You knew it was coming, right? It was way too easy for people to just fall in line and agree that the Trail Blazers would be insane not to take Greg Oden. So now people like Bill Simmons are calling for the Blazers to take Kevin Durant, and even Blazers' GM Kevin Pritchard seems to be sending mixed signals about who he is going to spend the pick on, saying:
"We're gonna look at everything," Pritchard said. "I think what's going to be important is putting them in a position out here where we can see both their strengths and their weaknesses with our coach putting an emphasis in those areas. Because in a game, all you see is a coach putting their players in a (position) of strength."
To play devil's advocate for a moment, here are the reasons why people are suddenly jumping on the Durant to Portland bandwagon:
- The Blazers already have Zach Randolph and LaMarcus Aldridge inside, so they don't need Oden.
- If the Blazers do take Oden, they would have to dump Randolph for cheap.
- Oden might have some long term health issues with his wrist.
- Oh Golly! Kevin Durant is so good!
Granted, these arguments all have varying degrees of validity. These arguments however, and the people that make them, are ignoring some simple facts:
Fact #1: Big Men Win Rings
Take a look at recent NBA history. The Spurs have won 4 titles with Tim Duncan being the main reason for those wins. Shaq has 4 titles in recent years as well. Hakeem won 2 titles while Jordan was retired. To put it simply, NBA titles in the past 15 years have been won by teams led by either a dominant big man or Michael Jordan. (The Pistons being the one exception, though one could argue the Wallace Brothers were the key to their win.) Greg Oden just happens to be a dominant big man; Kevin Durant does not happen to be the next Jordan. Try this one on for size: do you think that Durant is better than LeBron? If not then after seeing LeBron fall to Tim Duncan in this year's Finals how can you reasonably advocate picking Durant over Oden?
Fact #2: Reggie Bush Is Better Than Mario Williams
Stay with me on this one. Two years ago the Houston Texans had the easiest choice in the world at the top of the draft. Reggie Bush was sitting there having just won the Heisman Trophy and producing more insane highlights on a college football field than any man since Barry Sanders. So what did the Texans do? They decided that since they had a decent running back in Domanick Davis (Zach Randolph) and a weakness at defensive end (small forward) that they should take Williams (Durant) over Bush (Oden). Granted, Durant is a better football player than Mario Williams, but the comparison still holds true. The Saints actions in that draft are the model which the Blazers should follow. Even though New Orleans still had Deuce McCallister they took Bush anyway, and the Blazers would be wise to follow their example even though they already have Randolph and Aldridge. If the Blazers talk themselves out of drafting Oden they will be cursing themselves in four or five years when Oden and Ray Allen have a championship and the Blazers are merely one of the highest scoring teams in the league.
Fact #3: Joe Dumars > Dominique Wilkins
The header on this one could also read "Tim Duncan > Steve Nash" or "Shaq > Vince Carter". Point being, people that are rooting for the Blazers to take Durant over Oden are rooting for excitement over actual common sense. Is Durant really any better than Carmelo Anthony, the last freshman small forward to take the country by storm? At least Anthony won the national championship, something that cannot be said of Durant. People that want Durant over Oden are the same people that think the Spurs are boring and want the Phoenix Suns to be NBA champs every season. They are missing the point. Substance > Style.
So will the Blazers take Durant? I don't think so, not just because it would be the wrong move but also because Pritchard would find himself out of the NBA for life if it didn't work out. In this case Oden is both the safe pick, and more importantly, the right one.