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Making The Case For The Durantula

?With the First Pick, in the 2007 NBA Draft,? (it?s Greg Oden) a sinister-grinning David Stern says, ?The Port-land Trail Blazers select?.? (It?s Greg Oden). Another big smile from Tha Commish, before opening the envelope. ?Kevin Durant.?

It?s Gre? wait. What?!

What is going on here? Why would Portland pass up the next Wilt, the next Bull Russell, the next great center, for Kevin Durant? This makes no sense. They?d have the deepest frontcourt in the NBA with Oden, LaMarcus Aldridge, Zach Randolph and Joel Pryzbilla. They?d have the longest frontcourt and the most imposing defensively. They?d have the Northwest Division locked up in two years for the next 10. They?d?..

Not have Kevin Durant. They wouldn?t have the next superstar. They wouldn?t have the most electrifying man in this class. They wouldn?t have the most dynamic swingman to come out of college since Larry Bird. I say swingman because he can play the 2/3/4, while Michael Jordan is, was and will be a shooting guard. They wouldn?t have Durant.

So why is Pritchard still mum on the subject? Sure, he could have one or the other. Seattle knows they?re getting left-overs and are fine with that. But why is Pritchard considering Kevin Durant? Shouldn?t this be a closed case? Throughout the article, I?ll explain why he will and won?t take Durant and why he would and wouldn?t take Oden. Then I?ll make the case for Durant. And/or Oden.

Why Kevin Durant Will Work

No drastic off-season moves. Pritchard wouldn?t have to worry about trying to trade Zach Randolph for 40, 50, 60 or 70 cents on the dollar. Z-Bo is the most agile and light-footed low-post scorer in the NBA. (Enough hyphens for ya?)  He has NBA 3-point touch. He has All-Star capabilities and is what every Championship team needs: a low-post scorer.

Randolph, Aldridge and Durant make the most unique front court in the NBA. Durant and Aldridge have the length to defend their positions and have the length to help out Z-Bo if needed. If the ball is passed out of the post, Durant has the foot speed to quickly recover. They won?t have to tinker with the roster as much with Durant as they would Oden.

Portland is a basketball town and needs a player to market. Brandon Roy has the talent but his personality isn?t what a company like Nike wants to market. Durant has that ?it? factor that marketing execs pine for. If Durant is serious about making $60 shoes, Portland is the headquarters of Nike and adidas. It would make commuting to any business meetings easier on him.

He can carry a team. Roy can score, but is willing to put the team first. Randolph can score, but his inconsistent nights give pause for concern when giving him the ball in the clutch. Aldridge isn?t there yet. Jarrett Jack is more of a scoring point guard, but no one wants the ball in the point guard?s hands unless it is to pass to the star on the team. Durant has that mentality to turn it on in the fourth quarter. He can turn it on at any point of the game and proved that over and over again at Texas. With Portland, he?d be the go-to guy and would want it that way.

While a combo of Oden and woever-they-get-for-Randolph is nice, Durant and Aldridge is more potent. Both can run the floor, block shots, rebound on both ends of the floor, and score inside and out. Oden may not be there yet, but by trading for a small forward like Richard Jefferson, the Blazers are trading for a small forward who will not be in his prime when the team is starting to click. Jefferson is still NBA young, but by the time he?s 31, these Blazers will be in their early-mid 20?s. Vets are nice as role players, but for the core of the team, you?d want them together for a long period of time.

LaMarcus went to Texas. Kevin Durant went to Texas. Aldridge was a factor in Durant going to Austin. Both have been acquainted with each other and Aldridge would help make Durant?s transition easier. Players have a hard time being away from their families. Anyone would have a hard time seeing their family just a couple of times out of their after living with them for almost their entire lives. Oden may know Fred Jones from earlier encounters, but will Fred Jones still be with the organization in five years? Who knows if Aldridge will be, either, but it?s more likely Aldridge will be there longer than Jones would.

