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Blazers front office looks back on Greg Oden pick

Feb 21, 2012, 6:23 PM EDT

Greg Oden Getty Images

It all seems so simple in hindsight. Greg Oden will soon undergo his 3rd microfracture surgery since being drafted in 2007, while Kevin Durant will continue to be one of the best players in the Western Conference and, more than likely, lead his team into the playoffs. Oden spent much of his college career nursing a wrist injury, while Durant spent most of his one year at Texas demolishing his competition with a silky-smooth inside-out game on his way to being named the consensus national player of the year.

In hindsight, it all seems so silly. How could we not have seen this? Why did we think that Kevin Durant’s inability to lift the weight bar once or sprint down the court during the draft combine would keep him from being a dominant force in the NBA? It’s hard to remember how sure we all were about Oden after we read things like Chad Ford’s awed recap of Oden’s pre-draft workout:

Oden measures 6-foot-11½ in socks and 7-1 in shoes, and he weighs around 260. His wingspan is an impressive 7-5, and his standing reach nearly 9-3. Those measurements provide the biggest reason most scouts think Oden should be the No. 1 pick. In a league devoid of big, traditional centers — Oden’s numbers add up to a perfect 10.

Everything else is supposed to be gravy.

But when St. Vincent director Ralph Reiff warned that I was in for a surprise, he wasn’t kidding.

Oden’s agility, flexibility, balance and explosiveness are remarkable for a player his size. He’s a 2 guard in a center’s body.

Clearly Oden is more than a big stiff who’s learned how to play basketball. He’s an athlete who happens to be 7 feet tall.

In the span of an hour, there wasn’t a drill point guard Mike Conley could do that Oden couldn’t do. In the strength department, we’d expect that and more. But in terms of athleticism and agility, you have to see it to believe it.

Remember that ridiculous dunk he tried against Georgetown — the one when he took off from a little inside the free-throw line? That type of play should be a staple of his NBA game…

…As the workout continues, Oden plants down low alongside Purdue’s Carl Landry and works on a number of post moves around the basket. His hands are soft. His hook shot is smooth. And most everything Oden lobs up finds its way in the basket. While he’s been working on a midrange jumper to increase his arsenal, it’s his work down on the post that is most impressive.

We’d seen so many pure scorers, shooters, and tweener forwards struggle in the NBA, especially ones with less-than stellar athleticism. Oden was supposed to be the sure thing. 3 microfracture surgeries, 1 Thunder Conference Finals appearance, and 2 Kevin Durant scoring titles later, it’s easy to see just how wrong we were.

However, Blazers acting GM Chad Buchanan, who was in the room when Oden was drafted, says he has no regrets about picking Oden over Durant all these years later (hat tip to Ben Golliver of Blazersedge and CBS’ Eye on Basketball):

Buchanan, speaking at the team’s practice facility on Monday afternoon, told that he remembered the phone call declaring the team’s intention to select Oden was being placed to NBA commissioner David Stern, thinking that the team’s braintrust was in the process of acquiring a title-delivering talent.

“I was very excited,” he said. “A chance to draft a player who could potentially get your franchise to your ultimate goal. Looking back on it, we were all excited. We had visions of Greg being a great player for us for years to come.”

But just like his predecessors and Blazers president Larry Miller before him, Buchanan said that he still stands by the team’s selection of Oden over Durant.

“Looking back on it, I would still draft Greg,” he said. “Hindsight, it’s easy to make an assumption [now]… You can’t predict the injuries that would come. Going back on it, I wouldn’t have changed anything in drafting Greg.”

Asked if the decision was unanimous among those in the room, Buchanan politely declined to reply.

At the time, there wasn’t much of a debate across the city: a vast majority supported selecting Oden. “Even Caveman Knows: Pick Oden,” read the headline of one letter to the editor that was published in the June 17, 2007, edition ofThe Oregonian. “Oden Possesses Championship Aura,” read another.

Well, it’s safe to say that aura has worn off, and it’s now an open question whether the player who was once a lock to be a franchise center will ever play in the NBA again, let alone play another game for the team that took him over Durant. It’s easy for the Blazers front office to say they would have made the same pick again if they had the same amount of information now that they did them, but it has to be hard to watch Durant continue to light up the league as Oden can do nothing but watch.

  1. Tick - Feb 21, 2012 at 6:38 PM

    “There is evidence that Iraq is hiding weapons of mass destruction.”

    “I did not have sex with Monica Lewinsky.”

    “I am not a crook.”

    “Looking back on it, I would still draft Greg,”

  2. fulanekiffin - Feb 21, 2012 at 6:50 PM

    It’s hard not to feel terrible for this kid. Whenever I think of Durant, Chris Lofton’s 3 right in his face is the only thing I see.

  3. goforthanddie - Feb 21, 2012 at 6:58 PM

    Hope you didn’t take too long writing this, you could’ve recycled one of the many such stories already written on the topic. Or written on a new topic, like where is Portland’s GM search going? Is there one?

