Healthy Greg Oden or Kevin Durant

How good would a healthy Greg Oden made the Portland Trailblazers?

Greg Oden is possibly one of the larger disappointments in terms of recent draft history. The story of the 2007 NBA Draft was the decision between Kevin Durant and Greg Oden. While Kevin Durant was a sure thing and obvious future all-star, Greg Oden looked as though to have the potential to be one of the most dominant Centers in today's National Basketball Association, but had a few injury concerns after some possible warning signs of future medical issues popped up. Kevin Durant went on to be considered one of the top players in the league today and is a multiple time NBA scoring champion and has led his young Oklahoma City Thunder to a finals appearance.

In retrospect, it always sparks curiosity as to if the Trailblazers would have done better and if so how good with Kevin Durant being the pick in the 2007 NBA draft. This goes without saying the team would have been more competitive with Kevin Durant's health and scoring ability taken into account, but how good would the team have been. Also the Trailblazers while taking the risk were in no way possibly expecting Greg Oden to only be able to play 82 games over the course of four season for the team, and if he was healthy still would have been a threat in the playoffs and been an obvious contender with his play most likely being complimentary to the teams overall half court offensive scheme and solid defensive ability.

Year One

Record: 41-41

The first year the Portland Trailblazers selected Greg Oden but he was unable to play. The Trailblazers finished the 2007-2008 NBA season with a 41-41 record and missed the playoffs. It would be fair to assume Greg Oden could have contributed as a bench player for the first part of the season and probably started as the later part of the season neared.

Averages of around 9 points and 8 rebounds a game with a full season of health would be a conservative estimate of his contributions along with being a solid defensive player to compliment Lamarcus Aldridge. The biggest gap for the Trailblazers that season could arguable be considered at the Center position. Including Greg Oden on the team that season would have increased their win total slightly, but nothing to push them into real playoff position if any at all.

Estimated Outcome: 50-32 First round exit by the New Orleans Hornets or LA Lakers, or no playoff seeding.

Year Two

Record: 54-28 The Trailblazers finished the season 2008-2009 season with a much improved record but lost in the first round of the Western Conference Playoffs against the Houston Rockets.

The addition of Greg Oden for a full season with it being year two under his belt could have improved the team significantly. A 60 win season would not have been out of the question with a healthy Greg Oden for the season who would have had an estimated 12-10 season with much improved defense and overall feel for the game. The record would have greatly improved and a solid contention against the Los Angeles Lakers for the Western Conference finals title would have been one of the better series the NBA has seen. Both teams were built similarly and the series could have gone either way. Top quality shooting guards with top quality Power Forward/Center combinations along with a decent supporting cast to join them . The Los Angeles team would have most likely been able to beat Portland in what would have been a close series because of the fact the team had a little more talent and experience to go along with the slightly more complex offensive system. This is not to discount Portland being able to get the upset in this series, but Los Angeles more than likely would have been able to use the playoff experience to put them over the Blazers.

Estimated Outcome: 62-20 Lose in 7 to Lakers Western Conference Finals

Year Three

Record 50-32

Portland's third year for the most part without Oden was slightly disappointing. 50 wins would have improved with a third year Oden most likely being able to contribute 17-18 points a night with 11 rebounds or so with two blocks and being considered a top 5 defensive big man in the league. An improved record enough to capture this Portland team a #1 seed in the NBA playoffs would not have been out of the question and most likely given them the win over the Los Angeles Lakers to play against the Boston Celtics in the NBA Finals.

Andrew Bynum spent most of the playoffs struggling with injury and while Kobe Bryant was still considered one of the best players in the NBA and a future hall of famer, his fatigue and old age began to show in these playoffs. The Portland team would have benefited from a much improved Oden and Aldridge being able to command the inside and provide a high-low post combination the Lakers would have struggled to stop.

In the NBA finals they would have faced the Boston Celtics. The Celtics in the playoffs were by many people not expected to make it out of the first round against the Miami Heat. The Celtics were able to beat the Miami team, and then proceeded to take out the best team during the NBA regular season in the Cleveland Cavaliers who also boasted back to back MVP Lebron James on the Roster.

Matchup wise the Celtics would have had to play the series very similarly to how they played the Lakers, but Oden's size and health would have been a key factor along with Aldridge generally being a harder player for the Celtics to defend than Pau Gasol. The role players in Martell Webster, Marcus Camby, and the veteran point guard Andre Miller would have added a dynamic that a thin Lakers team could not provide to the Celtics.