Paul Allen will open up his pockets to make sure everyone stays. He?ll go into the luxury-tax as long as they have a shot in the playoffs every year. He likes Darius Miles and gave a very nice contract. He liked Theo Ratliff. Ratliff may never be 80% of the player he once was, but Allen helped him become one the highest paid players. Allen will keep this team together at all costs. Out of Durant, Roy and Aldridge, only Durant would get the max, but the other two wouldn?t be far behind. Can?t count out Sergio Rodriguez, who both Pritchard and I love. Each of those players, with the exception of Rodriguez, would make over 10 mill per once their contracts are up.

Why Kevin Durant Wouldn?t Work

It?s Greg Oden.

Durant is a small forward who is offensive-minded, while the Blazers have two go-to players who are offensive-minded in Randolph and Roy. Aldridge is developing, but would Durant stunt Aldridge?s growth as an offensive player? Oden?s offensive game would be allowed to come along slowly due to Roy and Randolph carrying most of the load.

A frontcourt of Oden-Aldridge-whoever is ten times better defensively than Durant-Randolph-Aldridge. Randolph is a good player, but his defensive deficiencies won?t be as viewable next to Oden as they would next to Durant. Nate McMillan is a defense-first coach. Portland is continuously high in defensive categories, but near the bottom offensively. While Durant would help the offensive categories a little bit, Oden would help bring the defense to the top of the League.

Oden is a quiet guy and won?t command the attention of the media as much as Durant would. He?d put Portland on the map basketball wise, but he wouldn?t put them on the map marketing wise like Durant would. Durant?s endorsements wouldn?t take away from the Blazers, but that doesn?t mean some of the players wouldn?t get jealous. Oden would be just another player on a team, while Durant would stand head-and-heels over everyone else when it comes to marketing.

It?s Greg Oden.

Will the weight Durant adds on as a pro affect his game? He crushes fools based on his quickness, foot speed on both ends and both outside and inside. If he adds on 30 pounds of muscle, where will his quickness go? Will it still be there? When Kevin Garnett came into the NBA, his quickness at the 4-spot helped get him by until his body and game grew. With Durant, he?s playing at a position where his biggest advantage is quickness. He?s smart as hell on the court and would likely find a way to contribute if his added weight takes a hold of his game.

With Oden, he can fill out, still be as quick and potent, and play on both ends of the floor like he does right now. He plays a position where quickness helps but doesn?t make or break his impact on the game. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was a fairly quick post player in his prime, but by the tail end of his career, he wasn?t close to the player he once was. But he found a way to impact the game down low. His size still disrupted opponents, even if he was a step slow to the ball. Oden at 32 is relatively the same player while Durant may be a completely different player.

Why Greg Oden Will Work

We?ve seen the best of Durant. It was spectacular. He played with no big man and guards who could score. He was flat out dominant. He played anywhere and everywhere for Texas. That?s the difference between him and Oden: we?ve seen what Durant has to offer. Have we seen the best of Oden? Hell. No.

Everyone is saying this and rightfully so: he had a broken wrist and never tried to go 100%. Even he has said it before. At least we all know he?d crush Andris Biedrins in a left-handed free throw contest. That should be the next All-Star gig, like Barkley and Bavetta?s foot race. If that were two more full court lengths, Barkley would?ve been smoked. Anyway.

Oden finally came to life in the NCAA and Big 10 tournaments. He was dominant everywhere. He waited for people to come in the lane to block their shot. His touch was improving game by game. His confidence was growing and exploded on Joakim Noah in the Championship game. That was the game where Oden made a statement. Noah is a versatile big man who would be a perfect compliment on a Championship team next to, say, Tim Duncan. Oden abused him. Oden owned that game despite any foul trouble. He played within himself and finally showed the world why the hype was made.

If they don?t trade Randolph and sign a run-of-the-mill small forward like Matt Barnes, Jason Kapono or Mickael Pietrus, a 3-headed monster of Randolph-Oden-Aldridge is a deadly frontcourt, even in the Western Conference. Any defensive deficiencies at the 3 (Kapono) would be masked by both Aldridge and Oden. With Durant, a healthy Przybilla replaces Oden, but can he repeat his first-year performance with Portland for the next ten years? No. If Portland has another small forward for each year Oden is a Blazer, can they produce what Durant puts up? No. But in a 7-game series, who would you rather have on the floor: a defense led by Oden or an offense led by Durant?

