How the hell is Kevin Durant vs. Greg Oden even a debate still?
Seriously, this is a question in some people’s minds? There is a debate to be had here? Excuse me while I groan, as it appears the only thing more difficult than selecting a wing over a big man is admitting it was the wrong decision.
I promise, I won’t even use statistics to settle this argument. It wouldn’t be fair. Durant’s are phenomenal, and Oden doesn’t have them.
The crux of my argument, though, was written on April 22, 2007. In one of my very first articles ever, I debated Alex Pennycook on the issue of Durant vs. Oden, two months before the draft took place. At the time, the site was too small for anyone to notice or comment, but I’m sure I would have been assumed stupid. Most of my friends disagreed with me and, according to something I read around All Star weekend but couldn’t find to link to today, 30 General Managers disagreed with me, too. Most importantly, the otherwise savvy Kevin Pritchard disagreed. So Greg Oden was selected first overall by Portland, and Seattle ‘settled’ for Kevin Durant.
Nearly two years ago, I wrote the following (at the risk of being taboo and quoting myself):
The Oden/Durant debate is a contrast of styles. Oden supporters are the conservative, defensive-minded, play-not-to-lose type, while Durant represents a play-to-win, play-for-keeps mentality. Oden is going to be a great center in the NBA, and he will no doubt be the #1 pick in the 2007 NBA Entry Draft. There is almost no question about this. He’s the safe pick (which is huge for a bad GM looking to stabilize his reputation) and most of the worst teams in the league lack a center or have a young swingman to build around. It shouldn’t matter though. Kevin Durant is going to be the better NBA player, an enormous game changer, and a guy with a lot of finger bling by the end of his career. Stick him with just one complementary player or a decent coach and his ceiling stretches higher and higher. He’s a moneymaker, a prime time player, and the penultimate player to build a franchise around. There is nothing he doesn’t do well, nothing he can’t do for your team, and he holds limitless potential. Oden’s a great guy and a great center, but when we look back on the 2007 draft when looking at the best drafts of all time, someone like me sitting at their desk pumping out a blog is going to have a money piece to write on how some team took Oden over Durant. In 2007, the real draft lottery winner is probably picking second.
I can say a few things looking back on this paragraph. Foremost, I used the word penultimate wrong. Second, I hadn’t realized Kevin Pritchard had been named the new Blazers GM a few weeks earlier. And finally, I’ve improved as a writer, thankfully.
In all seriousness though, the only things wrong with this paragraph appear to be as follows:
1. I underestimated the defensive transition Durant would have to undertake. I probably assumed he would get bigger faster, or didn’t appreciate the jump in skill and effort necessary on the defensive end in the NBA. Regardless, Durant is by no means a strong defender right now. He has the tools (and, it appears, the desire) to become one eventually, but for right now he is not.
2. I ignored Greg Oden’s potential injury problems. Of course, this swings the debate further in Durant’s favour, but it’s worth pointing out. Oden was already suffering injury woes as a college freshman, and these have followed to the NBA in a most serious way. Oden’s inability to stay on the court obviously hurts his value right now, but it also hurts his potential. All the time missed slows his development, one game and one practice at a time, and lowers his ceiling by virtue of further injury concerns. I thought at the time Oden would struggle to stay in the league 10 years, and now it seems I may have assumed a few years too many.
This debate is far from over, I know. Durant is 20, Oden 21, and both are in their second years as professionals (although Oden is technically a rookie). There are at least a few more years that need to pass before anyone on the Oden side will be willing to even consider conceding this loss, but to me it is as clear as it was on April 22, 2007.
Kevin Durant was the right pick. I’d restate my reasons, but you’ve heard them already, from me or from someone else. The numbers speak for themselves, especially the ones under the column ‘GP.’ A pro-Oden argument can rely on only two things at this point: the fact that good big men are more valuable than other players, and the fact that the Blazers are very good. Oden is not responsible for the latter, and hasn’t proven to be one of the former, yet.
Oden has been outplayed by his own teammate, The Vanilla Gorilla. Indications (read: me reading between the lines of Nate McMillan’s quotes) are that the coaching staff is beginning to question his ability to stay on the floor. His attitude and demeanor don’t appear to be that of an NBA superstar.
On the other hand, Durant has lead his team to a respectable 2009. His numbers have improved month by month, and he has developed one of the most complete offensive games a 20-year old has ever possessed. He is leading a very exciting team to the title of Bandwagon Favorite Young Team (yes, he’s taking that from the Blazers, too). And we still have no idea how high his ceiling might be.
So go ahead, Oden supporters and Blazer fans (who, again, I realize run the internet), argue if you’d like. But it’s futile – you can’t convince me otherwise, and every day you grow closer to being forced to admit you’re wrong.