Nba Draft 2007 Analysis Essay

Who Should Go No.1?

Gamebreakers like Durant can't be found in every draft.
Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

By Stefan Swiat

With the Portland Trail Blazers contemplating who to snag with the No. 1 overall pick in Thursday's NBA Draft, “conventional wisdom” says that Ohio State big man Greg Oden will be the top player chosen.

But what’s ironic about “conventional wisdom” is that the scientist that dubbed that term, didn’t believe in it. Instead, he reasoned, “conventional wisdom” was a series of unproven facts that made people feel all warm and cozy inside, but fell short of being the truth. Kind of like always taking a formidable center with the first pick.

This year's draft seems a little of reminiscent 1984’s, with a can’t-miss big man up for grabs, but a more intriguing talent beckoning to be taken.

Let's flash back to 1984 when Hakeem Olajuwon was drafted first overall by the Houston Rockets. You couldn’t pass on Hakeem, right? I mean the guy was literally “The Dream” and ended up claiming two NBA Finals to go along with two Finals MVP trophies. He was the sure bet, while the guy taken at No. 3 that year was the sure thing.

When the Rockets were scouting for the 1984 Draft, they asked then-Olympic coach Bob Knight who he thought was the best college prospect. Knight believed they should select Michael Jordan. The Rockets responded by stating they needed a center, to which Knight quipped, “Then have Jordan play center.” His Airness went on to claim six rings, five MVPs and the game of basketball.

Now I’m not saying that Kevin Durant is the next Michael Jordan or that Oden is Olajuwon, but I think the analogy has merit. Durant set the college basketball world ablaze last season, erupting for 25.8 points, 11.1 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game, while shooting 47 percent from the field, 82 percent from the line and 40 percent from behind the arc in one of the toughest conferences in the country.

He garnered all of the National Player of the Year awards, the Adolph Rupp Trophy, the Naismith Award and the Wooden Award, becoming the first-ever freshman in NCAA history to win any of those awards, as well as first team Big 12 All-Defensive honors and the Big 12 Tournament MVP.

And it’s not all about statistics either. Durant was the man at Texas. Defenses were designed to stop him, and only him, while Oden had two other potential first-rounders helping him out. But beyond the experience of being the go-to guy in the clutch and having the team being thrusted upon his shoulders, Durant possesses another characteristic of the all-time greats: a killer instinct.

If you were the fan of a team facing players like Jordan, Magic, Bird and Isiah in the closing seconds of a game, your stomach would be in knots because you knew they were going to pull out the victory.

Now “conventional wisdom” says that all championship teams have a great center, which is by no means true. The Pistons had Bill Laimbeer during their back-to-back runs, the Bulls had Luc Longley and more recently, the Spurs had Fabricio Oberto. A better analysis would say that championship teams usually always have a threat on the low block.

The Trail Blazers’ best player, Zach Randolph, is already giving them 23.6 points and 10.1 rebounds in the low post, while LaMarcus Aldridge also gave them solid minutes down low and was named First Team All-Rookie for his efforts. So why grab another low-post player?

Also, with the pressure on and the cameras rolling, Durant wowed the Trail Blazers by delivering a superb workout, while Oden admitted to "getting nervous" and telling the coaches that he needed to be "in better shape." Can you imagine someone like Kobe Bryant or Steve Nash saying something like that? No chance.

Just like there is no chance that Durant would ever utter those words. Because like the other great ones, Durant has that same ultra-competitive drive and closing ability that is maybe the rarest commodity found in players.

That kind of mindset that doesn't just want, but demands the ball at the end of games and thrives on showing everybody that he is the alpha dog. And usually, when you combine that mentality with a player who possesses great athleticism and incredible skill, you have type of player that collects championship hardware.

So if the Blazers want to avoid criticism and second-guessing and make the predictable play out of fear of being perceived an unconventional, they’ll choose Oden. But if they are looking for a versatile, game-breaking forward with a 7'5" wingspan, a deadly outside shooting touch and an entire repertoire of offensive moves, they'll take Durant.

It's not like it's a big deal for the Blazers, they didn't pass on Jordan in 1984... Oh, wait...

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  • Do You Take Durant or Oden?

    Oden stands tall among the prospects.
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    By Maurice Brooks

    Flipping a coin, shooting rock, paper, scissors and choosing odds or evens are some of the best known ways of breaking ties. Personally, I’ve used other really complex scientific formulas to decide winners between evenly-matched foes.

    For example, when my son took me to the mall and told me he wanted either an Xbox 360 or a PlayStation 3, I checked my bank account and went with the Xbox 360 because it was cheaper (see, I told you this was complex stuff).