Aside from a great college point guard, Oden didn?t have much next to him. Ron Lewis was a good college scorer who will probably get in the NBA thanks to a career game at UNC. Daequan Cook has a lot of potential, but could have used a year of playing over 30 minutes a game in a decent college conference. Aside from Conley and those two, who was next to Oden? Oh yeah. 3 NBA players. They may not stick in the NBA, but Oden helped take that team to the NCAA Title game.

Durant played next to AJ Abrams and DJ Augustine, two journeyman NBA point guards. He had no help in the front court. While Oden benefited himself with more NBA help, he also was able to accomplish more with it. Would that team get to the NCAA Title game with Durant instead of Oden? Well, probably. They may have been in the game, too. But Oden has already proven, in just one year, what type of impact he can have on a team.

Oden is a small town guy who already has a couple of small connections with a few Trail Blazers. Fred Jones played for the Pacers when Oden was a young?n in high school. They met a couple of times and Jones showed Oden the city earlier in the draft process. Randolph is from Indiana, like Oden. Portland is big enough to feel like a city but small enough to not affect Oden culture-shock wise. It?s far away for Oden to focus on basketball and not get swept up in the media frenzy. He?d only have to deal with Jason Quick and the Mikes. On the East Coast, he?d have to deal with Stephen A. Smith, ESPN, Peter Vescey and other media honchos who could scare the crap out of a kid just by talking.

Durant is tailor-made to be marketed. He?d get more exposure in a place like Seattle because it?s a little bigger and has a bigger sports market thanks to the Mariners and Seahawks. In Portland, Durant would be the talk of the town, but he?d also be the talk of the rest of the country. Oden seems more accustomed to not getting much attention than Durant getting a lot of attention. Both will benefit by playing here in the Pacific Northwest, but Oden has more of a comfort zone in Portland.

Why Oden Wouldn?t Work

It?s Kevin Durant.

Although recent injury reports have come out, and Oden has denied them, the one that bothers me is what plagued him throughout his collegiate season: his fractured right wrist. It?s not 100% healthy. I don?t care what his camp or the doctors or what anyone else says. It?s not 100%. If he won?t bench with it, then there are a lot of weight exercises he can?t do. That wrist plays a vital part in how his game translates to the NBA. His wrist needs to be 100% for his jump shot to fully come along. His wrist needs to be healthy so he can have more of an impact on both ends of the floor, as well as clapping from the bench. His wrist is not healthy. If it?s not healthy now, when will it be?

My best friend, Mike, and I have been playing ball together since the first grade. About four years ago, he broke his wrist trying to block someone?s shot from out of nowhere and his wrist broke his fall into the wall. He had a cast on and, just like Oden, improved his left hand tenfold. But the rotation on his shot never came back. ?I can?t flick my wrist like I used to,? he said.

When he places his hand along the seams and along the logo, the ball should spin straight because that?s the way the rotation of the shot should go. The rotation of his shot immediately changes direction out of his hand. He swishes a lot of shots but the shots he misses are when they hit the rim. The spin of the ball dictates where the shot has a possibility of going. Shoot for the sky and with the right rotation, shooter?s touch kicks in on the rim and it has a great chance of going it. Wrong rotation of the ball will always result in a miss.

Mike doesn?t have access to top-flight physical therapists that Oden has. He doesn?t have numerous ways and weights to move around to increase his wrist, so maybe Oden has medical technology on his side. But if that bone didn?t grow back into place, it?s unlikely that it will be 100%. Ever.

Durant didn?t have an injury that plagued him in college like Oden had. Durant could be more prone to injury in the NBA because he is unusually agile for a man his size, but that time hasn?t come yet. Oden may get hurt here and there, but each injury could last a long time. Shaq had a lot of luck not getting seriously injured throughout his career. One knee injury later and he?s not the same player he was two years ago, and that player wasn?t the same player compared to the Shaq three years before that. Durant may get hurt in his first game, but Portland is risking even more because Oden isn?t 100% right now.