Ultimately the Portland Trailblazers should have been able to best the Boston Celtics and best them without too much effort in the playoffs capturing their first NBA title since 1977

Estimated outcome 60-22 Beat the Boston Celtics in 6 games to win the NBA Finals

Year Four

Record: 48-34

The 2010-2011 NBA season was a tough year for Portland basketball fans. Brandon Roy started to show signs of some terrible knee problems and Aldridge had to step up and although he did average 22 points a game and 8 rebounds the Dallas Mavericks proved to be the better team beating them in the first round of the playoffs in route to an NBA Championship. Greg Oden did not play any games in the 2010-2011 season and with this being his fourth year in the NBA would have started to come out and show his potential as even a competitor for Dwight Howard as the best Center in the NBA.

Even with Brandon Roy being reduced to a spark off of the bench for most of the playoffs. A frontline of Gerald Wallace, Lamarcus Aldridge, and Greg Oden would have been the best front court in the NBA at the time. A top 3 seed would have been easy for the team to obtain and the chances of them being beaten by the Dallas Mavericks, Oklahoma City Thunder, or Los Angeles Lakers would have been slim. The defensive talent on the team would have been much improved and the adding in of Oden being able to score the basketball at the center position unlike Marcus Camby. This also would have solved the lack of depth at the front court at times. Lamarcus Aldridge having to spend time at the center position exploited the Trailblazers at rebounding and overall size for periods of time that put them at a huge disadvantage playing against teams especially like the Dallas Mavericks who were able to take advantage of the lack of size.

Greg Oden would have propelled the teams regular season record and put them in a position to beat most teams in the playoffs. The Thunder would have put up a solid match against Portland had they met in the playoffs. This would have added another interesting dynamic to the playoffs. The Trailblazers should have been able to much better play the Mavericks who took them out in six games and had they met in the playoffs been able to take them out. Considering the defensive ability of the team and front court skill the Oklahoma City Thunder also would have struggled mightily against this team. The Thunder had earlier struggled against a Memphis Grizzlies team constructed around Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph who weren't really at the level of Lamarcus Aldridge and how Greg Oden would have been at the time.

The Trailblazers should have been able to make it out of the Western Conference and would have gone on to play the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals. The Miami Heat showed a large weakness during the regular season and even from time to time in the playoffs at being able to play against talent big men on either side of the floor. While Aldridge may have not been able to play at the same level as Dirk, this Trailblazers team would have been just as hard for Miami to play defense against. Gerald Wallace had long been considered one of the best players in the NBA at guarding Lebron James one on one, and the length and defensive skill of Aldridge and Oden would have kept it hard for Lebron to have the driving lanes similarly to how Tyson Chandler was able to focus on help defense with the lack of inside threats on Miami.

The Trailblazers would have made quick work of the Miami team and even with Brandon Roy falling off from the previous season, should have been able to take them down in 5 or 6. Lebron James and Dwyane Wade would have likely been able to pull out a game or two against Portland, but the half court offensive and likely top defense in the NBA would have proved too much for a Miami team that struggled with offensive consistence and understanding of player roles on the court throughout the year.

Expected Outcome 57-25 NBA Finals win over Miami in 5 or 6

Fifth Season

Record: 28-48

The end of Greg Oden's fourth season with the Portland Trailblazers would have marked time for a contract extension of sorts. In a time of uncertainty in the NBA with the collective bargaining agreement it would be safe to assume the Trailblazers would not have gone into the 2011-2012 season with JJ Hickson and Gerald Wallace would probably have been traded as an empty contract in order co conserve salary cap space.

This would leave the Portland Trailblazers with a starting lineup of something along the lines of Raymond Felton and Wesley Matthews at the back court spots and Nicholas Batum, Lamarcus Aldridge along with Greg Oden playing in the front court. The team wouldn't have had nearly the depth it was used to in the previous season and scoring would have become an even larger glaring issue. Although Portland had a 6th man like Jamal Crawford off the bench, the defense would be expected to have fallen slightly off even with an improved season with Greg Oden.

