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Greg Oden was selected ahead of Kevin Durant.
Trying to build a winning professional basketball program without making wise decisions in terms of drafting players is a bit like trying to reinvent the wheel.
And in order to become a champion, a team simply cannot afford to botch high draft picks. Throughout the course of history, we’ve seen some major mistakes.
Consider that the second overall pick in the 2009 NBA draft, Hasheem Thabeet, was selected over the likes of James Harden (third), Tyreke Evans (fourth), Ricky Rubio (fifth), Stephen Curry (seventh), Jrue Holiday (17) and Ty Lawson (18).
In 2008, the Chicago Bulls selected Derrick Rose over Michael Beasley and they got it correct, just like the Orlando Magic did when it selected Dwight Howard over Emeka Okafor back in 2004.
The Bulls and Magic became contenders while the Portland Trailblazers and the Atlanta Hawks didn’t. In 2005, the Hawks chose Marvin Williams (second) over Chris Paul (fourth) while two years later the Trailblazers selected Greg Oden with the first overall pick over Kevin Durant.
If there’s any remaining doubt that winning an NBA championship requires astute drafting, refer to the greatest statistic ever. Since the NBA began awarding a Finals MVP in 1969, the award has been given out 44 times.
Only eight times has the recipient been someone who played for a team other than the one they played for when they won the award.
In other words, if a guy is good enough to win you a championship, the only way you’re going to get him is if you draft him.
It is true that the current Miami Heat and Los Angeles Lakers have built their current rosters mostly through trades, but that doesn't make the point any less valid. Without Bryant, the Lakers are irrelevant and without Dwyane Wade, LeBron James doesn't take his talents to South Beach. Drafting a player to build around—and one that others want to play with—is imperative.
LeBron James (2012), Chauncey Billups (2004), Shaquille O’Neal (2000-02), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (1985), Moses Malone (1983) and Wilt Chamberlain (1972) are the exceptions to the rule.