It?s Kevin Durant.

Durant always showed a killer instinct. Oden looked more like Eeyore than Tigger emotionally. In a ?I?m-a-dunk-on-you-and-tear-my-throwback-off? world, the Durant?s are said to care for the game more than the Oden?s due to that emotion on the court. Maybe Oden is waiting for an actual challenge. There wasn?t anything he could do about OSU going 4-23 from the 3-point line. In either case, Durant has shown he?s able to play all-out 24/7. We haven?t seen that from Oden yet.

In the end?.

Kevin Durant presents a lot of possibilities for the Blazers and not just in a basketball sense. He?s a marketable kid and the NBA loves putting marketable players around the spectrum. Durant makes it easier for Portland to come into the season and next with a solid starting line-up and one of the best younger line-ups. Durant possesses a lot of reasons to be taken ahead of Greg Oden. The worst part about this article, though?

It?s Greg Oden. As an Oregonian, it was Oden the second deputy commish Adam Silver said Seattle is picking second. Blazermania is back in Oregon. Rip City, baby.

It?s Greg Oden.

I had to make the argument for Durant because he?s so effin? special. A lot of special players come around, but Durant has that extra curry powder in him to make any team twice as good as they were in a 3-year span. There are a lot of good reasons Durant makes sense. But?

It?s Greg Oden.

Trade Jarrett Jack. Love ya but I love Sergio Rodriguez more.

It?s Greg Oden.

Trade Joel Przybilla. Love you as a third frontcourt player, but those injuries are the main difference between this arguement being bigger.

It?s Greg Oden.

Trade Martell Webster. Once you figure out the nuances that you?re athletic enough to drive it inside and post up on anyone small than you, you?ll have a long career. It won?t be next to Oden, unfortunately.

It?s Greg Oden.

Trade Zach Randolph. Z-Bo, in a career year, is a perfect compliment next to Oden, but Aldridge starting and a re-signed Travis Outlaw brings more athleticism and defense to the 4 spot.

It?s simple: this team consists of three future All-Stars: Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge and Greg Oden. And to think, would we be talking about the Timberwolves trading away Garnett if they hadn?t lost that coin toss to Portland? After all?

It?s Greg Oden.

Grading The Deal: Suns Banking On Nash's New Backup

The Suns came into free agency wanting to make a splash. They wanted to re-sign Tim Thomas and rightfully so. They wanted to address their backup swingman needs by building a bench that can still help produce the March wins while keeping the starters fresh for the playoffs. Well, you can?t always get everything you want.

Phoenix was spurned by Thomas, who opted to take more money and sign with the Clippers. Since then, the pickings have been slim. With the exception of Eric Piatkowski, perhaps the epitome of a one-trick pony who can survive in the NBA, the Suns were relatively active in the pursuing the players but quiet in trying to get them to sign the dotted line. They also struck out on John Salmons, who was snatched up by their former GM.

The summer was bleak until they turned their attention towards Marcus Banks. Banks was considered to be one of the better point guards on the market. It may not be saying much since Eddie House is in the same boat, but Banks has a lot to offer the Suns. Having played for two teams in his NBA career, he was originally drafted by Memphis, then sent to Boston in a draft-day deal, Banks hasn?t received the chances a young point guard needs to progress. He?s already played in over 200 games, but has started in less than 40 of them. He gets a lot of minutes, but not the quantity of minutes a young player needs to progress.

Banks is, and always has been, inconsistent. He will look great one game (19 point game against the Suns at Phoenix with Minnesota), then show everyone why he?s a backup the next game, throwing away passes and not playing the D he?s capable of bringing every night.

He has the capabilities of taking on anyone due to his strength and tough handle. It?s not a flashy handle like a Baron Davis, but it rarely gets stolen because he?s able to force his defender into trying to stop Banks? drives by strength rather than trying to pick him. He can finish at the rim because of his strength and has the size to have the same effect on defense. But?

