Remembering Why the Portland Trail Blazers Chose Greg Oden over Kevin Durant

Bryant KnoxFeatured ColumnistMay 23, 2012

Remembering Why the Portland Trail Blazers Chose Greg Oden over Kevin Durant

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    Greg Oden’s recent interview with Grantland’s Mark Titus shed a lot of light on the bad things that have happened throughout the young player’s career.

    Oden and the Portland Trail Blazers recently parted ways, but thinking back five years, there were more than enough reasons why the team chose Oden over Kevin Durant in the 2007 NBA draft.

    Knowing what we know now, if the Blazers could do the draft again, it’s safe to say they’d honk twice and select Durant.

    At the time, though, Oden was the guy to choose, and with his projections out of Ohio State being so high, most NBA teams would have made the same decision with the No. 1 overall pick.

Pre-Draft Workouts

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    Despite “dazzling” the Trail Blazers in his workout with the team, Kevin Durant just couldn’t compete with Greg Oden in a number of areas heading into the 2007 NBA draft.

    Strength was clearly an issue, as Durant entered a pre-draft camp as the only player out of an 80-person group who could not bench 185 pounds. Texas Longhorns head coach Rick Barnes had this to say on the matter:

    If they are looking for weight lifters to come out of Texas, that's not what we're producing. There are a lot of guys who can bench press 300 pounds in the NBA who couldn't play dead in a cowboy movie. Kevin's the best player in the draft—period, at any position.

    Oden looked fantastic coming into the NBA, with better scores than Durant on the vertical leap, agility drill and three-quarter court sprint, but as it turns out, Barnes knew what he was talking about, and Durant has become one of the best players in the league—at any position.

Size

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    Greg Oden entered the league not just as a big man, but as a big man with extreme athleticism.

    As evident by his pre-draft workouts, the guy could run, jump and take up space on both ends of the floor.

    Shooters and scorers come into the league year after year, and many of them fizzle out when they realize they can’t score at the same pace they did at the collegiate level.

    Kevin Durant has proven that he’s not fizzling out any time soon, but with Oden being the “safe” pick, the Blazers did what most teams in their shoes would have done by selecting the seven-footer with the No. 1 overall pick.

Disappearing Centers

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    The NBA has seemingly transitioned into a point guard’s league, but when Greg Oden was drafted in 2007, Shaquille O’Neal and Tim Duncan had claimed eight of the last nine NBA championships.

    With O’Neal and Duncan climbing in age, drafting Oden was the obvious choice with the prospect of grooming him into one of the best big men the game had to offer.

    The days of the NBA being a center’s league were long gone in 2007, but the best remaining big men were still collecting championships year after year, and the Blazers wanted to be a part of that trend.

Need at the Center Position

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    Heading into the 2007 NBA draft, the Trail Blazers had gaping holes at the small forward and center positions. With Kevin Durant and Greg Oden both on the board, the team couldn’t go wrong, right?

    The need-over-talent argument is a valid one, and the Blazers used it as a defense for taking Oden.

    But why would the Blazers focus so much on need when someone with Durant’s talent was right there on the board waiting for them?

    Oden did fill a need, but the guy was also supposed to be a once-in-a-decade talent at the center position.

    His ceiling was supposed to be high in the NBA, but as it turns out, the Blazers are once again looking to add both talent and a new center heading into the 2012-13 season.