Fours ago, the Portland Trail Blazers had the first pick of the 2007 NBA Draft and they had to make a difficult choice. They had to chose between two players for whom, many thought that they would be superstars in the league for years to come.
Their names are, Greg Oden (on the left) and Kevin Durant (on the right). It was one of the most heated debates in the recent history as the pressure was getting bigger and bigger on Portland's back.
They selected Oden over Durant. It was expected call. The result? After some time, Greg's career has been dominated by injuries which have limited him while Kevin has become an elite superstar (arguably a top five player) and the best scorer in the game.
The big man hasn't really put the numbers most expected him to do, as his averages are similar to one pick the Blazers made in '84 as they selected Bowie (center) over Michael Jordan (wing) like they did in 2007.
But was it really a bad selection? Not at all, if you ask me. Durant has gone to do what he was predicted to be. Elite threat on offense and arguably the top scoring machine in the league. Then why was he wasn't taken at the first selection? Because of defense.
That's the reason why the center from Ohio State (a team he led to the national game) went at #1. It was his ability to dominate in a game on the defensive end, control the glass and impact his team to win without scoring a basket that earned him a reputation as a top prospect.
When healthy, he was the best defender in the NBA, as he made his presence known in that short 2009-2010 season for him. Although, he played in barely 24 minutes of action, he truly established himself in the paint and pushed Portland to be a fantastic team.
He averaged 8.7 rebounds and 2.3 blocks! He led all in blocked shots and field goal percent (for a while), and he had the highest percent in rebounds, blocks in terms of PER minute stats. Again, it's not the most efficient statistics in the world but it does prove his talent.
He usually locked his opponent while being a presence in the paint. He was one of the very best rebounders and shot blockers for sure as he intimated and challenged the opponents.
He was a great offensive player as well. Overall, he was quite fantastic. He averaged 11.7 points, 8.7 boards and 2.3 blocked shots on at least 60% from field and 77% at the charity. His PER 36 minute stats were the following:16.7 points, 12.8 rebounds, 3.4 blocks and six fouls.
Ignore the last, and focus on the other. It's amazing isn't it. He actually made a huge improvement in very short time, duo to his will to improve and hard work in the summer of 2009. Oh, and he ranked eight overall in most productive players in the league!
Then his mentor, the former Trail Blazers, Maurice Lucas (RIP) compared him to Nate Thurmond who also was a game changer and made production on defense like Greg. He also had health issues too.
That's an excellent comparison and maybe the one with Bill Russell, but that will be when he reaches his full potential. Oden needs to be healthy, stay on the court and showcase why he's arguably the top defensive player in the league.
He has the tools, skills, size and instincts to be the next great big man in the NBA. All he needs is to remain injury free, and then everyone should watch out because he'll push Portland into a title contender easily.


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