    • slowclyde86 - Feb 21, 2012 at 7:43 PM

      Why so harsh? Good, topical article. If your criteria is that very article need to be on a topic not yet covered, few would be published.

      • goforthanddie - Feb 21, 2012 at 9:03 PM

        What’s harsh, the truth? The fact that nobody on Paul Allen’s payroll dare say anything but “It was the right choice blaahblah”?
        And I’ll even give this guy credit. He recognizes that Buchanan is only the acting GM, I’ve read other stories based on this interview calling him the GM and acting like he made the decision.
        But yeah, beating a dead horse and whatnot, originality would be nice, etc.

    • pellypell - Feb 21, 2012 at 9:35 PM

      I’ve got an idea. You tell us where you work, we will all show up and you can show us how you constantly reinvent the wheel. I appreciate John sharing this with us.

  4. Justin - Feb 21, 2012 at 6:59 PM

    I really hope this guy can come back to something close to what he could have been. It will probably be a long way off. Could you imagine if him and Roy both stayed healthy?

  5. 00maltliquor - Feb 21, 2012 at 7:09 PM

    Chad Buchanon is lying through his teeth!

  6. kandh2004 - Feb 21, 2012 at 7:29 PM

    They have to say that now don’t they

  7. metalhead65 - Feb 21, 2012 at 8:00 PM

    well sure they they would take durrant over oden if they knew oden’s knees would give out on him but if all he had was wrist injury who could predict that the knees would go. just a bad break for a good kid.

  8. pdxtosea - Feb 21, 2012 at 8:23 PM

    It looks like Chad Buchanan really wants out of Portland … or at the very least doesn’t want to remove the “ACTIVE” tag from his title. Why on earth would he say something like that?

    Sure Oden is a “good kid” (setting aside his tendency to send photo’s that hit the internet)
    Sure he was the one that was going to break the Bowie curse (remember the light rail ride to the fans)
    Sure he was dominant in his one and done season at Ohio State.
    Sure he is much better than Trader Bob or the Jail Blazers.

    But c’mon. Let’s look at the facts.

    They gave a franchise contract to Roy and 5 months later he is retiring, Does Portland not have an MRI machine, or was it occupied by Oden 24×7?
    They were on the verge of signing Oden afraid that he would excel post free agency,
    They had a terrible GM signing in Chow and now any executive is gun shy of landing in Portland.
    They are in the worse position of any NBA team in the league – meaning that the top teams compete, the bottom teams draft high, the worse teams draft high, leave town, and get a new arena & fan base and the mediocre teams (like Portland) stay just where they are, generating no excitement and no new blood.

    Chad, why not just tell the truth. What wrong with saying: “Knowing what we know today, we would have gone in a different direction”. To say the organization has no regrets just tells the fan base that maybe buying a few games through tickemaster to see a talented team is preferrable to mortgaging (sp?) their hearts for a mediocre team.

  9. jr9901 - Feb 21, 2012 at 8:57 PM

    Well, then I guess everyone in the Portland front office is still an idiot, as they were in 2007. Oden’s health problems WERE predictable, they were just too stupid to know it.

    Greg Oden clearly suffers from gigantism, a disorder of the pituitary gland. People with that disease get to be big and tall abnormally, due to out-of-control growth hormone. Their bodies do not develop normally, hence they are prone to many health problems, including: serious heart problems, vision problems, diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer and bone fractures. And because their bodies are abnormally structured, they are subject to all manner of musculo-skeletal problems. Yao Ming was another such player, though he lasted longer than Oden.

    Bottom line: the fact that Oden has gigantism is obvious. The fact that Portland ignored that, and STILL doesn’t get it, indicates that they are all morons over there.

    • goforthanddie - Feb 21, 2012 at 9:16 PM

      Someone learned a new word today I see. And as so often happens, you’ve decided to throw it around incorrectly.
      I have never seen “GO” and “gigantism” in the same sentence anywhere, and I have looked. Some people just grow up to be tall, without the need for a condition or “isis” or “ism”. Tall people who fill out their bodies properly often end up with bad knees/ankles because they’re hauling around extra weight. Especially when they play a sport that involves lots of jumping up and down on those ankles/knees.
      But I’m certain you know so much more about medicine than every single doctor that has examined GO since birth. Thank you so very much for taking the time to educate us all.

      • jr9901 - Feb 21, 2012 at 9:24 PM

        You’re welcome. Now go learn about the subject before spouting nonsense. Or maybe you just live in Portland, home of the blind basketball executive?

    • slowclyde86 - Feb 23, 2012 at 8:12 PM

      jr, did a giant steal your girlfriend? There is something wrong with you. Seriously.

  10. facebookuser111 - Feb 21, 2012 at 9:02 PM

    Looks like the Sonics made the right pick.

