What if the Portland Trail Blazers Had Drafted Durant?
The NBA has been put on hold, but OTG is still hitting you with fresh content. During this hiatus we will be running an NBA 'What If" series. We will be looking at some of the most pivotal moments in NBA history and how a different outcome could have changed the course of the league forever.
One of the NBA's greatest oversights came in 1984. Hakeem Olajuwon had just been drafted by the Houston Rockets first overall and the Portland Trail Blazers were on the clock. The draft that year was loaded with talent and future Hall of Fame players, it was almost hard to go wrong picking second.
Some of the featured names available were Charles Barkley, John Stockton, Otis Thorpe, Sam Perkins, Alvin Robertson, and some guy named Michael Jordan. So who did the Blazers decide to go with? Sam Bowie.
Bowie wasn't a bad player by any measure. He played 10 years in the league and had the potential to be one of the basketball's best centers. Unfortunately for him, he couldn't shake the injury bug. He fractured his tibia in the 5th game of his third season and was never really the same again.
What hurts the worst about this draft wasn't that Bowie never lived up to his potential, it's who they could have had in his place. People will always remember this draft for one thing, the Blazers drafting Bowie over Jordan, the greatest player of all time. Surely, the Blazers would never make this mistake again, right?
WITH THE FIRST PICK IN THE 2007 DRAFT...
Fast forward to the 2007 draft and the Blazers found themselves in a familiar position. This time, instead of sitting second, they were picking first overall. This draft wasn't necessarily as loaded as the 1984 draft, however, 20 different players would play for 10 years or longer. There would be players who would earn All-Defensive team honors, become champions, and be league MVP's.
For the Blazers, their selection would go on to play a total of 82 games over three seasons, including missing the entirety of their first year. Greg Oden entered the draft as a 7 foot, 250-pound monster. Many believed he was going to be one of the leagues most dominant centers over time
Unfortunately for Oden, and the Blazers, he'd become the incarnation of Sam Bowie, so to speak. Injuries would derail a promising career, and he'd never be able to fully recover. He played 105 total NBA games and the Blazers repeated history.
At the time, Durant was seen as a Dirk Nowitzki/Tracy McGrady hybrid. He was a dynamic offensive player who had the height of a big man but the game of a guard. While he was lanky, and probably a bit too skinny, it was clear to anyone who could see that he'd be dominant.
HISTORY REPEATS ITSELF
So the what-if here is this, what if the Blazers had decided to draft Durant instead of Oden? The Blazers had drafted a big man in the previous draft, LaMarcus Aldridge, who by year two was putting up 17 and 7. They also had a young shooting guard in Brandon Roy who looked to be a guy who would light up the league for years to come.
Had they drafted Durant, they would have had a formidable big three that was solid on both sides of the ball. The Aldridge/Roy Blazers always had a good rotation of role players too, they were just one piece away from truly contending. Instead of creating a dominant frontcourt that resembled what made the San Antonio Spurs so successful, had they opted for Durants offense, we might be looking at a completely different NBA landscape.
Durant entered the NBA and immediately starting scoring 20 points a night. 12 seasons later, he hasn't slowed down. I don't believe that being surrounded by Aldridge and Roy would have delayed his development, this is who he was always going to become. If anything, Durant's path to the Finals would have been easier.
Instead, Durant was drafted by the then Seattle SuperSonics. A team that would struggle the first few seasons before finding their rhythm and then flaming out. So would a Durant-led Blazers team had found greater success? Absolutely! Would they have won it all? Who knows.
In another storyline that could be written as a "what if," Brandon Roy's promising career would end prematurely due to injuries. The window of opportunity for the potential Blazers big three would have only lasted a few seasons. It's safe to say, however, that with Durant on this team, they would have been a more complete team that was capable of going further than just the first round.
OTHER WHAT IFS...
As it is with all what-if scenarios, it's never just one decision that would have changed the way the NBA is today. So here are a few other things to think about.
Who would the Thunder have selected? Al Horford? Mike Conley Jr.?
If Durant is never on the Thunder, do they end up keeping Harden?
With Durant on the Blazers, would Aldridge have stayed longer?
What if the Blazers could still have drafted Lillard and they have a big three of Durant, Lillard, and Aldridge?
What if Oden never was plagued with injuries, how dominate could he have become?
If Durant finds a way to win it all in Portland, what would the Golden State Warriors history look like?