can’t tell you how many people forget about Jordan’s all-defense selections, including one Defensive Player of the Year award, but it is a huge part of what made him Jordan. Like Chad Ford said, the only way he takes Durant over Oden is if he is sure he’s the next Jordan.

And now something I really don’t know why Mr. Simmons is ignoring. No, not that big men never come around and blah, blah, blah. But how much the floor opens up when you can run your offense to the post. What is the difference between Lebron right now and Jordan, even Kobe? Jodan and Kobe, in part because of the triangle offense, get their butts down low and post up. Champions win in the paint because they are fully utilizing every inch on the floor. Players like Vince Carter normally only operate on about 50% of the playing area. Steve Nash and Tony Parker aren’t as good as he is because they pass around the perimeter, but because they invade the lane and can kick it back out.

If Mr. Simmons’ defense to this is: Well, they have Zach Randolph down their already — then it is clear he knows nothing about that player or this team. Zach is a one man offense. He is very good at it. But it becomes one man. Even ignorant Blazer fans know this, though some won’t admit it, citing only his statistics. Zach is a dam in the way of a flowing river of offense. Not to mention he rarely plays decent defense. There we go again, defense. My how people forget how important it is.

I must say though, my favorite part of Bill’s article is him suggesting a trade for Rasheed Wallace’s soon-to-be expiring contract. Riiiiiiight, Bill. This coming from the guy who had no better material about the Blazers than “jailblazer this, jailblazer that.” And what would Sheed play? The 3 again? That reaaaaallly worked out well last time didn’t it. Jamison, sure, that could work, but no way does Paul Allen bring Sheed back after all our “image” problems.

If anything is made clear by this Oden v. Durant debate, is that we, as a country, are still excited and enthralled by the fantastic and the mysterious. We wax on and on about Durant’s scoring ability but never talk about balance with him. People like Mr. Simmons get sucked into his shy personality perhaps because it makes him out to be a “silent assassin.” Oden, therefore, must not be able to take over games because, well, he smiles to much. God forbid we have likeable, genuine, happy stars in the L — Lebron seems like he is trying to get rid of that notion despite D Wade’s efforts.

Kevin Pritchard keeps saying he wants to make the pick for the right reasons after going through all the evaluations. He’s right. He should. But the right reasons include the complete package. The right reasons means finding who is going to capitalize on their potential — who is going to raise their ceiling. Durant certainly can. But so can Oden. We just forget this because, well, like the court when he’s on it, he’s just balanced.