  11. j0esixpack - Feb 21, 2012 at 9:15 PM

    I think the Celts had the most ping pong balls in the mix that year. Oden was supposed to be their ticket to Banner #17

    When the leprechaun didn’t give up the #1 pick Ainge was forced to innovate.

    It worked out ok I’d say.

    • jr9901 - Feb 21, 2012 at 9:25 PM

      Cs dodged a bullet there.

      • j0esixpack - Feb 23, 2012 at 6:58 PM

        Without a doubt

        I fully expect Ainge would have taken Oden. Anyone would have at that point in time – though he did look like he was 40 even back then

  12. phillyphever - Feb 21, 2012 at 9:59 PM

    B-U-S-T BUST BUST BUST! Get over it guys, Portland crapped the bed picking no knees over Durant. Might as well call it Sam Bowie part II.

    • dallasstars9 - Feb 22, 2012 at 1:00 AM

      Being from Portland, the Sam Bowie reference was exhausted about 20 years ago. The Blazers took a chance (aka “The NBA Draft”) and if Durant had injury problems you would be reading about Oklahoma City’s GM. With or without Oden, we love our Blazers!!

  13. jr9901 - Feb 22, 2012 at 1:27 AM

    Fact is, no one sees medical reports on any NBA players, so that is a meaningless argument. And the point is not that “Greg Oden is tall therefore he must have gigantism” — that would be silly and is not the case here.

    The point is that Oden’s appearance is almost exactly what would be expected in someone with Acromegaly, a hallmark of gigantism. Specifically, the signs of Acromegaly include: prominent facial lines & cheekbones, bulging forehead, frontal bossing, enlarged jaw, spaced teeth, in addition to very deep voice, and more. To learn more, just search on the term “acromegaly.”

    And btw, I would not be surprised to learn that this information was kept from the public, for obvious financial reasons. All this is none of the public’s business, but it should have been Portland’s business before they decided to take him in 07.

    • slowclyde86 - Feb 22, 2012 at 3:48 AM

      Are you for real? I took the liberty of forwarding your astute analysis to every nba team. I’m sure they will be calling you for jobs momentarily as a draft consultant to diagnose prospective players without even needing a physical exam. What’s more, I would imagine your rate woul be cheaper, as your Wikipedia degree cost a lot less than their current trained medical staff. Nostradamus, you have the gift! (Especially in hindsight).

      • jr9901 - Feb 22, 2012 at 5:16 PM

        Brilliant. “Be patient with stupidity but not with those who are proud of it.”

  14. therookie773 - Feb 22, 2012 at 4:30 AM

    I don’t really understand why the Kevin Durant comparison was made to Oden even when you said “it’s easier to say in hindsight”. You can’t compare a guy who has never even had the chance to play one full NBA season to someone who has, you’re just stating the obvious.

    • therookie773 - Feb 22, 2012 at 4:33 AM

      If I was a gm and had the opportunity to choose KD and a healthy Oden again I’d take Oden every freaking year

  15. schaffershokai - Feb 22, 2012 at 9:17 AM

    Oden could add some marquee value to his name if he got caught doing this: WP: , MH: , T: ,

  16. chiadam - Feb 22, 2012 at 1:43 PM

    Why didn’t we see it coming? Um, we did. He’s a 7-footer (and they have no history of constantly being injured, right?) that was coming off injury histories in college. One leg is longer than the other. We did see it coming, but the Blazers screwed up again. And Chad Ford loved him, so that should have sent teams running. None of the ESPN NBA draft guys know what they’re doing. They care about wing span and the amazing feat of guys being taller with shoes on.

  17. mrmuckem - Feb 22, 2012 at 4:07 PM

    I think it would have been pretty easy for the GM to simply say, “sure, in hindsight – which human beings only have the ability to see AFTER the fact – I regret the pick, but for the reasons that Kevin Durant has proven to be one of the most dynamic, impressive and dominant players in the NBA, and is certainly looking to remain on that track for the duration of his career…. And so because of Kevin Durant’s sheer dominance, versus our inability to see the future injuries of a guy with whom we believe, yes, I regret not taking Kevin Durant first.” Or something to this effect. That way, at the very least, he doesn’t look like such an idiot for saying he wouldn’t change anything. It’s like say, no, I don’t regret putting all my money in Enron instead of Apple, the numbers looked good at the time.

  18. unknowneric - Feb 22, 2012 at 4:20 PM

    They’re now looking back on him because their necks are tired from looking up at him.

  19. fatbaby81 - Feb 22, 2012 at 6:57 PM

    Greg Oden was the better pick at the time because Portland was a team on the rise, and they were a dominate Center away from challenging kobe & the lakers in the western conference finals. Injuries are the only reason people are second guessing it. if oden would have stayed healthy, Portland might have won a championship by now. P.S. with a healthy Brandon Roy of course.

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