"With the first overall pick in the 2007 NBA Draft, the Portland Trail Blazers select Greg Oden."
These are the words that have brought misery to the Portland Trail Blazers' organization and their loyal fans.
Throughout history, no franchise has seen their patience tested further than the Blazers. From the infamous Portland "Jail Blazers" years to missing out on the one they call "Air Jordan," every NBA fan must have a soft spot for this unlucky squad.
However, this last injury bug/draft fail has to be the icing on the cake. Not only did they select Greg Oden over arguably the best young star in the league in Kevin Durant, but the former Ohio State big man has had four knee surgeries in his brief career and hasn't played in a game since December 5th, 2009.
Kevin Durant, on the other hand, has become an MVP-caliber player and put up five consecutive seasons of over 20 points per game. In addition, the lanky player once believed to be too weak for the NBA is now a two-time NBA scoring champion.
But Durant's game isn't all about scoring the basketball, as the young man is a consummate professional and a fantastic leader. In fact, he led an extremely young Oklahoma City Thunder squad to the Western Conference Finals just last year.
Portland's decision to go with the safer Greg Oden rather than the skinny Durant has played out exactly like the Blazer's terrible 1984 draft. I bet you haven't heard this before (sarcasm).
Nonetheless, the similarities are insurmountable and I had to bring it up. Instead of drafting the talented Michael Jordan with the second overall pick, the Blazers decided to bring in the giant Sam Bowie. In both instances, the Blazers needed a center desperately and already possessed a cornerstone swingman. In 1984, the roster included Clyde Drexler. In 2007, the Blazers had Brandon Roy, yet another player who fell to the Blazers' injury curse.
The Blazers were dreaming of a powerful one-two big man punch including Greg Oden and LaMarcus Aldridge, also obtained the year earlier, with Roy becoming an elite shooting guard. In the beginning, the future looked bright in Oregon. In fact, some people within the organization were already thinking championships including first-time All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge.
"Me, Brandon and Greg," Aldridge said. "At the dinner table, I just remember seeing a vision of us three together, and it was something special. I felt like we were so young, we had so much time to build chemistry, so much time to grow and get better. I just saw all three of us having multiple rings. At least one ring. But it never came together. It never panned out."
There was no doubt the Blazers' were going to be competitive with the aforementioned trio, but I am going to one-up Aldridge. I am going to ask the one question that will torment Trail Blazers fans for years to come. What if the team drafted Kevin Durant?
A trio of Durant, Roy and Aldridge would have been filled with potential. Roy, at one point, was rivaling Kobe Bryant as the top shooting guard in the Western Conference. His play was so stellar that a rivalry began to form between the two players.
In 2009-10, Roy averaged an efficient 21.5 points per game. Not only was the young slasher becoming a perennial All-Star, but he was even establishing a name as one of the premier players in the clutch.
By substituting Durant in for Oden, the Blazers would have acquired two players in the upper echelon of the league. Plus, the addition of LaMarcus Aldridge to the equation would have given this team a completely new game plan. Not only would they have had two of the best penetrators in the association, but they could also dump it down low to one of the most consistent back-to-the-basket players in the game.
Aldridge, this season, is averaging a solid 22.3 points per outing, while displaying his knack for bringing down the boards by boasting a fantastic 8.3 rebound average. Despite not receiving the attention that other power forwards around the league see, Aldridge has become one of the more polished big men. Sure, Aldridge would have been the team's third option on offense, but there is no doubt that he would have been the best third wheel in the league.
This Big Three format actually draws daunting similarities to the one down in South Beach currently. Both rosters include a premier small forward, slashing shooting guard and a scoring power forward.
However, the Blazers' Big Three would have absolutely found more success in the long-term. Their trio would have had the opportunity to grow together and gain chemistry. Miami Thrice wasn't together for this important growing time. In addition, the Blazers would have had the opportunity to play in the weakening Western Conference.
The Portland Trail Blazers, for the first time in NBA History, would have been on top of the basketball world.
But we can't rewrite history and the Portland Trail Blazers are currently struggling to stay above mediocrity. Instead of three stars, they have a lonely one and, instead of a bunch of memorable playoff runs, they have a bunch of what-ifs.
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