Why the Portland Trail Blazers Should Regret Passing Up on Kevin Durant

Bleacher ReportCorrespondent IFebruary 4, 2009

All-Star snubs are nothing new. They happen in every sport and every year—from the MLB's and NBA's midseason classics to the NFL's Pro Bowl.

So when the NBA released its list of All-Star reserves following the blatant popularity contest that is the fan voting for the starters, there were bound to be several glaring omissions.

But one in particular was more than glaring. And when you think about the snub's star-crossed fate during his first two years in the NBA, it gets to be more than just glaring: It's downright sad.

So stop griping, Carmelo Anthony. Because Kevin Durant easily has a far bigger gripe than you do.

In Oklahoma City, Durant is living up to the hype that 2007 draft contemporary Greg Oden is not in Portland. Through the first 47 games this season, the former Texas Longhorn has been the league's best-kept secret quietly shuffled away in the middle of nowhere, putting up 25.0 points and 6.6 rebounds while shooting 47.6 percent from the field, 41.8 percent from three-point range, and 86 percent from the free throw line.

The versatile 6'9", 215-pounder led the struggling Thunder to a .500 mark during the month of January, a month that saw him post 27.8 points, 8.8 rebounds, and 3.7 assists while shooting 49.4 percent from the floor. Keep in mind that Durant is just 20-years-old and in his second year in the league.

Alas, Oklahoma City's overall mark of 11-37 through Tuesday was evidence that despite the young talent around him, Durant is nothing more than a one man show in OKC surrounded by an incompetent supporting cast.

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But what would have been the perfect supporting cast for a guy who should be amongst the league's elite individual talents in a few years is shuffled 2,000 miles west—in Portland, Oregon.

You see, the Blazers are just fine. They're winning games. Ask any "Blazer Maniac" what they think about the team, and they'll tell you that their current team has the potential to be better than the Bob Whitsitt-assembled teams from the last part of the '90s. They'll tell you how this team can be just as good as the teams from the early '90s that were 60-win teams and went to the NBA Finals—twice.

Here's the problem though, Blazer fans: Your rapidly-ascending squad could have been better. Much, much better. As in, NBA powerhouse.

Not just next year. Not just in a few years. Not just several years down the road. I'm talking about right now.

It's been nearly 25 years since the Blazers passed over Michael Jordan for Sam Bowie, and while Durant is no Jordan (and Oden, for his sake, is no Bowie—at least not yet), the Blazers may again find themselves selling the franchise short of what it could have been.

Brandon Roy is a spectacular cornerstone in the Rose City. His nickname of "The Natural" by locals is accurate. LaMarcus Aldridge's game can remind you of Olympian Chris Bosh if you had time to pay any attention to the Raptors. 

Jerryd Bayless was a steal for GM Kevin Pritchard and his staff last summer, and the team has looked stellar often times when Oden's backup, Joel Przybilla, is in the game crashing the glass and throwing bodies around.

Insert Kevin Durant at small forward. Make Roy, already a superstar in the making, his sidekick, a la Scottie Pippen (who could have been a good alpha dog in his own right). Have Przybilla, already better than close to half the starting centers in the league, start in the middle. And let Aldridge do his thing at the power forward spot while Rudy Fernandez provides the spark off the bench.

If you are a Lakers, Spurs, Hornets, Nuggets, Jazz, Rockets, Mavericks, or Suns fan, stop quaking in your boots. There really is no reason to sweat so much after reading that, because it simply didn't happen.

Sure, Portland has the perimeter scoring to potentially offset what Durant would have provided, but even at this young stage of his career, Durant is far more than just a one-dimensional scoring machine. 

His 6.6 rebounds as a small forward are right up there with what the 7-foot Oden posts as a center. Durant's 2.7 assists are solid for his position, and he is already emerging as one of the best shooters at the small forward spot this early in his career.

Team chemistry could be a possible argument brought on by those who don't see how Durant would make a difference in the PDX, but the soft-spoken 20-year old has been far from a malcontent at any point during his pro or college career. 

He can remind you of a young Joe Johnson—the kind of player that does whatever it takes for his team to win. Johnson lost often after signing with Atlanta, but he has helped build a winning foundation with the Hawks—something Durant certainly has the potential to do in OKC.

And while the eyes and ears of Rip City constantly lie on Oden's ill knee, Durant has been a rock so far in his career. He played 80 out of 82 games last season and has only missed one contest all of this year. Needless to say, Blazer fans wouldn't have to worry about a guy being in and out of the lineup every other game, and that's not to mention the long-term ramifications of micro fracture surgery.

Oden may or may not become as dominant as Dwight Howard is in Orlando (which would really be the only way to justify taking him No. 1 overall). The Blazers might just end up winning a championship with their current roster, after all, and the issue of revisiting what happened in 2007 may be rendered obsolete just a mere several years from now.

But for that to happen, Oden has to become one of the game's most dominant low-post forces. Portland has to find the firepower to overcome the Lakers, Spurs, and other heavyweights of the mighty Western Conference—not to mention the Celtics, Cavs, and Magic in the East—for a championship to be delivered to Rip City for the first time since 1977.

Otherwise, the man who may have been destined to take them there will be twiddling away a couple thousand miles down the road, permanently separated from the supporting cast he could have led to the NBA's Promise Land.

And that—more than a simple 2009 All-Star snub—would be much more of a shame.

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