There?s inconsistency that has hindered him from becoming a consistent contributor. He loves to push the tempo, but because he?s not the pass-first PG teams would like out of someone like him, he can?t get the time to make bad decisions. He will force the pass when, if he waits, it will be there a second or two later, when the opposing team is trying to figure out what he where he wants to put the ball. He makes it easier on the defense by forcing the action.

On defense, it?s always there, but when his confidence goes on offense, his ability to lock down his man wanes, as well. That?s where the Suns come in.

Head Coach Mike D?Antoni had to live with the mistakes Leandro Barbosa makes and will continue to make. But with Banks, they have someone who can help initiate the offense, push the tempo and makes the mistakes he needs to make in order to become a better overall point guard. He will learn a lot under Nash, but he will have to learn that when pushing the ball, the best option has to be used in the Suns? offense, otherwise, they won?t get the best result. Nash will help him see the court and figure out where to get the ball for the Raja Bell?s and Boris Diaw?s of the team. Once he figures out how to harness what has hurt him in the past, it will only help him in the future.

As a point guard, it?s about making sure everyone?s in the right spot. Banks will have to learn that in a constantly moving offense that Phoenix utilizes, he will have to be patient to pick his spots. He is strong enough to take it on his man each time down the floor. But he will have to initiate the offense around the pick & roll, something he hasn?t had the chance to fully do in his short time as a professional. He is off the charts when it comes to the athletic intangibles. He will just have to make sure that, in his 20 minutes of p.t., he makes it easier for everyone on his team on both ends of the floor.

Almost forgetting that I had the Wolves-Suns game on tape, I went back to watch how he had an impact. On defense, he slid underneath the pick, forcing Nash to either go back or to shoot. This took away from the Suns? offense in the few possessions he was able to do this. That type of defense will help the Suns, who don?t have the true shot blocker to help out on opposing guards who take it to the rim. He took away the options Nash usually uses and with Phoenix, if he can do those little things on D, it will open up his offense.

On offense, he was able to get where he wanted, when he wanted. It helped him that he had a prolific scorer in Ricky Davis and the best power forward in the NBA in Kevin Garnett. He was able to exploit his match-up with Nash by driving it on him and picking the shots that would make the offense the most efficient he possible could make it. His team lost, but he was by far the player of the game for the Timberwolves. He showed off his 3-point range (shot over 40% during the season) and showed off his ability to get to the rim. He was able to show the team that needs a backup that he was the guy they would benefit most by going after.

Overall, this offseason hasn?t been the best for the Suns. They weren?t able to get the swingman that compliments Barbosa in John Salmons. (The rumored deal was supposed to be Kurt Thomas and possibly a pick for Steven Hunter and a re-signed Salmons. Don?t have anything to back it up. Just a rumor.) So they went for the one position they desperately needed for Nash in the playoffs and the regular season: point guard. Banks has to show some more control in his overall game, but the Suns were able to grabbed the point guard they needed. If he can provide the lock-down D he?s known for and also provide tons of energy but the right decision making, Phoenix will have yet another steal.

Now, if they just get that shot blocker.

30 Days, 30 Teams: New York Knicks (29th Pick)

Team needs: Hustler at any position, small forward.

Outlook: Now that Larry Brown is finally out of the picture (I knew he was a bad fit for the team, not worth getting into), what will the Knicks do at 29? Could they go big, with someone like Josh Boone? They are working out English big man Joel Freeland today. It might be over and there is no word yet on how the workout went. If they go big at 20, they could draft a point guard or small forward at 29. Whoever they draft, they will need someone who doesn?t need the ball to be effective.

Most Suitable Prospects:

Joel Freeland: Freeland was not a prospect that everyone knew about heading into the draft, even I didn't know of him. After seeing him at the Reebok Eurocamp and earning All-Star Eurocamp honors, I knew he was worth it. Not just the selection on the team, but as a draft pick, too. He is a face-up center and has a nice form on his jump shot. He has a decent handle for a 6?11? 4. He has the athleticism to compete right away and the fundamentals, but he is definitely a project. He could eventually develop into a starter in the NBA. But the same things were said about Maciej Lampe. Do Knick fans really want another Lampe? I like Lampe, but he never got the chance and never earned it. Will Freeland, who is one of the best communicators I?ve seen in person, earn it and want it, especially in a town like New York?

