It was announced yesterday that snakebitten Portland Trailblazers center Greg Oden will be undergoing season-ending microfracture surgery. This despite not even playing a minute for the Blazers this season. Since being drafted first overall in 2007, Oden has played a total of 82 regular season games – the equivalent of one full season over the course of his four year career, due to two surgeries on his left knee and one on his right. Yet, despite all of this, Portland made the right decision drafting Oden instead of Kevin Durant. Yes, you read that right. Oden > Durant.
Obviously hindsight is 20/20 – knowing that Oden would miss so much time and have his career in jeopardy, you’d take Durant. But based on skills and performance on the court, you have to go with Oden. In the 82 games he did play for Portland, he averaged 9.4 ppg, 7.3 rpg and 1.4 bpg. He was even better in his second season – last year he put up averages of 11.1 ppg, 8.5 rpg and 2.3 bpg. And, if you are in to advanced stats, his career Win Score per 48 minutes is better than Durant’s. This isn’t meant to dismiss Kevin Durant as a player – he’s a singular talent, a fine leader and fun to watch. But Oden is (was?) a once-in-a-lifetime talent, a combo of size, skill and athleticism that trumps anything Durant has in his toolbox. While scorers are easily replaced, rebounders, interior defenders and intimidators who are also skilled players, are not. Add in the fact that you just don’t win a NBA title without a dominant big man (unless you have Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen on your side) and you see that Oden was a no-brainer for Portland to draft. Plus, Oden had no history of being injury prone, other than breaking his hand in college. Just comparing Oden and Durant’s physiques, you’d expect Durant to be the one who is brittle. And don’t forget, Oden is the kid who was getting compared to Bill Russell. If you have forgotten where those comparisons came from, check out the video below. Hopefully we’ll someday get to watch a NBA highlight video of Oden, also (but don’t bet money on it).