When Greg Oden and Kevin Durant come into the league next year, there will be a debate that follows them their whole careers. Who went No. 1 and who went No. 2. The second guessing, hating and doubting will start before they even play their first regular season game. Forget about it, it began before they even declared for the draft, in which they will go 1-2 just like Tupac and Biggie. That much is certain. But who goes first? That is where the debate begins.
Kevin Durant is the kid that came out of nowhere. Well, not nowhere nowhere, because he was highly touted. But no one was supposed to steal Greg Oden’s thunder. The most hyped player since LeBron, Oden’s been seen as a once-in-a-lifetime player. The kind of center that only comes around once a decade. There was Bill and Wilt, Kareem, Shaq and now Oden – or that’s been all the hype the last two years. And Oden is like that for real… But is he more a young Patrick Ewing than Bill Russell? Is it even fair to compare him to a man who won 11 NBA titles?
And Durant must have a lot of nerve. Oden has been projected as the No. 1 draft pick since his junior year in high school. Without the new NBA age-minimum rule, he would have gone first last year. But Durant’s play this season for Texas has thrown Oden’s projection as the top pick into question. The critics say Durant is no more than a George Gervin–Bob McAdoo type scorer, hardly someone to lead his team to a championship. But last I checked both of those players were Hall of Famers and with Durant’s 37-point, 23-rebound monster of a game on January 31, you have to wonder. For all his ability Oden has yet to have a game like that, although the NCAA final was close.
Oden is as good as advertised with his game-changing defense, but we didn’t see the offensive explosion until the NCAA final. Is he a much improved Ben Wallace or can he ascend to greatness on both sides of the ball. Both players are young and have tremendous room for growth, but at this point Durant is clearly the more established and polished player. The Clippers drafted Benoit Benjamin on potential and Michael Olowokandi too and look where that got them. Not to compare Oden to them because he is definitely leaps and bounds above them, but Durant’s offensive prowness and rebounding is phenomenal right now while Oden has mostly held it down on the defensive end.
We’ll see what happens. Does the lottery winner take the smooth scorer with the sick boxscore line or the big man with the intimidating defense? It’s a question for GMs and talent evaluators around the league to answer. And whatever positions in the draft, 1 or 2, that they go the debate will be brought up for the rest of their careers. And rest assured it won’t be a Bowie/Jordan or Manning/Leaf type comparison.