clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Oden vs. Durant: The Final Word (for now)

Up until the draft and even going into Summer League all the buzz was over Oden and Durant and which was the better pick.  Just because we got short-changed a little in Vegas on that score doesn't mean there wasn't evidence there.  So here's the skinny on where we are in the ongoing debate.  This comes from my observations as well as talking to people at least partially in the know around Summer League media tables.  I'm not sure that much of this information is new per se but it has now been confirmed with some first-hand observation and analysis.

There's little doubt Kevin Durant is going to be a great scorer.  He has a confident shot out to three-point land and isn't afraid to take it.  He can get his shot off quickly and elevate over most defenders.  He also has a post game with spins and up-and-unders.  Right now that post game relies on quickness rather than bulk but if he can get you up in the air you're dead without some really quick help.  He took people off the dribble in Summer League but I don't think that was a fair assessment of the kind of speed and agility he'll face when the games are real.  I'd like to see more evidence before making a judgment about his penetration potential in the halfcourt.  On the break, of course, he'll be deadly.  He possesses a calm confidence that commands respect from the moment you see him.  There's no mistaking him for anyone else in the huddle.  If you're looking for potential star quality, he has it.

Durant is a legit 6'10" but he is also skinny as a suburban fencepost.  He has virtually no arm or upper body strength for a guy his size.  He cannot establish deep position in the post and he cannot keep anyone else out of the post either.  There is no way he's going to be able to play an inside game this year on either end of the court.  This is unfortunate, as the post scoring was perhaps the most magical part of his game.  The Sonics are already talking about playing him at off-guard.  This is not likely to be his permanent position.  Even though he takes both outside shots and floaters without hesitation that's not the best part of his offensive game.  

Because of the way the Sonics are set up right now Durant is going to get an enormous number of shots per game and will probably score 20.  His field goal percentage is going to be quite low, however.  With the wear and tear his body will take it's likely he'll stop driving at all after the first couple months of the season and simply become a juke-heavy jump shooter.  We aren't going to see the complete offensive repertoire nor the truly massive scoring games (with extra free throws) for a couple of seasons yet.  We may not see his best defense either.  It's doubtful he'll ever be truly comfortable guarding NBA shooting guards.  What's more, we may not know if he can pass or not.  He'll probably be encouraged to shoot every time he touches it.  In short, if you're looking for more than points from Durant you're not likely to see it soon.  It's as much the Sonics' fault as it is his.

Oden's body is far more NBA-ready than Durant's.  He doesn't look like a freak of nature but he looks big and built.  He's fairly strong and can jump out of the gym.  He's nowhere near Durant-quick but he moves gracefully for a center.  The best part of his offensive game is undoubtedly dunking.  He appears to have a reasonable post game from 10 feet and in.  He'll not be asked to score much farther out than that his rookie year but eventually he'll have to if we wish to keep the middle open for passes and cuts.  This will be desirable because he's already showing a willingness to move the ball.  He's way ahead of the rookie versions most star NBA centers that way.  A guy who already knows how and when to pass out of a double team has a real leg up.

Oden needs to work on his rebounding form.  He's clearly used to getting rebounds from smaller, weaker, slower opponents.  He'll be a terror when he does get his fundamentals down but until then he'll lose his share to experienced centers.  He has good range on defense and will probably become an incredible shot blocker.  Right now he has to learn when and against whom to attempt blocks.  He'll be a good pick-setter.  He'll also be devastating on either end of the fast break.

The biggest questions about Oden right now are his grit and desire.  He looks impressive in the huddle but he doesn't have that same commanding presence that Durant does.  He's going to be banged, bruised, and bullied unmercifully all year long.  If he doesn't have the heart to bang back and to learn from the experience you could see him crumpling.  In that way he feels like far more of a risk than Durant.

There's no way Oden scores as many points or makes as many highlight reels as Durant does.  He'll probably evidence a much more rounded game at first though and should help his team to more wins.  You probably won't see the real Greg Oden for a year and a half either but you'll see more facets to his game in the meantime.

Having seen both I'm still pretty confident that the Blazers made the right choice, both in general and for their team.  You know Durant will be a star and you know it will be scoring that gets him there.  However you don't know if he has any other aspects to his game than that and you don't know if he'll ever get over the need to hoist repeatedly to get his points.  You don't know if Oden is targeted for individual superstardom but you already know he will do more things to help his team right away.  To my mind that leaves less doubt about Oden.  I'd rather take my chances with a guy who's going to rate high in many areas than with a guy who will rate very high in one but you're rolling the dice in all the others.  Plus Oden has a definite position that he'll be able to play right away and should develop more quickly even if Durant outstrips him statistically in the short term.

--Dave (