The Great Debate: Oden or Durant?

With the first selection in Thursday's upcoming NBA Draft, the Portland Trail Blazers haven't determined whether they are going to select Ohio State's Greg Oden or Texas' Kevin Durant. Portland has even created an Oden-Durant website to chronicle its decision-making process. So's Maurice Brooks and Stefan Swiat decided to join into the fray and debate over who should be the top pick. Send them your thoughts on who the Portland Trail Blazers should take.

Who Should Go No.1?

Gamebreakers like Durant can't be found in every draft.
Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

By Stefan Swiat

With the Portland Trail Blazers contemplating who to snag with the No. 1 overall pick in Thursday's NBA Draft, “conventional wisdom” says that Ohio State big man Greg Oden will be the top player chosen.

But what’s ironic about “conventional wisdom” is that the scientist that dubbed that term, didn’t believe in it. Instead, he reasoned, “conventional wisdom” was a series of unproven facts that made people feel all warm and cozy inside, but fell short of being the truth. Kind of like always taking a formidable center with the first pick.

This year's draft seems a little of reminiscent 1984’s, with a can’t-miss big man up for grabs, but a more intriguing talent beckoning to be taken.

Let's flash back to 1984 when Hakeem Olajuwon was drafted first overall by the Houston Rockets. You couldn’t pass on Hakeem, right? I mean the guy was literally “The Dream” and ended up claiming two NBA Finals to go along with two Finals MVP trophies. He was the sure bet, while the guy taken at No. 3 that year was the sure thing.

When the Rockets were scouting for the 1984 Draft, they asked then-Olympic coach Bob Knight who he thought was the best college prospect. Knight believed they should select Michael Jordan. The Rockets responded by stating they needed a center, to which Knight quipped, “Then have Jordan play center.” His Airness went on to claim six rings, five MVPs and the game of basketball.

Now I’m not saying that Kevin Durant is the next Michael Jordan or that Oden is Olajuwon, but I think the analogy has merit. Durant set the college basketball world ablaze last season, erupting for 25.8 points, 11.1 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game, while shooting 47 percent from the field, 82 percent from the line and 40 percent from behind the arc in one of the toughest conferences in the country.

He garnered all of the National Player of the Year awards, the Adolph Rupp Trophy, the Naismith Award and the Wooden Award, becoming the first-ever freshman in NCAA history to win any of those awards, as well as first team Big 12 All-Defensive honors and the Big 12 Tournament MVP.

And it’s not all about statistics either. Durant was the man at Texas. Defenses were designed to stop him, and only him, while Oden had two other potential first-rounders helping him out. But beyond the experience of being the go-to guy in the clutch and having the team being thrusted upon his shoulders, Durant possesses another characteristic of the all-time greats: a killer instinct.

If you were the fan of a team facing players like Jordan, Magic, Bird and Isiah in the closing seconds of a game, your stomach would be in knots because you knew they were going to pull out the victory.

Now “conventional wisdom” says that all championship teams have a great center, which is by no means true. The Pistons had Bill Laimbeer during their back-to-back runs, the Bulls had Luc Longley and more recently, the Spurs had Fabricio Oberto. A better analysis would say that championship teams usually always have a threat on the low block.

The Trail Blazers’ best player, Zach Randolph, is already giving them 23.6 points and 10.1 rebounds in the low post, while LaMarcus Aldridge also gave them solid minutes down low and was named First Team All-Rookie for his efforts. So why grab another low-post player?

Also, with the pressure on and the cameras rolling, Durant wowed the Trail Blazers by delivering a superb workout, while Oden admitted to "getting nervous" and telling the coaches that he needed to be "in better shape." Can you imagine someone like Kobe Bryant or Steve Nash saying something like that? No chance.

Just like there is no chance that Durant would ever utter those words. Because like the other great ones, Durant has that same ultra-competitive drive and closing ability that is maybe the rarest commodity found in players.

That kind of mindset that doesn't just want, but demands the ball at the end of games and thrives on showing everybody that he is the alpha dog. And usually, when you combine that mentality with a player who possesses great athleticism and incredible skill, you have type of player that collects championship hardware.

