I hate to keep rehashing this topic because it is excruciatingly painful, but here is the definitive last word on the god-forsaken Oden or Durant debate. The debate boils down to 2 facts.
Fact #1: Durant is destined to be Dirk Nowitski X 1.5. All the hype about Durant as a revolutionary wing player at 6’10” will be over by his 25th birthday. Granted that still gives him 4 years, but when his hall of fame career is over he will have played 2/3rds of his career as a power forward. History proves it over and over. Players try to resist the move but team needs and the demands of a player’s body as they age make it inevitable. Players start to fill out at 25 years of age and big men are always at a premium. Swing men are a dime a dozen in the NBA (look at the T-Wolves this year).
Kevin Garnett tried to be a 6’ 13” small forward. It didn’t last. By all accounts he’s been playing center for 10 years. Dirk was drafted to be the revolution only a European big man could become; a 6’10” small forward who could handle the ball like a pg and shoot from the hash mark. All the same things they say about Durant now, they said about Dirk in 99. He’s played power forward for the last 8 years and rarely handles the ball above the foul line extended. By the time it’s all said and done he will average between 25 and 30ppg for over a decade. Durant could put up between 30 and 35 for a decade. That’s Jordan and Chamberlain territory alone, but hardly revolutionary. But how many rings do Dirk and KG have between them? Only one. The fact is swing men and stretch 4s do not a championship ring bring.
The single exception to this fact thus far is Lebron James who, to his credit, has recognized this fact and purposely refused to develop a post game to delay his eventual move to power forward that Pat Riley is planning as we speak (Riley did the exact same thing to Lamar Odom, another 6’10” multi skill perimeter player converted to a 4 out of need and convention).
Which brings me to fact #2 which I’ve actually already stated indirectly:
Quality Big men are now and forever shall be the closest thing to a shortcut to winning NBA Championships. Now granted a big man always needs great little men to get him the ball and shooters to stretch the D, but no amount of outside shooting and perimeter all stars can make up for a mediocre low post presence. Look at the league now. Dwight Howard comes of age and Orlando is a perennial contender out of nowhere. The 2006 Miami Heat won a title with the 2006 Shaq. The 2007 Heat with no Shaq was one of the worst teams in history with Dwyane Wade. Name a team with a quality center who isn’t considered at least a fringe contender? The Nets with Brooke Lopez are the only example currently. How many playoffs did Olajuwon miss? The David Robinson lead Spurs were always in the hunt. Look what a difference Gasoil’s presence makes in LA, or Garnett’s in Boston. Those are the facts proven time and time again by history repeating it’s self.
If you think about it, the team that drafted Durant will try to convert him into Oden if he doesn’t win them a title soon. The Thunder are lacking a game changing big man. Do you see them winning a title in the next 2 years with Serge Ibaka at center? The conversion will come and everything special about Durant right now; the size on the perimeter creating match up nightmares, the coast to coast one man fast break, seeing over the screener on the high pick and roll, and the turnaround fade way jumpers over the swarming triple team from dam near half court all will be sacrificed to try and manufacture what could not simply be acquired on draft day: an elite big man. Only Magic Johnson has escaped this fate because he won a title for the Lakers as a rookie. Ironically he did so by scoring 42 points and grabbing 20 rebounds while playing Center for the injured Kareem Abdul Jabbar in the series clinching victory of the NBA finals. And so Lebron is still the only exception as even Magic became a big man when it mattered most.
Ok, so now you are an NBA GM with the first pick in the Draft and you can draft Dirk Nowitski 1.5 or a 50/50 Raffle ticket for an NBA Finals short cut. If you want to sell tickets you take Dirk 1.5, if you want to win titles you roll the dice with the 50/50 short cut. The Blazers took the 50/50 shortcut, knowing it would be either a Bowie (bust), or a Walton (Championship in his 3rd year). If the Blazers don’t win a title this year with Greg Oden, it just means when they draft 1 overall again in 15 years, they should draft the big man again because the odds say they are due for the title shortcut.