November 19, 2010
One of the more confusing by-products of Greg Oden's(notes) horrific knee-injury history has been the slew of revisionist historians who have tried to change the debate at the center of the 2007 draft.
In case you forgot, Oden and Kevin Durant(notes) were the clear top-two picks in the draft, presumed superstars who would light the league on fire for the next 15 years. Except there was some disagreement over who should be picked first overall: Some said Oden, some said Durant, and some said it depended on the team's needs.
The general opinion was that you couldn't go wrong with either player. Few, of course, were predicting that Oden's knees would explode in a pyrotechnic display fit for a Michael Bay movie. But now, all manner of commentators are saying that they definitely would have taken Durant first, you know, because he's a star now.
Doc Rivers is not one of those people. From Julian Benbow of The Boston Globe:
But the Celtics, despite having the second-worst record in the league, slipped to fifth in the lottery. They flipped the pick for Ray Allen(notes), which helped lure Kevin Garnett(notes), and the franchise's 17th title soon followed. Had the Celtics landed the No. 1 pick, Rivers said, Oden would have been the choice.
"Even though everybody changes now, we were all for Oden, and I think 98 percent of the league,'' Rivers said. "But now I hear it all over our staff, I hear it everywhere, ‘Oh, no, we were Durant guys.' I don't believe that. I think we would have drafted Oden.''
This pick obviously wouldn't have belonged to Rivers alone, and perhaps he, Danny Ainge, and the rest of the Celtics brass would have changed their minds in workouts or while watching yards of tape of both players. Either way, though, it's refreshing to see someone say what everyone knew in 2007: Greg Oden was one of the best big-man prospects in a generation, and having him on your team was considered the easiest path possible to winning multiple championships.
This is not hyperbole. Before the lottery, Celtics fans were Photoshopping Oden into Celtics gear and even buying custom jerseys with his name on the back. When they missed out on the lottery, they acted as if they were cursed for not having won a championship for the impossibly long period of 20 years. Missing out on Oden was a huge disappointment for every team that tanked in 2006-07 and lost the lottery.
Kevin Durant is obviously one of the league's brightest stars right now, but let's not have his greatness overshadow the immense promise Oden once held. These two players will be linked forever, no matter what happens in the rest of Oden's career. Let's just remember that, once upon a time, they were both supposed to own the league for a generation. It was not an obvious choice at the time.