Blazers to take Ohio State center Oden at No. 1

Updated: June 28, 2007, 10:30 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

Oden or Durant. Durant or Oden. Looks like we have an answer.

ESPN The Magazine's Ric Bucher reported on Wednesday night that Greg Oden's camp has been notified by the Portland Trail Blazers that they will take him with the No. 1 pick in Thursday's NBA draft.

It was not an easy choice. Oden tested better at predraft camp; Kevin Durant had the sharper workout in Portland.

Blazers general manager Kevin Pritchard and Mike Conley Sr., the agent for Oden, denied a decision has been made.

"Nobody has been promised or told anything. Nobody," Pritchard told The Oregonian.

Dominant big men are usually impossible to pass up, and Oden could be a great one. He has been compared to Bill Russell for his rebounding and shot blocking, and he led Ohio State to the national championship game even while never at full strength after surgery on his right wrist.

"You can see why he'd be a No. 1 pick," Durant told reporters. "I think he's one of the best centers to come out of college. He's quick and agile, he's 7-feet, 250. I've never seen that in a center before."

Players like Durant don't come around often, either. The swingman from Texas was the college player of the year after averaging 25.8 points and 11.1 rebounds, ranking fourth nationally in both categories. And if he indeed falls to Seattle at No. 2, he'd make a terrific consolation prize.

"Without question, Kevin Durant's the most talented player in this draft," Texas A&M point guard Acie Law said. "But if I'm building a franchise, as most teams at the top of the draft are, you can't pass up a guy you can just build your team around. Because there's guys in the league that can score 20, 25 a game, like Kevin Durant can, but you're not going to find a 7-foot manchild that can just patrol your line for 10, 12 years."

Ford/Simmons Draft

ESPN's Bill Simmons and Chad Ford don't agree with the latest report that Greg Oden will go No. 1. Given the top pick in their Interactive Draft, Simmons goes with Texas freshman Kevin Durant. Story

There's much more in this draft beyond Oden and Durant. Law said the top 15-20 players could become stars, setting up plenty of intrigue around the remainder of the lottery.

The Phoenix Suns were hoping to move up, the Charlotte Bobcats were possibly open to moving down, and the Trail Blazers were rumored to be interested in landing a second lottery pick.

That could put those teams in line for a shot at Al Horford, Corey Brewer or Joakim Noah from Florida, Ohio State point guard Mike Conley Jr., Georgetown forward Jeff Green, or Washington center Spencer Hawes.

Green was surprised to be called to a Tuesday workout in Phoenix with Brewer and Noah, even though the Suns aren't scheduled to draft until well after the lottery. That shows there's interest in players after Oden and Durant.

"I don't think a lot of people put a lot of focus on that, after the first two draft picks, because it's going to be fun to see where people end up," Green said. "There's a lot of talent in the draft. In my eyes, we feel like maybe the deepest draft since LeBron's draft [in 2003]."

Green was seated next to the draft's unknown, forward Yi Jianlian, illustrating how much the shape of the NBA has changed in the last two decades. The Big East player of the year from the prestigious program was surrounded by maybe a dozen media members, while Yi attracted a crowd about triple that.

Not that much could be learned. Speaking through a translator, Yi said it's hard to compare him to other players in the draft, but that he could have an advantage over some of them because of his international experience.

Otherwise, he remains a mystery -- right down to his age. He's listed at 19, but has long been rumored to be older. And the 6-11 Yi wants to pattern his game like power forwards such as Dirk Nowitzki and Kevin Garnett, not like countryman Yao Ming, a center.

There are fewer doubts about Oden. He probably would've been the No. 1 pick last year without going to college if not for the NBA's age rule, which requires American players be 19 years old and a year out of high school to be eligible for the draft.

To Oden, going No. 1 is nice, but he's already in a good place.

"Important? It would be nice," he said. "To play in this league is a dream of mine. Wherever I go will be nice."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.