Tuesday, June 26, 2007

NBA Draft Preview, Pt. 1: Greg Oden or Kevin Durant?

It is the NBA Draft's biggest storyline: Should Greg Oden or Kevin Durant be the No. 1 overall pick? It's hard not to look at the last 15 years of non-Jordan NBA champs and not see the common factor of "Dominant Big Man."

(Now the fallacy of that argument is that it wasn't a great big man alone: Hakeem was unstoppable, but had a great team around him. Duncan had Robinson, then Parker/Ginobili. Shaq had Kobe. It's no given that Oden alone will automatically win titles. Just look at Wilt.)

If it's all about winning titles, then history says Oden is your guy. But I'd argue that the Finals this month introduced a radical shift to thinking in the NBA, at least FAN thinking:

Titles aren't everything. (Go ahead: Gag.)

So Duncan's Spurs won another title: It didn't register with most NBA fans (most seemed to resent it more than anything else). And even fans in San Antonio seemed a little bored with it.

No, what matters now is entertainment: There is a faction of fans out there, I'm sure, that would rather be oohed-and-ahhed with entertainment for seven months – without winning a title – than be bored en route to winning another ring.

Rings are how we measure the success of stars, but are they how we measure the satisfaction of fans? This is why we Wizards fans can live without NBA titles, but can't live without Gilbert Arenas.

The Oden-Durant debate tilting to Oden presumes that Oden will be winning gobs of titles. If you recognize that winning titles is a Jordanesque zero-sum game, Oden's titles will be at Durant's expense, along with every other player of Oden's era, including LeBron, Wade, Kobe, Dwight Howard, everyone. That's a tough list to out-perform, even for a dominant center.

So it has to be asked: What if Oden doesn't win titles? Even if Durant doesn't either, you have to further ask: In the absence of titles, wouldn't you rather have the super-thrilling swingman than the dominant (but snazz-free) center?

That's the case for drafting Durant. He may win titles. He may not. But, then again, Oden may not either. But at least with Durant, fans will likely be infinitely more entertained along the way.

Commenters: Who would YOU take, and why?

UPDATE: John Hollinger as an absolute must-read about Durant's place as the greatest college-to-NBA prospect of the last half-decade. I used to pimp Carmelo Anthony as that prospect (because of the title), but I concede the argument in the face of Hollinger's quant analysis. Count me a Durant believer. And if I was already leaning toward Durant going No. 1....well, you'll have to wait for my mock draft on Thursday a.m. (No, seriously, read the column. It's amazing. Undervalued: Fazekas, Dudley, McRoberts. Overrated: Brewer(?!?!), Thornton, Nick Young.)

-- D.S.


CMFost said...

I would take Oden, I think in the long run if winning championships is important and to my it is then I think in the long run Oden gives you a better chance

Jeff said...

I take Oden. Winning has to be your priority, because it's more of a guarantee to make your team relevant and fill the stands than having an entertaining player. Build a winning organization and the exciting players will want to join that foundation. Durant is great but 25PPG swingmen are too common to pass up Oden for.

pv845 said...

I would take Noah.... Just kidding.

I would take Durant. Oden, while he could be great, simply isn't at this time and there is no guarantee that he will be with Portland when he is. I say look at how little he did this season and how few men he played against were as big as he is. In the NBA, can any one here see him actually trying to guard Dirk, Dwight Howard or Amare? They will run circles around him.

Durant again faced competition that was smaller than he, but he showed that he is competitive and can shoot. Given his explosiveness, I see him going to the rim and shooting outside. Given that the NBA is going fast and smaller, Durant is the guy,

Paul L Carter said...

There is a faction of fans out there, I'm sure, that would rather be oohed-and-ahhed with entertainment for seven months – without winning a title – than be bored en route to winning another ring.

Really? See if you can find anyone like that in Atlanta during the Dominique Wilkins years. Or in Minnesota now with KG.

Natsfan74 said...

Take Oden. He's the BPA!

The reason fans in San Antonio "might" be getting bored of winning is that they have done it so often. I am sure most NBA cities would trade team for team just for the titles.