    And when a friend recently called me to settle a bar argument over who was hotter, Halle Berry or Salma Hayek, I simply reminded him that not only is Salma engaged, she is also currently pregnant so obviously Halle gets the nod (talk about a no-brainer). If only everything in life was so easy to decide.

    Just like fans of The Sopranos who have been unable to come to an agreement on the meaning of the final scene, hoop heads remain undecided on who should be the top pick of the NBA Draft - Greg Oden or Kevin Durant?

    Here we are just days away from the deepest draft ever (Thursday, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN) and there's still a legitimate debate about who is going to be the one. At some point in the night, Commissioner David Stern is going to walk up to the podium and utter the words, “With the first pick in the 2007 NBA Draft, the Portland Trail Blazers select …”

    Not to put words in Stern’s mouth, but I hope that sentence ends with, “Greg Oden out of Ohio State University.” These are the reasons why:

    Greg Oden is a winner. Think about it, his high school team went a ridiculous 103-7 and he led OSU to the national title game with a 35-4 record as a freshman.

    Greg Oden is the complete package. He averaged 15.7 points, 9.6 rebounds and 3.3 blocks last season and is capable of dominating games without taking a ton of shots.

    Greg Oden is a fan favorite. His smile and friendly demeanor off the court is reminiscent of another center who currently stars for the Miami Heat.

    Greg Oden is an athletic freak. Scouts will be talking about his workout for years to come. Read this.

    Greg Oden is capable of playing forward on offense. The way he runs the floor and his soft shooting touch make him the anti-Shaq.

    Greg Oden is an underrated passer. He has shown that he has good court vision and is capable of making the right decisions with the ball.

    Greg Oden is the type of player who performs his best on the biggest stage. Ask Florida after he hung 25 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks on them in the championship game.

    Greg Oden is a center and history shows that centers win titles – lots of them. For proof, see Tim Duncan (he plays the five in my book), Shaquille O’Neal, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Bill Russell. And while we’re talking about Russell …

    Greg Oden is the next Bill Russell. He changes games defensively, finishes with either hand around the rim, rebounds well and always appears to be in the right position.

    Greg Oden is seven feet tall and 260 pounds. ‘Nuff said.

    Greg Oden is capable of making the Blazers a playoff team right now.

    Greg Oden is a perfect fit for Portland, who hasn’t had a superstar in the middle since Bill Walton was lacing ‘em up (sorry Arvydas Sabonis and Rasheed Wallace).

    Greg Oden is going to get much better. Remember, he played most of last season with an injured right wrist and still connected on over 60 percent of his shots from the field. The injury forced him to rely on his left hand which makes him an even more complete player.

    Greg Oden is a franchise player right now. His turnaround jumper, jump hooks and power moves around the basket are unguardable.

    Greg Oden is capable of knocking down 15-foot jumpers and commanding a double team, which will free up his teammates.

    Greg Oden is only 19-years old but appears much older both physically and mentally. "You’re looking at a guy who is a physical specimen in Greg versus a very skilled guy in Kevin, so the comparisons are very difficult and that makes our job a little more difficult because we’re not comparing apples to apples," said Blazers general manager Kevin Pritchard.

    Greg Oden is the only player the Blazers should consider taking with the most prized pick of the draft.

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  • By Kevin Duffy

    [img_assist|nid=3842|title=Oden and Durant|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=383]Oh man, did you see the 40 time Ted Ginn ran? How about Brady Quinn’s bench, what a freak! Maybe he’s too muscle-bound to be a quarterback. Yeah, he’s probably going to drop to #22 to the Cowboys but they will trade the pick to the Browns for a future-first round pick. That’s what I think is going to happen after glancing at these combine results.

    That opening paragraph was indeed an excerpt from my NFL Draft preview a few months ago. It was one of many evalutions of the NFL Draft combine that could be found across the internet. The results of the NFL combine have a dramatic effect on player’s draft stock and recieve a ton ofattention in the media.

    The NBA Draft combine, however, is somewhat of an afterthought. While basketball is not nearly as physical a sport as football, the combine results should not be ignored. Drills such as vertical leap, ¾ court sprint, and bench press all are very important in measuring a basketball player’s physical readiness for the NBA. Here is the list of the workout only prospects (plus with #1 being the most impressive workout and #18 being the least impressive from last weekend's combine.

    *Note: F Yi Jianlian did not participate in the combine.

    1. Mike Conley 6-1 175 PG Ohio St. Fr.

    What he did well: Conley was the fastest player as expected (3.09 in the ¾ court sprint), but I don’t think anyone anticipated him to turn such good results in the vertical leap and bench press. Conley recorded the second highest no-step vertical at 35.5’’ (USC G Nick Young was 1st with a mind-blowing 39.5’’) and tied for second in max vertical leap with 39.5’’. Conley also benched the standard 185 lbs an impressive 13 times.

