Former Portland GM explains Oden/Durant decision

Portland Trail Blazers center Greg Oden is attended to by medical personnel after getting injured during the first quarter of their NBA basketball game against the Houston Rockets in Portland, Oregon December 5, 2009. REUTERS/Steve Dipaola (UNITED STATES SPORT BASKETBALL IMAGES OF THE DAY)

Kevin Pritchard was the man in charge of the Portland Trailblazers when the team took Greg Oden with the #1 overall pick in the 2007 NBA Draft instead of Kevin Durant. Pritchard joined 95.5 the Game with John Canzano and discussed a wide range of topics, including that decision.

“I have never studied a person or players like I did Durant/Oden. It was every single minute of every single second of their entire careers. We were going back into AAU and the one thing that kept hitting us really hard was Greg Oden lost three games until he got to Ohio State, then he got hurt again and only lost a couple there and that was over hundreds and hundreds of games. The overwhelming thing that we got from everybody we talked to was the cat doesn’t care if he scores or does anything, but he’s about winning. We had been really trying to change our culture for guys who really put the team first, not care about stats, and really be about winning. We thought he was the pick at the time. We did the same thing with Durant. They said he’s gonna be the best scorer in the league, he’s going to be an amazing player, and he’s gonna win. We just felt like Greg was going to be that guy that just doesn’t lose basketball games. Right before he got hurt we were talking as a management group and we were like man doesn’t it feel like this is becoming a little bit like Greg’s team because in the locker room after a loss he would get really, really upset and he demands out of his teammates probably more than any other player I’ve been around other than Larry Bird. When he lost, he let his teammates knows what they have to do the next game. We were feeling so comfortable going into the rest of the second half of the season that we were going to be good because Greg was coming along.”

At the time, it was not easy to see that Durant was going to have the better career because it was impossible to know that Oden was going to have so much bad luck with injuries. Durant was definitely the better offensive player, but franchise centers don’t come around very often, and Oden was a major force on the defensive end (not unlike Dwight Howard). He also was capable on the offensive end, and already had a couple of post moves when he came out of Ohio State.

He may not be able to stay healthy, but the guy can play. His 36-minute splits over his first two seasons are impressive: 15.3 points, 11.9 rebounds, 3.4 blocks, 6.4 fouls…wait, ignore that last one. But seriously, lots of big men have trouble adjusting to NBA officiating.

Even if Oden can stay healthy, he’ll never overtake Durant in terms of overall value, but he can close the gap a bit…if he can just stay upright.

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