Portland has been known with or without Greg Oden these past few NBA seasons as having a great half court offense, and still would have been able to use that to their advantage during the regular season. Making the playoffs with a seed ranging anywhere from the 4th-6th spot would not have been out of the question for this team. The red flag with this team advancing would be the lack of depth and skill as compared to last year with teams like Oklahoma City improving. This Trailblazers team would likely not have been able to best an Oklahoma team with another year under their belts while many of Port land's key players were unable to return or had aged another year. The trio of Westbrook, Harden, and Durant along with the defensive prowess of Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins would have shown to be too much for the Portland Trailblazers that season.

Expected outcome 40-26 Eliminated by the Oklahoma City Thunder in 6 games

What if Portland had drafted Kevin Durant?

In the city of Portland, Oregon and surrounding areas their were signs on the road “Honk once for Oden, twice for Durant”. Arguments for both players were made between the draft lottery and Portland obtaining the number one pick and NBA draft night. Kevin Durant had taken the NCAA by storm at Texas putting up a fantastic first season before declaring for the NBA draft. Kevin Durant was listed as a 6'10“ wing player and was praised for his quality skill at scoring the basketball. Many Trailblazers fans argued against the idea of drafting Durant, claiming they already had the wing scorer they needed in Brandon Roy. Along with that questions of his weight and strength in the NBA were red flags with him not being able to bench press 185 pounds during the drafting process, a feat many high school basketball players can accomplish. The team ended up opting for Greg Oden to be more of the “Shaq to Roy's Kobe”. In hindsight Portland made the wrong decision, or did they?

Year One

Record 41-41

Portland's first year without Oden nor Durant did result in them missing the playoffs. Durant won the Rookie of the Year award with the Seattle Supersonics and although he spent much of his rookie year at the shooting guard position, would have been capable of playing the small forward with the Trailblazers and would have been an interesting complimentary talent next to Brandon Roy and Lamarcus Aldridge.

Kevin Durant averaged 20 points per game his rookie year on a shooting percentage one would not consider great for a player who is considered to be a future leading scorer in the NBA. His shooting percentage likely would have gone up along with his scoring total dropping some from not having to be the center of attention for the defense on his team. His sharpshooting skills and off the ball play would have complimented Roy's lack of shooting ability at times.

Even with a budding superstar in Kevin Durant, the Portland team still lacked depth at the Center position. Kevin Durant would have improved the team, but not in a way that puts them in contention to get out of the first round.

Estimated Outcome 50-32 First Round Exit or Missing the Playoffs

Year Two

Record: 54-28

In Kevin Durant's second year in the NBA he broke out as the All-Star player he was expected to be coming into the draft. His scoring total going up by 5 points and his shooting percentage from everywhere on the floor becoming more efficient. The combination of Brandon Roy and Kevin Durant on the floor would have been nearly impossible for opposing teams to deal with. Even accounting for a still possible lack of a solid option at the center position the Trailblazers would have improved heavily and been in a position to make a move in the post season.

This Portland team already being a #4 seed in the NBA playoffs would have quite effortlessly competed with the Los Angeles Lakers for the first seed. In the 2008-2008 NBA playoffs Andrew Bynum was going through a string of injuries and barring a breakout series against the Portland Trailblazers, the Los Angeles Lakers would have not been able to beat a Portland team that very closely mirrors the makeup of the Boston Celtics team they had been beaten by in the finals the previous year. Los Angeles having to find an answer offensively for the new “Big Three” on Portland would have been nearly impossible. While this Portland team wasn't quite the team Boston was on defense. The depth outside of the big three was superior and that Los Angeles team was taken to 7 games in the second round by the Houston Rockets during those playoffs.

The NBA finals would have been an interesting dynamic. Dwight Howard struggled to beat the Lakers in the finals because of the lack of help in the post and the Los Angeles team being able to exploit Orlando for being a jump shooting team. While Pryzbilla and Aldridge were not on the same level as Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, this Portland team would have proven to be too much offensively for the Orlando Magic.

Estimated outcome 63-19 Win the NBA Finals over the Orlando Magic in 6 games

Year Three

Record: 50-32

Kevin Durant in his third season posted a scoring average of 30 points a game for Oklahoma City and was able to lead his Thunder team to playoff position and took the Los Angeles Lakers team at the time to 6 games. The games went down to to the wire and that may have been Los Angeles's biggest scare in the Western Conference that year.