    What he struggled with: Not much. I guess his height might be an issue at the next level, but there isn’t much he can do about that.

    2. Jason Smith 7-0 233 PF Colorado St. Jr.

    What he did well: Smith is known for his skills as a big man, but flashed good athleticism at the combine. Smith ran the best lane agility time at 10.96 seconds, had a vertical of 37.5’’ and completed 15 bench reps.

    What he struggled with: Smith aced all of the drills, but came in a little shorter than expected at 6’11.5’’ with a very short wingspan of 6’10.75’’. Nonetheless, Smith’s performance only helped his status for June 28th.

    3. Thaddeus Young 6-7 210 SF GT Fr.

    What he did well: Young flashed a 37’’ vertical with a 6’11’’ wingspan while benching a solid 13 reps. His sprint time of 3.19 seconds and his 11.06 second lane agility drill were near the top of the combine. His body is clearly ready for the NBA, but there is question about his maturity.

    What he struggled with: This is really nitpicking, but at 210 lbs Young could stand to put on ten more pounds of muscle because most NBA SG’s and SF’s are going to be a little bigger than 210.

    4. Nick Young 6-6 206 SG USC Jr.

    What he did well: The latter of the two Young’s exploded in the no-step vertical, jumping 39.5’’, which was tops by 4’’ over second place Mike Conley. Everyone knew he was a long 6’7’’, but I don’t think anyone expected him to have a 7’0’’ wingspan. Young’s length and athleticism will give him a chance to be a special defender in the NBA.

    What he struggled with: Young weighed in relatively light at 206 lbs and only did 6 bench reps. Clearly strength is going to be an issue at the next level.

    5. Al Thornton 6-7 221 SF/PF Florida St. Sr.

    What he did well: Thornton turned in a combine-best 41.5’’ vertical leap and displayed a freakish 7’1’’ wingspan while standing just 6’7’’. Thornton also weighed in at 221 lbs, showing he had gained weight since the end of the season. The added weight certainly didn’t slow him down, as Thornton ran a blistering 3.16 second sprint.

    What he struggled with: Given how muscular and athletic Thornton is, it is surprising that he did only 9 bench reps. I would have expected him to come more in the 15 range.

    6. Al Horford 6-10 244 PF Florida Jr.

    What he did well: As expected, Horford was by far the strongest player at the combine, benching 185 lbs a staggering 20 times. He stood close to 6’10’’ and weighed a rock-solid 244 lbs. Horford also possessed a 35’’
    vertical and a wingspan of over 7’0’’.

    What he struggled with: His sprint time of 3.37 was average at best and his second to last lane agility of 12.15 raises some eyebrows. Despite those slow times, this workout showcased his strength, length, and athleticism and should only help his draft stock.

    7. Jeff Green 6-9 228 SF Georgetown Jr.

    What he did well: Green arguably has the most NBA-ready body of all potential draftees. He came in taller than expected at 6’9.5’’ and weighed a solid 228 lbs. Green man-handled the bench press, pushing out 17 reps. His 38’’ vertical was also near the top of the list.

    What he struggled with: Green ran a solid 3.34 second sprint, but really struggled in the lane agility drill with a time of 12 seconds, the third worst score in camp. While he has the strength and leaping ability to excel in the NBA, Green may not have the speed to keep up with some SF’s.

    8. Greg Oden 7-0 257 C Ohio St. Fr.

    What he did well: Oden’s workout won’t affect his status either way, as he’s pretty much locked into the #1 spot. Oden didn’t have a great showing but he did impress scouts by running a 3.27 second sprint, the best time of the post players. He also exhibited an unreal 9’4’’ standing reach.

    What he struggled with: Oden was listed at 280 lbs during the season, but weighed in at just 257. His vertical leap was an average 34.5’’. He didn’t perform the bench press due to concerns about his lingering wrist injury.

    9. Corey Brewer 6-8 185 SF Florida Jr.

    What he did well: Despite being malnourished in his three seasons at Florida, the 6’8’’ 185 lb Brewer pulled off a surprising 11 reps on the bench. His other scores, including a 36.5’’ vertical and 3.22 ¾ court sprint, were average.

    What he struggled with: Bench is a good measure of strength, but when you weigh a feathery 185 lbs as Brewer does, you can bench all you want and you are still going to get pushed around by players who weigh 50 lbs more than you.

    10. Javaris Crittenton 6-4 194 PG G.Tech Fr.

    What he did well: Crittenton had a solid all-around showing, highlighted by a 38’’ vertical leap. He also showed good upper body strength by completing 11 bench reps while measuring close to 6’5’’ and weighing a solid 194 lbs.

