Today let's take a look at the Oden/Durant question from a little different perspective: team needs. Below are what I consider to be some of the biggest Trailblazer needs and a guess at whether Oden or Durant fills them best.
Better Defense, Particularly in the Backcourt
Neither guy addresses our chronic backcourt defensive shortcomings directly. Durant can probably develop into a very good defender if he takes advantage of his preternatural athletic ability. You wouldn't put it beyond him to become an Aldridge-like defender at his position, easily holding his own. On the other hand Oden has the potential to change the game defensively for the entire team. He has the potential to make everybody a better defender on the spot and simply make our backcourt deficiencies disappear, much the way Tim Duncan has made his guards look good defensively for a long time.
More Easy Buckets in Transition
I can't think of an area that needed more attention last year. Durant is the obvious choice here in terms of a finisher. He may end up being one of the best wing guys on the break in the league. But Oden should not be underestimated. He may not fly and fill the lanes like Durant but that's only the obvious part of fast breaking. You can't fast break if the other team puts the ball in the net. You can't fast break if your perimeter guys have to sink deep on defense all the time because you can't contain anybody. And you can't fast break unless you're sure you've got the rebound and can get the ball out. Right now all three are chronic issues for the Blazers. Oden patrolling the middle goes a long way towards addressing them and may free guys like Outlaw and Aldridge to assume their natural places streaking down the sidelines in a way Durant won't necessarily. Call me crazy but...
More Motion and Variety in the Halfcourt Offense
Here's where Durant should really shine. Oden is going to be a post player...probably a good one, but still a down-on-the-blocks guy. Hopefully he'll be able to shoot with either hand. Hopefully he'll have a short face-up jumper to add to his back-to-the-basket repertoire. Hopefully he'll be able to pass to cutters out of the post and not become a massive black hole. All of those will add some variety to the offense. But comparing that to Durant's offensive game is like comparing the chocolate/vanilla/strawberry ice cream selection at Denny's to your local Baskin-Robbins. KD is dangerous from anywhere and everywhere and will put so much pressure on opposing defenses that if he learns to pass even a little bit he will be a terror. If the Blazers choose any offense at all besides "Stand and watch Durant work" our attack instantly becomes as free and multi-pronged as Dallas.
Despite a general uptick in our rebounding numbers last year we still have a long ways to go in developing dependable, consistent ball-control off the boards. Both Aldridge and Randolph have shown themselves more offensively than defensively inclined in the Windex department. If Kevin Durant puts on a little size and knuckles down he should be a good rebounder and might get some that amaze you. But you've got to believe that Oden is good for ten total rebounds a night right out of the gate and it only gets better from there. Much like offense for Durant this is right in Oden's wheelhouse.
We have started acquiring tall, skilled players which is a lot better than the short, skilled crew we had for most of this decade. Even so we only have a few guys at this point that you'd call intimidating athletes. Both Oden and Durant obviously fit the bill. Oden has size built in and is within a few pounds of being ready-made for the NBA game. Durant really needs to add some weight but it's hard to argue with athleticism that already rates a 12 on a scale of 1 to 10. After a year under a professional strength-and-conditioning coach he could start to look downright scary. Then again Oden looks scary now. Call it a wash...we can't go wrong here.
One of the dirty little secrets of the current team is that even though we're pretty and are starting to look really good on paper we scare nobody. Jamaal Magloire was the closest thing to an intimidator that we had last year and he stuck out like a sore thumb. It's not so much that we need/want a thug or goon. Those days are gone in the NBA, for better or worse. But we need some players who, when opposing teams contemplate playing us, make them go, "Oh geez...this is going to be a long and unpleasant night." This could mean being very physical and throwing your weight around. It could also mean being annoying and disruptive--skinning knees diving for loose balls and such. It's as much passion as posture...the fire in the eyes and innate desire to win. It's just a guess, but this may tip the scales for Pritchard as much as anything else in this decision-making process. I don't envy him having to figure it out in just a couple of meetings.
That's my best shot at identifying our needs. If I missed any add them in the comment section below along with your analysis of which player gives you the edge. So far it looks like a slight edge for Oden with the fire/toughness results still pending. Maybe this is a closer decision than many (myself included) think?