I love having Arenas in DC. But, if there were a 100% guaranteed title attached to trading Gilbert, I am sure the overwhelming majority of Wizards fans (real one, not NYC Danwagon types) would make the trade. Kinda like trading Nomar for a 2004 WS title.

If the sole reason for taking Durant #1 is to sell tickets -- then win! that sells tickets too.

Geoff said...

Hey Dan, if you would rather see a horrible team with one "star" chucker for 7 months than to see a team you actually care about win a championship, than I am sorry but you are an idiot. I am quite positive you don't speak for every Wizard fan out there anyway. I don't know a single sports fan (yes, true fan.. not someone who randomly adopts teams) that would rather see one decent player than see their team win and contend for championships.

The reason San Antonio's title didn't register with most fans is... this is gonna be a big shock here... most fans aren't specifically San Antonio fans. Most fans also aren't Laker fans, Celtic fans, Cav fans, etc. I don't care that San Antonio won the title. I also wouldn't have cared if the Knicks or Pacers won the title. They aren't my team.

Not A Gunslinger said...

This is why we Wizards fans can live without NBA titles, but can't live without Gilbert Arenas.

I completely lost all respect for you as a sports fan when you wrote that. No wonder you are so easily able to bandwagon jump from team to team, you simply don't love sports, you just like being entertained.

Unknown said...

Honestly, even for entertainment, i'd take Oden. In every sport, I'm a fan of defensive play. I'd get far far more pumped to see Oden leap out of a building to reject Durant into the front seats than watching Durant dunk on Kobe.

I also like: stealing bases, suicide squeezes, stuffing runs up the middle, hard checks on center ice, keepers making tough stops (soccer and hockey), etc.

Tony P. said...

I'd take Durant, he seems to be a better fit with the Blazer's roster. Send Jack, Roy, Durant, Randolph, and Aldridge out there next season and you might have the best front court in the West.

If you take Oden, you've got a gaping hole at the 3, and you have to ship Zach for 35 cents on the dollar.

Unknown said...

btw, is it me or is Andy Katz having a serious hard on for the Gator players (especially Noah) the last week or so?

Kover said...

Now the fallacy of that argument is that it wasn't a great big man alone

I think this is the best point that can be made. We have no idea who will play the supporting cast for these guys. (Especially since they're both going to be playing in a Western conference that is stacked for at least the next 4 or 5 years.) The idea that any kind of success is guaranteed is just silly.

Meanwhile, Dan, I forgive you for arguing that fans want sizzle over championships. It's the same kind of stretch logic that columnists all over the place have been coming up with just to have some kind of a case for picking Durant over Oden. Moreover, you're headed in a bad direction with even a hint of the argument that teams should draft to build anything other than the best team possible. We know it's a business, but do we really want teams drafting the 'Bassy Telfairs of the world in the first round because they bring sizzle? That worked out well, didn't it? I'm all for having an exciting player on my team, but only if he also helps my team win the championship.

Death Before Disco said...

C'mon. It's always about the rings. Take the one that is most likely to get a championship(s). By your estimation, that person is Oden. Then take him.

Wizards fans love Arenas. But we have had so little to cheer about for a long time. We like being at least considered as a contender. But we want a championship. We embraced the Redskins when they won Super Bowls, and one of those was with Theismann. We didn't particularly like him, but he won.

The object of the game is to win. Take the player most likely to achieve that goal. Your city will be entertained by that.

The Mark Show said...

Wow, and here I was thinking that you be offering a semi-serious debate over the merits of each player in old-school quickie fashion and you throw out this moronic statement that fans would rather have a flashier player even if it means no championships. Wow. Jason said it best, you don’t love sports. You only want to be entertained. The sad thing is you could have actually made a pretty good case for selecting Durant. Oh well. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.

Joe Friday said...

In your weak attempt to ride the nutsack of FreeDarko's "style/flash over rings" ethos, you have done your best to try and discredit Wizards fans everywhere.

