The Blazers decision to pass on Durant and select Oden looks worse with every passing day. (Pic via everyjoe.com)
Kevin Durant dropped 33 and 11 last night in what is becoming a rather typical game for him these days. But last night’s performance was a little bit unique for several reasons.
Durant led the Thunder–the playoff bound Thunder–to an easy win over the wounded Blazers last night in Portland, reminding everyone just how good he has become while Greg Oden continues to recover from yet another injury.
He has now scored at least 25 points in 25 straight games, the third-longest streak of all-time, and the longest since Allen Iverson’s steak of 27 straight games for the Sixers in the 2000-2001 season.
Then this morning came the announcement that Durant was invited to the USA Basketball training camp this summer. An appearance on the USA squad in the World Championship and Olympic Games could lead to even more improvement from the 21 year-old.
This isn’t the first time the Blazers have watched a player they passed on rise to astounding heights. Everybody knows about Sam Bowie, but not everybody knows just how stupid drafting him really was.
Let’s flashback to 1984, when the Blazers decide to draft Sam Bowie after the Rockets nab Akeem Olajuwon with the first pick. Bowie suffered serious shin injuries in college and averaged–brace yourself–a whopping 10 ppg and 9 rpg during his final year at Kentucky after missing two seasons while recovering from injury.
The Blazers drafted Clyde Drexler in 1983, which has long been used as an excuse to pass on Michael Jordan. Drexler supposedly showed flashes during his rookie season, but ultimately finished with modest numbers to say the least: 7.7 ppg in 18 mpg while appearing in all 82 games.
Jordan’s talents had been kept under wraps somewhat by Dean Smith, but his raw ability was obvious–just watch some old UNC games on ESPN Classic and you can see it.
The similarities between the 1984 and 2007 are striking. The Blazers had a need at center in both years, but passed on supremely talented wing players.
If you watched much college hoops during the 2006-2007 season, you would have recognized the better player and prospect. Durant was handling the ball, crashing the glass, putting up ridiculous numbers like 38 and 19 while dominating what was a very competitive Big 12.
Meanwhile, Oden was owning the paint in the Big Ten despite playing left-handed for much of the season. But Oden had a deep, talented group around him and faced almost no competition from other big men in the league. The best inside player in the Big Ten not named Oden was Indiana’s D.J. White. Yikes.
So just sit back and imagine some scenarios:
Put Jordan alongside Drexler and Terry Porter, add a young Jerome Kersey, Cliff Robinson, and Kevin Duckworth and you give Showtime a run for its money and dominate the West by the early 90’s.
Put Durant in a good system with Brandon Roy, wait a couple years for Kobe and Duncan to age, and you have the Western Conference on lock for years to come. The void at center? Joel Pryzbilla is adequate to begin with, and defending against Andrew Bynum and Chris Kaman shouldn’t be a huge concern.
Durant’s potential is scary. He is two or three inches taller than LeBron, already one of the better shooters in the league, and still learning how to play. If he finds that killer instict Jordan and Bird had from the start and Kobe came to develop, he will go down as one of the greatest players in NBA history.
Oden seems like a good kid and a relatively hard worker, but leg injuries to someone that size are likely to linger. Unless he pulls a Benjamin Button, it seems doubtful Oden will have much of an impact in the NBA.
The Blazers clearly screwed up–again.