Josh Boone: Boone may not be a first round pick, but he has the hustle and doesn?t need the ball to be effective. He has the offensive rebounding down and is willing to bang. But that?s about all he offers. The Knicks were rumored to have a promise for him, but those have died down recently. He would compliment both Channing Frye and Eddy Curry, but it he worth giving a guaranteed 2-year deal to? Or would the Knicks be better trading into the second round to draft him?

Louis Amundson: Everyone is going to wonder why I would even mention him here, but hear me out. He has a lot of size of a small forward but his game is more of a power forward. He is a scrapper in every sense of the word. In Orlando, he stood out in every way, grabbing rebounds, diving for loose ball and finishing on the break. He is more athletic than people give him credit for, but he HAS to develop an outside game if he wants to stay in the NBA and not become another Jackson Vroman. He?d be a nice fit on the Knicks, but is he worth drafting here? Yes, but he has to make his offensive game more complete.

Kyle Lowry: Lowry may not be here by the time the Knicks pick, but there?s no doubt how big his heart is and how much he wants it. He leaves everything on the floor and goes full tilt. He can run the break with ease and finish against the trees due to his air time and strength. Without a doubt, he?d be a steal here, but will he fall this far? I have him going here, but the talks are he may not even be there by the time the Knicks pick at 20. We?ll have to see, but he is definitely worth it. And his shot than people give him credit for. If he were shooting and proving people wrong, would Villanova gotten as far as they did with him taking all 3?s instead of Randy Foye, Mike Nardy and Allan Ray?

Best case: Lowry. Without a doubt, he?d be a steal here. But would he get the necessary playing time behind Stephon Marbury, Steve Francis, Nate Robinson and even Jamal Crawford? Time will tell, but there?s no reason the Knicks would pass him up for one of the bigs, unless Freeland really, really, really impressed Thomas today.

Worst case: One of the bigs. It?s not a bad thing, but Jackie Butler deserves the playing time before anyone they draft here. If he?s gone, then someone like Boone would be decent getting ten minutes per, as long as he crashes the boards and shows he wants it. If he loses his confidence, he?ll be out of the NBA faster than, well, I?m not on top of these analogies. But he?ll be out fast.

30 Days, 30 Teams: Phoenix Suns (27th Pick)

The Suns still could use a shot blocker, but the player they would like at 21, Saer Sene, will go before that. Whichever they go for with 21, they will do the opposite at 27 and Maurice Ager might be perfect for them at 27.

30 Days, 30 Teams: New Jersey Nets (Both Picks)

The Nets will address a lot of needs in free agency, but they can start to build for the future as well by going after a couple of ready-now players as well as a project. They have to go after a couple of players like Paul Davis and Maurice Ager. They would both bring some on-court chemistry to a team dependent on it.

30 Days, 30 Teams: Phoenix Suns (21st Pick)

Maurice Ager is a true gunner who can come in and provide 15 minutes of solid play. He can get up and down the court and score in bunches, something that is a requisite in the Valley of the Sun.

30 Days, 30 Teams: Golden State Warriors

Golden State will be looking to add either a center or power forward with the 9th pick in the 2006 Draft. While Patrick O'Bryant is probably the best fit, Duke's Shelden Williams would be able to step right in and contribute to a Warriors' team that desperately longs for the playoffs.

30 Days, 30 Teams: Atlanta Hawks

Billy Knight very obviously had the chance to grab one of the three heralded point guards in Chris Paul, Deron Williams and Raymond Felton in last year's draft. He'll rest easier on the Marvin Williams pick if he is able to draft Marcus Williams at five and he becomes their starting point guard for the next 10 years.

30 Days, 30 Teams: Portland Trailblazers

Even though the Blazers do not have a GM at the moment, their options at four seem clear. Both Adam Morrison and Brandon Roy have relatively local ties to the team and would become the instant contributors the Blazers need on the offensive end.

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