I love Agent Zero. But I would trade him in a second if it meant we could build a better team that was a legitimate contender. I mean all the blog-love the Wiz gets is great, but I'd rather have rings than any flash or blogger-crush inducing players on my favorite team's roster.

RFS said...

I'd take Oden if I were a GM because I want to keep my job because he gives me the best chance to win titles.

Fans might be "OOOHed" and "AAAHHHed" at Durant, but a GM trying to keep his job has a much better chance to remain in office if his team is winning. I think Dan's thought process is a too short-term framed. The Spurs dynasty has been an anomoly in the the NBA. Most dynasties are appreciated, but not immeadiately. That will be day the if Ernie Grunfeld gets a contract extension for "ooohs" and "ahhhs" and not wins.

jhawkjjm said...

I would take Oden even though I believe that Durant is the better player. A true center is harder to find and will create offensive match-up problems as other teams go to smaller and quicker. Unfortunately that offensive advantage can become a defensive liability.

Unknown said...

If the NBA were strictly about winning titles, we would have seem teams making deals at the deadline to get over the proverbial hump. Many teams don't do that because it impacts the bottom line. The goal, seemingly, is to be annually competitive (unless you're a long suffering franchise), make the playoffs, and, most importantly, make money while doing it.

Well, both these guys will make Portland or Seattle competitive. Both of them will bring star power to the city. But Durant will flat out entertain. Look what he did against Kansas in the first half on national television. Oden is great, but the players that cause a stir because of their defense are few and far between. The way he guards the glass and paint, he would be just that. Not Durant. Durant will make two moves a game that will have the crowd off its feet wondering how he did it.

As a Celtics fan who wants to see titles, I'd take Oden. As an NBA owner looking at marketing dollars, ticket sales, and being competitive, I take Durant.

1999 Officers said...

Noah is the next Mateen Cleaves.

And as much as I love Greg Oden, there is something about his goofiness that reminds me of Ricky Williams...not the pot part, but the general awkwardness of media, spotlights, people in general. I hope Oden prospers, but if he doesn't this will be why.

Durant needs at least two years of weightlifting and constant physical play, coupled with the grinds of a schedule that is 50 games longer on top of the additional 8 minutes a night because of the longer games in NBA (40 min v. 48 min).

Horford could be Dwayne Wade-esque or Darkoish.

hutlock said...

I agree with rafael: I find Oden to be entertaining. Come on, were you all really not (except Superfan Shanoff!) entertained when Oden stuff Brewer in the championship game? Brewer went up with TWO HANDS to DUNK, and Oden just creamed him. THAT was far more entertaining to me than just watching some dude shoot and put up points. The NBA already has Kobe, LeBron, Arenas, etc.

Also, I know he's gonna bulk up (or at least I assume he is) but doesn't the fact that Durant can't bench 185 even once concern anyone? You say Oden can't guard Dirk, etc., but who can Durant guard with such paltry feats of strength?

pv845 said...

True. I could bench 185 when I was in Middle school at 120 lbs. However I was more referring to the shadow defense that the NBA plays which is more being in the same area and acting like playing D than actually playing D. Oden will get lost moving across the lane, he can't camp in the lane in the NBA as they have defensive 3 seconds.

Durant can at least appear to play D as he can run and jump all over. That was my reference that either one of these two will play good D.

Noah will be the next Christian Laetner...

hutlock said...

Well, I respecfully disagree about Oden's defense, pv845. because his footwork is outstanding, but I think you are SPOT ON about Noah! ;-)

pv845 said...

I want to know Todd what footwork will allow Oden to keep up with these guys. Around the lane and in a Zone D, he is amazing. But in a man-to-man setting, I see him getting lost in the shuffle or not even keeping up with the flow. I just don't see him being quick enough from the three point line to play that kind of D.

Of course if the Blazers have him and Randolf in the middle, then they can play some crazy paint D and let their perimeter players go nuts. It would be a lot like the Spurs I think.

Boomhauertjs said...