So if the Blazers want to avoid criticism and second-guessing and make the predictable play out of fear of being perceived an unconventional, they’ll choose Oden. But if they are looking for a versatile, game-breaking forward with a 7'5" wingspan, a deadly outside shooting touch and an entire repertoire of offensive moves, they'll take Durant.

It's not like it's a big deal for the Blazers, they didn't pass on Jordan in 1984... Oh, wait...

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  • Do You Take Durant or Oden?

    Oden stands tall among the prospects.
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    By Maurice Brooks

    Flipping a coin, shooting rock, paper, scissors and choosing odds or evens are some of the best known ways of breaking ties. Personally, I’ve used other really complex scientific formulas to decide winners between evenly-matched foes.

    For example, when my son took me to the mall and told me he wanted either an Xbox 360 or a PlayStation 3, I checked my bank account and went with the Xbox 360 because it was cheaper (see, I told you this was complex stuff).

    And when a friend recently called me to settle a bar argument over who was hotter, Halle Berry or Salma Hayek, I simply reminded him that not only is Salma engaged, she is also currently pregnant so obviously Halle gets the nod (talk about a no-brainer). If only everything in life was so easy to decide.

    Just like fans of The Sopranos who have been unable to come to an agreement on the meaning of the final scene, hoop heads remain undecided on who should be the top pick of the NBA Draft - Greg Oden or Kevin Durant?

    Here we are just days away from the deepest draft ever (Thursday, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN) and there's still a legitimate debate about who is going to be the one. At some point in the night, Commissioner David Stern is going to walk up to the podium and utter the words, “With the first pick in the 2007 NBA Draft, the Portland Trail Blazers select …”

    Not to put words in Stern’s mouth, but I hope that sentence ends with, “Greg Oden out of Ohio State University.” These are the reasons why:

    Greg Oden is a winner. Think about it, his high school team went a ridiculous 103-7 and he led OSU to the national title game with a 35-4 record as a freshman.

    Greg Oden is the complete package. He averaged 15.7 points, 9.6 rebounds and 3.3 blocks last season and is capable of dominating games without taking a ton of shots.

    Greg Oden is a fan favorite. His smile and friendly demeanor off the court is reminiscent of another center who currently stars for the Miami Heat.

    Greg Oden is an athletic freak. Scouts will be talking about his workout for years to come. Read this.

    Greg Oden is capable of playing forward on offense. The way he runs the floor and his soft shooting touch make him the anti-Shaq.

    Greg Oden is an underrated passer. He has shown that he has good court vision and is capable of making the right decisions with the ball.

    Greg Oden is the type of player who performs his best on the biggest stage. Ask Florida after he hung 25 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks on them in the championship game.

    Greg Oden is a center and history shows that centers win titles – lots of them. For proof, see Tim Duncan (he plays the five in my book), Shaquille O’Neal, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Bill Russell. And while we’re talking about Russell …

    Greg Oden is the next Bill Russell. He changes games defensively, finishes with either hand around the rim, rebounds well and always appears to be in the right position.

    Greg Oden is seven feet tall and 260 pounds. ‘Nuff said.

    Greg Oden is capable of making the Blazers a playoff team right now.

    Greg Oden is a perfect fit for Portland, who hasn’t had a superstar in the middle since Bill Walton was lacing ‘em up (sorry Arvydas Sabonis and Rasheed Wallace).

    Greg Oden is going to get much better. Remember, he played most of last season with an injured right wrist and still connected on over 60 percent of his shots from the field. The injury forced him to rely on his left hand which makes him an even more complete player.

    Greg Oden is a franchise player right now. His turnaround jumper, jump hooks and power moves around the basket are unguardable.

    Greg Oden is capable of knocking down 15-foot jumpers and commanding a double team, which will free up his teammates.

    Greg Oden is only 19-years old but appears much older both physically and mentally. "You’re looking at a guy who is a physical specimen in Greg versus a very skilled guy in Kevin, so the comparisons are very difficult and that makes our job a little more difficult because we’re not comparing apples to apples," said Blazers general manager Kevin Pritchard.

    Greg Oden is the only player the Blazers should consider taking with the most prized pick of the draft.

  • Send your feedback

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