So, let’s imagine we are in a perfect world, all of the planets are aligned, we are the Raptors GM, Halle Berry is on our arm, MGD’s chillin’ in the fridge, the Hooters girls are taking care of the wings and we’re about to announce who the Raptors are going to take with the #1 pick that mysteriously fell into our hands. What to do? Durant? Oden? Athletic SF who reminds people of T-Mac or Giant centre who is a terror on D?
Let’s take a quick look at some ups and downs. With Oden, a common criticism has been that he has no game with his back to the basket. Well, let’s remember that he is still young (well, officially…) and by the end of the season, he was developing this scary little turnaround jump hook that will be unstoppable if he is able to perfect it. Somewhere, Hakeem is saying, “Yes my brother, yes.” For whatever offensive moves he is lacking, he more than makes up for it on D. I’d much rather take a guy who lacks some offence, but plays some mean D, because D is just that much tougher to pick up, especially when you are making the move to the NBA. You can always learn some moves, find something on offence that suits you, that works for you. Oden is just a menace on D, making the lane a lane of death. He also has quicker feet than he is given credit for, which allows him to slide out and pressure when he needs to. On the up side, I also don’t think he gets enough credit for his passing. For a big man, he’s not too bad moving the ball around and seems to have decent vision, although that shouldn’t really be a big concern for him.
With Durant, you are talking pure athleticism and a deadly jump shot…and that’s a lethal combination. The guy can just flat out beat you down the court, but if you manage to catch up with him, he can either take you on the dribble or stop and pop. How do you stop that? How? Well, it seems he had tons of trouble with double teams this past season. That’s predictable for a young player, but if you think a double team in college is tough, single coverage with serious defenders in the NBA is no treat in itself. On the down side, I’m just not impressed with his D at all. For a guy with great athleticism and speed, his footwork on D reminds me of the Monsieur Piedlourde sketch on the Kids in the Hall. Slow, slow, slow. The question is, does his offence completely outweigh his D? Steve Nash can’t play D and he’s a two-time MVP.
So how would you pick if you were the Raptors GM? The Raptors could use a big time centre who blocks, rebounds and generally disrupts the opposition’s offensive game. The Raptors could also use an athletic forward who can fill the basket, just light it up when the team needs somebody to carry it every once in a while.
Me? I go with Oden. As I said above, you just can’t teach D and while the trend in the past 5+ years or so has been away from big men, I think this could be the dawn of a new era of big men in the NBA. Offence starts from picking rebounds and disrupting your opponent’s plays and that is what Oden does. I’m not sure if he is as ready for the NBA as Durant is, but I think that for the Raptors, he would be the better pick. Either way, you end up with a big time player, but I think he would fit the team better.