What gaping hole at SF? They still have Darius Miles. j/k

Oden. Trade Zach Randolph and all his baggage for a playoff-tested veteran small forward like Richard Jefferson.

pv845 said...

I almost forgot, if Noah = Laetner, then who = Hurley?

Unknown said...

"No, what matters now is entertainment: There is a faction of fans out there, I'm sure, that would rather be oohed-and-ahhed with entertainment for seven months – without winning a title – than be bored en route to winning another ring."

I'm sorry but this statement is flat out wrong. Do you honestly think there is a single fan in San Antonio who would trade places w/a fan in Phoenix or Dallas?

NA said...

I like soccer and hockey. But I thought this was quite interesting:

NEW YORK (AP) -- The CONCACAF Gold Cup final attracted 41 percent more television households in the United States than the Stanley Cup finals clincher -- and that was just for the soccer game's Spanish-language telecast.

The United States' 2-1 come-from-behind victory over Mexico on Sunday received a 2.5 fast national rating on Univision, the network said Tuesday. That translates to 2.83 million households, nearly double the 1.48 million homes that watched the 2005 Gold Cup final between the United States and Panama.

This year's English-language telecast was on the Fox Soccer Channel, which is available in about 30 million homes and is not rated.

Anaheim's series-ending 6-2 victory over Ottawa in the Stanley Cup on June 6 received a 1.8 rating on NBC, which comes to 2,005,000 households.

The rating is the percentage watching a telecast among all homes with televisions, and a ratings point represents 1,114,000 households.

jhawkjjm said...

eric- one thing to remember is that just recently Hispanic people passed African American's as the largest minority in the US. If Mexico was not playing would the interest have been as high?

As others have said, its hard to cheer defense over offense. For example look at why the Suns are so popular, its the fast paced offense. Also, what's the "defining" moment of the NBA playoffs... LeBron's scoring outburst against Detriot. Durant will be the more exciting player to watch.

hutlock said...

pv845: Well, I think he's got some pretty quick reflexes/reax times in general, which is why he is such an outstanding shot blocker. But really, who do you see him guarding? I think most teams 5-spot player, no? And he's PLENTY quick enough to keep up with the vast majority of them. I mean, he's no slower than Duncan, and he gets around on D pretty well, right?

eric said...

I'd rather take Oden.

I disagree that I would want a more entertaining player rather than NBA titles. Would you rather be Cleveland or San Antonio earlier this month?

Would you rather have a Heisman trophy winner or a National Championship? Would you rather be Florida or Ohio State after the BCS championship?

I'll take winning, the boring, old-fashioned way ANY DAY OF THE WEEK.

Anonymous said...

To back up what Todd said, Oden actually tested better than Durant in a number of the speed and agility tests in the NBA Pre Draft Camp workouts. In addition to his better virticle, Oden was faster in 3/4 court sprint and better in lane agility tests. So I think he's got the speed and agility to keep up with most NBA 5's.

pv845 said...

If what Danny said is true and I am sure it is, then Oden will be a monster in the NBA. I guess what I saw was maybe more a lack of conditioning than anything else. He just looked tired and out of place sometimes. I guess when you are 40 that happens. j/k

Unknown said...

I feel like it's a tossup who'll be more successful, but that you'd be crazy to pass up on Oden #1 just because of the hype from before last season. This was the Oden lottery until this past college season started, so it's tough to live with yourself if you pass on Oden and he's the star he could be. At least if you pass on Durant and he lights it up you're in the same place you'd have been with your thinking a little over a year ago. You risk passing up the better one in both cases, but losing Durant'll be a lot easier to live with.

Interesting point about entertainment being more important than championships, though; just look at the inability of the New Jersey Devils to sell tickets.

Anonymous said...

Jared Dudley is a winner,Dan.You put him on the SA Spurs,he'll flourish big time.

Richard K. said...


Arent you the guy who says i better to be a Marlins fan than a Braves fan?

We Play To Win The CHAMPIONSHIP!!!

With Malice said...

The likelihood of him leading a team towards a title is far greater than that of Durant... and hopefully, that's what basketball teams are still about, right?