    What he struggled with: The Georgia Tech freshman’s ¾ court sprint of 3.32 was fairly slow compared to the other point guards, and out of all the physical assets a PG needs, speed is probably the most important. He also
    didn’t sport the long arms that several other players did, as Crittenton had an average 6’5.5’’ wingspan.

    11. Rodney Stuckey 6-5 207 SG E. Wash. So.

    What he did well: The Eastern Washington sophomore is clearly ready for the league from a physical standpoint. He was second only to Mike Conley in the sprint with a time of 3.11 seconds and also managed 14 bench reps while coming in a little taller than expected at 6’4.5’’.

    What he struggled with: Stuckey could stand to add weight to his 207-lb frame, and not that his vertical leap of 35’’ was bad, but it was unspectacular in comparison to some other guards.

    12. Acie Law 6-3 186 PG Texas A&M Sr.

    What he did well: Law ran extremely well at the combine, clocking in at 3.22 seconds in the sprint and 11 seconds in the lane agility drill, second best to Jason Smith. Law stood 6’3.5’’ but had a wingspan of 6’6.’’.

    What he struggled with: Similar to (New Jersey's) Marcus Williams last year, Law is a very talented PG prospect but has never been confused for an Olympic athlete. He turned in a fairly average bench press (8 reps) and vertical leap (34’’).

    13. Joakim Noah 6-11 230 PF Florida Jr.

    What he did well: Noah stood an even 7 feet tall and considering he only weighs 223 lbs, did very well by performing 12 bench reps. He also had a very impressive 37.5’’ vertical leap.

    What he struggled with: Noah ran slow times of 3.47 seconds in the sprint and 11.79 in the lane agility. He also was very thin for a seven-footer. He’s not known for his offensive skills, and this workout suggests he may
    not be physical enough to get the garbage points he did in college.

    14.Kevin Durant 6-10 215 SF Texas Fr.

    What he did well: Showing off his long arms (7’5’’ wingspan and 9’2’’ standing reach) was about the only positive Kevin Durant can take from this combine.

    What he struggled with: Durant couldn’t muster ONE rep of 185 lbs. Despite being known for his athleticism, his vertical leap of 33’’ ousted only Josh McRoberts and Spencer Hawes. His speed and agility also were put into question when he turned in the fourth-worst sprint time (3.45) and the last place lane drill time (12.33). Lucky for Durant, basketball is played on the court, not in the weight room. As poor as he performed, it shouldn’t affect his draft status as the second overall pick.

    15. Josh McRoberts 6-10 240 PF Duke So.

    What he did well: McRoberts stood 6’10’’ 240 lbs with a 7’1’’ wingspan. He also completed 12 bench reps, about average for his size and position.

    What he struggled with: The Duke product was known for his athleticism coming out of high school and during his college days, but a 31.5’’ vertical is hardly athletic. He didn’t run particularly well either, turning in a 3.47 second mark in the sprint. Overall, this workout probably hurt his stock more than it helped.

    16. Spencer Hawes 7-0 244 C Wash. Fr.

    What he did well: Hawes measured a hair away from 7’1’’ and 244 lbs. That’ about it.

    What he struggled with: You know you hurt your stock when the assistant coaches running the combine have a higher vertical than you do. Hawes’ 29’’ vertical did not compare to the big men he was competing against. So even though he can’t jump, he’s really strong, right? Not quite. Hawes performed a disappointing 9 bench reps and compounded it by running the slowest sprint time (3.51) and one of the most pedestrian lane drills (11.88).

    17 and 18. The Wright Brothers (Brandan Wright 6-10 200 PF UNC Fr. and Julian Wright 6-8 211 SF Kansas So.)

    What they did well: Both Brandan and Julian Wright have phenomenal length. Brandan had a 7’4’’ wingspan, while Julian’s measured at 7’2’’. Both players exhibited pretty good speed, as Brandan ran a 3.31 second sprint, closely followed by a 3.36 performance from Julian.

    What they struggled with: Brandan, Julian…this is a weightroom. Here, you put weights on bars and lift it up and down until you can’t do it anymore. After you are done doing that, you go back to the cafeteria and you eat this food group called protein. It will help you, trust me. Both Wright’s performed a disgraceful 2 reps on the bench. Brandan (6’10’’ 200 lbs) and Julian (6’8.5’’ 211 lbs) won’t be able to get to the rim as easily as they did in college, and neither player has a reliable enough jumpshot to consistently score from outside the paint. As athletic as they are hyped up to be, their vertical leaps (Brandan 35.5, Julian 33.5) were less than impressive. (Some of their athleticism is obviously attributed to their length, which is also true of Durant). Their lack of strength and bulk might hurt their draft status, especially if Yi Jianlian proves to be stronger and more athletic. As far as I’m concerned, both players fell behind Al Horford in the race for the 3rd pick. (and no they aren't really brothers).


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