Sometimes it’s nice to imagine different realities for your team, one of those realities is where the Portland Trail Blazers draft Kevin Durant in 2007.
Kevin Durant is one of the greatest basketball players to ever walk this earth. He is already one of the 30 greatest players of all-time, while also being one of the greatest and most versatile scorers to ever play in the NBA. In an alternate reality, what would have happened if he had been drafted by the Portland Trail Blazers in 2007?
Greg Oden was drafted the pick before Durant back in 2007. Though it’s easy to look back now and say that Oden was the wrong pick, at the time, when big men were in vogue, Oden was a great pick. No one could have known about the serious problems with his body.
No one knew that he would only end up playing 82 games for the Blazers and 100 total in his NBA career. It’s a sad story, but also the reality of injuries in sports.
Let’s just think about the two players above and not only how good they were in Blazers uniforms, but how they would potentially mesh with Durant. Though they both had high usage in the years that Durant would have started out with the team, guys like Travis Outlaw and Steve Blake had around 20% usage as well. They could easily have scaled this back to get Durant involved more.
The threat of LA in the post with Roy and Durant on the perimeter can only be dreamed of. The versatility and variety of their scoring when combined with size and their age at the time would mean they would have dominated the NBA for years to come.
When Durant was drafted, he was only 18. At the time, Roy was 23 and LA was 22. Similar to the Oklahoma City Thunder team that Durant ended up on with James Harden and Russell Westbrook, except the Blazers would have had two perimeter players and a big man instead of three perimeter players.
The 2009, 10 and 11 Blazers team won 54, 50 and 48 games but were bounced in the first round of a very strong Western Conference three times in a row. Roy was instrumental in the first two years, but was injured in the playoffs in the both the second and third years. Considering he played 37-plus minutes a game for three straight regular seasons, does Roy still have the injuries he had if someone else is there to take some of the perimeter creation load off his shoulders?
The West was obviously very strong in these years, but if you break down the three playoff matchups this team had, it’s likely they go a lot further with Durant in the mix.
The first year, the Houston Rockets beat them in six games with Yao Ming, Luis Scola, Metta World Peace and Aaron Brooks the main guys. LA, Durant and Roy would roll this team. In the next round, the Rockets take Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol to seven games. Could this threesome beat Kobe and the Lakers? Maybe not, but they would have had a good crack at it.
The second year, they lose in six to a great Phoenix Suns team with peak Steve Nash, Amar’e Stoudemire and Jason Richardson. Roy misses three games and is a shadow of himself in the other three. 21-year old Jerryd Bayless and young Martell Webster and Nicolas Batum struggle to back up LA in bigger roles than they are capable of. Overall, this Blazers team fight hard to get it to six games but still have the role players that are probably capable of backing up a guy like Durant.
Amazingly, the Suns drill the San Antonio Spurs in a 4 – 0 sweep in the next round.
The third year, it’s the eventual champions the Dallas Mavericks who oust the Trail Blazers in six games. Again, they do well against a team that ends up going further in the postseason. This time, the one that upsets the fancied LeBron James and Miami Heat in the NBA Finals.
Even though Dirk Nowitzki dominated this series averaging 27 points a game, the Blazers kept all the games close before the Mavericks swept the Lakers in four and then blew out the Thunder in five games.
There’s no reason we can’t think that the Blazers end up in the conference finals this year instead of the Thunder if they have Durant on the team. A scoring champion four out of five years from 2010 to 2014, Durant and Aldridge could have formed one of the best one-two punches in the league, even without considering the health of Roy.
This is all in the past now, but imagine how different this franchise would be if they had Durant for ten years. We haven’t even thought about how the trajectory of Damian Lillard‘s career could be altered if he played with Durant for 8 years.
It’s hard to imagine how the last 12 years had gone for the Blazers and Durant. Do they surround him with enough talent? Do LA and maybe Roy have the same careers or better?
We know that if Durant was still on the team today with Lillard, that they would probably be the best or second best duo in the league. Imagine a Lillard / Durant pick and roll every time down the floor! These two would be dynamite in 2020.
But would everything else have played out right for the Blazers to get Lillard the way they did in the draft, after trading for the pick that became Lillard before hand. A lot of what ifs.
Roy, Aldridge, Durant and Lillard all had great careers in their own right. We will never know how things would have worked out with these four players. Maybe it doesn’t work out with multiple championships, but it’s nice to reflect on what might have been.