The Blazers won the NBA Draft Lottery and with that victory the team has the option of selecting Greg Oden or Kevin Durant. I can’t explain how excited I am as a Blazers fan. I am not a hyper-emotional person, particularly when it comes to events that aren’t even during the season. But, as I sat in the car listening to the Blazers beat the long odds and come out with the top spot, I actually started yelling, screaming and pumping my fists. I looked like a bigger tool than usual, yet as I write this, more than 3 hours after the announcement, I am still excited at the possibilities that are afforded my team.
Either Oden or Durant will help the Blazers finally climb out of the abyss it has been in since the 2000 Game 7 Western Conference Finals collapse. The Blazers were a flawed but winning team at the time with serious character issues. After that loss the team spiraled down with more character problems coupled with losing. During this period Paul Allen continued to make awful business blunders like the throwing the arena into bankruptcy and ultimately buying it back from his creditors. Things were rough and Portland fans had been spoiled with 20-plus years of playoff appearances, so the fans started to leave in droves. I stayed but cringed every time I watched a game full of bad seeds play poorly.
Last year, GM Kevin Pritchard, then an assistant GM, wheeled and dealed in the draft ending up with Rookie of the Year Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge and Sergio Rodriguez. All of these players performed well this past season. Moreover, these guys and others the management brought in had good character and the organization finally looked to be heading in the right direction, although the wins weren’t there yet. Now, with the power and possibility of the number one pick, it finally feels like the Blazers are really turning the corner.
The question now becomes who the Blazers draft—Oden or Durant. My money, and I think most others as well, is on Oden. I believe Oden and Durant are both real deals. Oden is a defensive stopper whose offensive game will develop in the next few years. Durant is the dynamic scorer on the wing that will have the ability to lift his teams on the offensive end. The two are a yin and yang of sorts and either will probably end up being long-term contributors in the NBA and likely have many All-Star appearances between the two of them. But, Oden is the better fit and gives the Blazers more options.
Coach McMillan is a defensive minded coach and will know how to integrate Oden into his game plan. Oden will be the defensive presence Portland lacks and will improve everybody around him because he will allow his teammates to be more aggressive knowing Oden can help clean up any mistakes. Offensively, Oden is not as progressed as Durant but he can improve his offense and he has lots of time to do that since he is only 19. It’s easier to improve offense than defense which gives Oden an edge.
A team also can’t pass up a potentially dominant center. There are many more gifted wing players in the league than there are talented big men. You just can’t. Look at what Tim Duncan did for the Spurs, although he was more polished coming out. Oden has the potential to make the Blazers a contender for a decade coupled with Aldridge and Roy.
Drafting Oden also gives the Blazers a good opportunity to trade Zach Randolph for an athletic wing with better character. Luol Deng probably isn’t available any more but somebody like him that will unclog the middle for Aldridge and Oden. I can’t think of anybody right because I am just so excited about the future. The only thing that could make this better is if Liverpool beats AC Milan in the Champions League Final on Wednesday.