Willie (Portland, OR): David, I think Pritchard will surprise everyone and take Durant? Is this a bad move?
David Thorpe: Chad Ford says it is Oden all the way. Personally, I go KD and sleep very easily.
Paul (Portland, OR): David, love your insight. So I assume when you say that you'd pick Durant and sleep easy, it's because you have no doubt about his potential. Whereas Oden, even with his beast-ness, is more of a wait-and-see?
David Thorpe: Kind of. With Portland's roster, KD is the more natural fit. Oden will be great-but the greatest? I doubt it.
I'm going to be writing about this for the next six weeks. Watching video, obsessing, wondering. But in the meantime, alarm bells are going off every time I hear someone say they know Portland will draft Greg Oden. There are a lot of angles here -- too many to discuss right now -- but some of the major points:
- Greg Oden, bless him, is a well-balanced individual. Kevin Durant is not. Multiple sources, who are in position to know, assure me that morning noon and night all Durant wants to do is dominate on the basketball court. I think it's entirely possible that distinction, multiplied over five years, makes Durant the more important player. (And don't give me all that stuff about big men ... Durant can be a big man too. He outrebounded Oden handily in college, and can defend a lot of bigs.) So, I hope my kids grow up to be happy like Greg Oden. But I hope my Trail Blazers hitch their wagon to Kevin Durant. UPDATE: TrueHoop reader Chris points out that I was wrong when I said Kevin Durant handily outrebounded Greg Oden in college: "Durant averaged 11.1 rebounds in 35.9 minutes, according to ESPN.com. That's 12.37 rebounds per 40 minutes. Oden got 9.6 in 28.9 minutes. That's 13.29 per 40 minutes."
- As Thorpe suggested to me on the phone, LaMarcus Aldridge is an "A" player who deserves a big chunk of the paint and the ball. Playing next to Greg Oden, who is at his best beasting around the lane like Shaquille O'Neal, would turn Aldridge into either a backup center, or a face-up power forward, and I think the Blazers expect more than that of him. And, in the new faster-paced NBA, LaMarcus Aldridge and Joel Pryzbilla is hardly a terrible center combination, especially alongside 6-10, long-armed Kevin Durant who can guard most power forwards. In that scenario, Portland just needs to find some veteran glue guys to play defense on the perimeter and hit open shots. (Jason Kapono, Matt Carroll, etc.)
- If you have listened to Kevin Pritchard over the last couple of years, he has made clear that he values "heartbeat" almost above all else. From what I have heard, Durant wins that column easily -- not because Oden has little heartbeat (he almost won a freaking NCAA title as a freshman) but because Durant has so much. Pritchard has also spent the last several hours telling everyone who'll listen that it's up in the air who he'll draft.
- The biggest worry of all, which is largely unknowable, is who's going to get injured? No real way to know, except Oden has a history of that and Durant does not.
- The closer people are to Kevin Pritchard, the more they seem to believe Durant is a possibility. The Oregonian's Jason Quick wrote: "Personally, I have always felt Pritchard is a Durant guy. He's never said it directly, but in passing conversations throughout the year, I got that drift." Quick is echoing what two other Portland-based sources have told me, too.
Now look, I'm no dummy. I know that it's GREG ODEN ... the star of what has long been called THE GREG ODEN DRAFT. The guy teams have been scheming for for two years. Oden may well be the guy. And if that's the pick? I'll cheer, and start cooking up BS reasons why ESPN has to send me for long weekends to Portland next season, because I trust Kevin Pritchard.
But let's not just turn off our brains because Greg Oden's a center. This is a marvelous, and tough, decision Portland has to make.