The great debate before the 2007 NBA Draft, as you probably remember, was whether the Trailblazers should pick Greg Oden or Kevin Durant. A year later, things have not gone quite the way the Blazers may have hoped.
Oden missed the entire '07-'08 season with micro fracture surgery on his right knee, while Durant, selected second overall by the Sonics, went on to win the Rookie of the Year award.
However, those who believe Portland would have done the right thing by selecting Durant are still wrong. Why? It's simple.
Durant didn't fit into Portland's needs—Oden did. Had the Blazers selected Durant, they would have a huge logjam at the swing positions. They would have Durant, Brandon Roy, Travis Outlaw, Martell Webster, and James Jones all fighting for playing time between just two positions.
Outlaw and Webster are two very athletic, very exciting young up-and-comers. Roy is an All-Star two-guard. And Jones ended up shooting a ridiculous 44 percent from three in his first season with the Blazers.
Adding Durant to that group would only complicate things. The two centers on the team at the time Oden was selected were Joel Pryzbilla and Raef LaFrentz. While Pryzbilla is a nice role player, he is in no way a franchise center. Raef LaFrentz is a drag on the payroll.
Even having missed an entire season already, Oden is the starting center on a team with a very bright future. Teams win championships with big men. The major anomaly in recent times is the Jordan, who won six titles without a real force down low.
The Rockets teams that won two titles (Olajuwon), the three-peating Lakers (Shaq), the four-time champion Spurs (Duncan), the Heat (less effective Shaq), and the defending champion Celtics (Garnett), all got there with the big man more-or-less anchoring the teams.
The defensive presences of Olajuwon, Shaq, Duncan, and Garnett completely locked down the paint and forced opposing teams to beat them from the perimeter. Oden brings this to the table. He's one of the most freakishly athletic seven-footers to come out, with superior shot blocking and rebounding abilities.
He has a very polished inside game that complements Roy and the perimeter players very well. If the Blazers had Durant, they would have no dominating post presence to speak of.
LaMarcus Aldridge is a nice player, but he's no banger down low. Kevin Durant will be a great NBA player.
He already averaged 20 ppg in a rookie season in which he was basically the only option on a terrible Sonics team. With the Sonics building around him, fellow second-year player Jeff Green, and rookie Russell Westbrook, look for him to become more comfortable in his shot selection next season.
His rebounding will improve as he bulks up a bit, and he has the ability to become a solid defensive player as well.
However, the core of Oden, Roy, Outlaw/Webster, Aldridge, and incoming rookie point guards Jerry Bayless and Rudy Fernandez will make the Trailblazers a force to be reckoned with in the very near future in the Western Conference.