In 2007, there was genuine debate about whether the Trail Blazers should draft Greg Oden over Kevin Durant with the No. 1 pick.
Durant said he didn’t care whether he went No. 1 or No. 2 to the SuperSonics.
Of course, Portland took Oden – the more-popular, though hardly unanimous, choice – and Oden fizzled out of the NBA due to injuries. Durant became a superstar with the Thunder and Warriors.
Durant, via Chris Haynes of ESPN:
“I definitely wanted to be the No. 1 pick, but I landed in a great situation. I couldn’t ask for anything better. I would love to play with LaMarcus and Brandon Roy, but when I was the second pick, I was very excited to get to Seattle. We had traded Ray Allen, like, two picks later and I was like, ‘Wow. They’re really opening it up for me and really allowing me to grow as a player.’ So I didn’t even worry about being the No. 1 pick after that. Once we traded Ray Allen, I was like, ‘This is my team.’ They’re going to allow me to grow and make my mistakes. So I was looking forward to it.”
Of course Durant wanted to be the No. 1 pick. There wasn’t an appreciable difference in the quality of the top two teams, and the top selection got greater recognition and a higher salary. I’m not sure why Durant denied it in the first place.
How different would the league be today if Durant went to Portland and Oden went to Seattle then Oklahoma City? The ripple effects would be huge.
But I doubt the Trail Blazers picked Oden over a misunderstanding about Durant’s desire to go No. 1. They, like a lot of people, thought Oden was the better prospect.
Durant also addressed Oden’s claim that he’ll be “remembered as the biggest bust in NBA history.””
Durant, via Haynes:
“Nonsense. That’s nonsense,” Durant adamantly told ESPN Sunday evening. “In order for you to be a bust, you have to actually play and show people that you progressed as a player. He didn’t get a chance to.”
Personally, I don’t care whether players with major injuries are included in bust discussions. It’s worth acknowledging when that’s a factor, but their teams still don’t get the desired production. When talking busts, there are two overlapping conversations to have – one that exempts injured players and one that doesn’t. Both are valid.