Basically, ever since we first heard about Greg Oden, he's been penciled in as the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft.
And Oden hasn't disappointed he's having a heck of a freshman season, despite missing Ohio State's first seven games due to injury.
But in case you haven't been watching, Oden's got some competition now in Kevin Durant. The 6-foot-9 freshman swingman from Texas is putting up gaudy numbers, too. Some people are even saying they'd take Durant over Oden with the No. 1 pick this summer.
We won't know for a while whether either, or both, will enter the draft. But we couldn't wait that long. And it just so happens they're both playing on ESPN2 this Saturday, practically back-to-back. Texas faces Baylor at 6 p.m. ET, and Ohio State hosts Michigan State at 9.
So let the debate begin. Here are 10 reasons to pick Greg Oden No. 1 this June, no matter what holes your team needs to fill and 10 reasons to select Durant with the top choice.
|Greg Oden||Kevin Durant|
By Kieran Darcy
1. You can't teach size
2. The man-child
3. To the left, to the left
5. For the love of the game
6. Work ethic
7. The brain
8. Hangin' tough
9. Stayin' humble
10. A cornerstone
Durant is most often compared to Tracy McGrady and Kevin Garnett. Some people project him as a combination of the two. That's pretty darn good but I don't see any rings on their fingers.
By Bomani Jones
1. Seriously, how do you stop someone that long, quick and skilled from getting the shot he wants? Not even Bruce Bowen's kryptonite would work on this kid (unlike Dirk Nowitzki, Durant could leave Bowen in cement). The last big guy to hit the draft anywhere close to being as refined a perimeter scorer as Durant was Glenn Robinson in 1994. And Durant has more range and doesn't share Big Dog's allergy to defense.
2. In last week's game for the ages at Oklahoma State, Durant missed a 3-pointer for the win in the second overtime. So what was he doing in the huddle before the third? Smiling.
This was after having played 47 minutes on the road, with the knowledge that things get tougher on the visiting team as a game goes on, he was still cool and still ready for more. That's how I want my superstar to be wired.
3. The dominant low-post center just isn't as valuable as it once was. Oden might scare the bejeezus out of li'l fellas in the lane, but how much will that matter when Oden's man is money from 15 feet? Plus, he won't have as much success duping guards into shooting layups and coming out of nowhere to swat them away as he's had in college. In the NBA, that technique will leave him with deodorant in his beard, if you get my drift.
4. Further, how many teams in the last 20 years have won championships on the back of its shot-blocking center? The Rockets' back-to-back titles had more to do with Hakeem Olajuwon's Dream Shake than his shot blocking, and Ben Wallace was a cog albeit an important one in the Pistons' machine, not a franchise player. Defense might win championships, but I'd rather have a dominant scorer lead the way.
5. The most intriguing thing about Oden is that he's better than Tim Duncan was as a freshman at Wake Forest, but like Duncan still has plenty of room for improvement. But Duncan became a legendary force because he used all of his college eligibility to hone his game. It's unlikely Oden will improve similarly if he leaves after this season.
Durant's room for improvement is in his physique. Hitting the league next year will not retard his physical development the way declaring for this year's draft would hinder Oden's work on his skills.
6. Durant, who's 6-foot-9 and able to play off-guard and both forward spots, is an even more of a unique talent than Oden. Oden reminds people of Patrick Ewing and a few others. But has there ever been a player as long, quick, and versatile as Durant who possessed a scorer's mentality? Connie Hawkins, maybe? According to the old folks, there's been a Ewing since there was a Hawk. Speaking of Ewing ...
7. ... whichever team gets the first pick probably will be all kinds of terrible. That team will need to put kiesters in the seats, and that team's fans will want a reason to put their kiesters in those seats. Now, knowing what we now know about Ewing's great-but-not-legendary career, who would be excited by the prospect of having the next Patrick Ewing come to town?
Now, raise your hand if you'd prefer Kevin Garnett with a scorer's mentality?
(Boy, that's a lot of hands.)
8. Think Durant looks good now? Think of how much better he'll look when he gets to the league and some kind veteran takes him to the side and tells him to brush his damn hair. It'll look like he's averaging three more points per game than he does now. Image is everything, right?
9. Durant's averaging more rebounds -- playing small forward -- than is Oden, who rarely strays more than eight feet from the basket. Even though Durant plays more minutes than Oden and Oden's playing without his good hand, that's a telling stat.
10. In a draft as loaded as 2007's could be, there's no reason to take a player that can't carry his team. Durant has shown the ability to do so. Oden has not. Perhaps that's because Oden's surrounded by more talent, but that doesn't change the fact that it's still not known whether his mere presence makes his team significantly better than it would be without him. On this point, Durant's the bird in the hand. Oden's still somewhere in the bush.
Photos: AP Photo/Phil Sandlin (Oden), Jim Redman/WireImage.com (Durant)
Kieran Darcy is an editor for Page 2. You can e-mail him at email@example.com. Bomani Jones is a columnist for Page 2. Tell him how you feel at firstname.lastname@example.org.