Portland posted 50 wins that year and had also added some interesting depth to the team. Andre Miller at the point guard position would have been a great floor general for a Portland team with Kevin Durant, along with Marcus Camby providing a solid defensive presence in the middle. The team would have had a more balanced and complimentary starting lineup to go with the bench depth.

In the 2010 NBA playoffs the Los Angeles Lakers seemed to be favorites to end up playing against the Cleveland Cavaliers in the finals. The NBA marketing staff had spent the whole season building it up after a disappointing loss by Cleveland to the Orlando Magic spoiling it the previous season. Lebron vs Kobe was the topic of discussion around the NBA, this would not have been the case with the Trailblazers would have still been a 60 win basketball team and been able to almost autopilot their way to the NBA finals.

The Lakers were not quite the team they were the previous year, and were even scared by Durant's not as talented Oklahoma team in the first round. The Portland team only seeing improvements over the previous year would have ousted Kobe Bryant's Lakers from the playoffs very easily on the way to play the Boston Celtics in the NBA finals. Once the team reached the NBA Finals, Portland still would have been considered the favorite. The Celtics were not the same caliber team they were in 2008 and would have struggled mightily in containing Port land's scoring barrage and much improved defense.

Boston and Los Angeles was one of the greatest NBA Finals series in NBA history, but Portland would have been a much tougher matchup. Kevin Garnett may have been able to do a better job guarding and scoring on the likes of Lamarcus Aldridge, but Paul Pierce's struggled against Ron Artest may have been worse against a player with the length of Kevin Durant. The Boston team was able to win games on defense, the scoring totals for Boston have slowly become lower as Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, and Kevin Garnett have aged. Even if Boston was able to deal with Portland's “Big Three”, Port land's excellent half court offense would have ultimately been the end of Boston in that series

Estimated Outcome Record: 66-16 Portland wins NBA finals over the Boston Celtics in five games.

Year Four

Record: 48-34

In his fourth year in the NBA, Kevin Durant led the Oklahoma City Thunder to a 55-27 record and was even considered an MVP candidate by some. the Trailblazers won 48 games and had lost to Dirk Nowitski's Mavericks in 6 games in the first round. The Oklahoma team looking like a nice young upcoming team and Durant was a superstar in every way. While Portland was dealing with injury issues to Brandon Roy, but had signed Gerald Wallace who was coming off of a fantastic year in Charlotte.

Kevin Durant may have been primed for a breakout year this year with the Portland Trailblazers. With Roy only playing 47 games during the season, and Durant now being surrounded by more complimentary type players, a high scoring average would have been likely. The team would have seen improvements and probably taken the #4 seed during the playoffs. This Portland team did lack size, so bad it was a liability. Teams like Dallas had added Tyson Chandler and Los Angeles had a healthy Andrew Bynum who average 14 points a game and 10 rebounds a game in the playoffs. Even with Durant, Brandon Roy being a shell of his former self would have been a huge issue when they had to face the Dallas Mavericks. The best way this team would have been able to combat the issue of size would have been to have a healthy Brandon Roy to provide the scoring boost the team needed.

The Trailblazers ultimately would have fallen to the Dallas Mavericks similarly to how the Oklahoma City team did. The Mavericks defense that year was so stellar, and the team wouldn't have had much of an answer for Dirk Nowitski. The series very well would have gone 6 or 7 games, but still at Port land's loss.

Estimated outcome 58-24 Loss in Western Conference Finals to the Dallas Mavericks in 7 Games

Author's Notes and Overview

While certain factors such as the Gerald Wallace deal may not have happened had the Trailblazers had Durant, or other small free agency signings here and their. I am making the assumption for the sake of the article being somewhat condensed that a similar talent level would have been on both the Healthy Oden teams or Kevin Durant teams to do veteran players signing onto the teams for ring chasing and other such types of talent signing on in hopes of being able to thrive within the team. I personally felt going into the draft the Trailblazers should take Kevin Durant, even if Durant wasn't the sure thing superstar, I felt his scoring at the 3 position would have been enough to make him worth the safe pick. Oden's injury issues raised such a red flag and even though hindsight is 20/20, the success on both variables is comparable, and you can't make the assumption Oden would have been able to play 82 games a season here. NBA Centers in the current league generally just do not do a great job at staying healthy except a few cases.

I hope as a sports fan Greg Oden is able to come back and contribute for some team as a backup Center at some point in his career. He was fun to watch in college and seemed like the prototype for a future great NBA center, all time great remains to be seen.

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