There were two logical choices for the number one pick going into the 2007 NBA Draft. The majority of experts were sold on Ohio State center Greg Oden. The other option was Texas forward and current Golden State Warriors superstar Kevin Durant. Greg Oden was the best player in the draft that year, and it’s easy to say now that the Blazers should have drafted Kevin Durant.
GM at the time, Kevin Pritchard has a history of building a team around big men. He was a scout for the San Antonio Spurs who built their first championship teams around the Twin Towers, Tim Duncan, and David Robinson. It seemed like a no-brainer for Pritchard to draft Greg Oden and pair him with LaMarcus Aldridge. Greg Oden was the real deal when you watched him play. He didn’t have any significant knee issues, and his only major injury going into college was his hand injury. Oden didn’t play at the beginning of the season for the Buckeyes but when he did he was a beast.
His post-game wasn’t the most refined but he could still finish around the basket, he was a great shot blocker and he rebounded at a solid rate. Oden had all the tools for becoming an NBA superstar. In the national title game against the Florida Gators, Oden put up 25 points, 12 rebounds and 4 blocks against future pros Al Horford and Joakim Noah. After being one and done, Oden had impressed everyone and he seemed like a can’t miss prospect.
While lacking a complete post-game, his footwork was incredible. Some of the best footwork for a big man we have ever seen. He could develop a good post-game and get up to 20-24 PPG next to Brandon Roy and Aldridge. Otherwise, his TS% and eFG% was incredibly high (65% and 60% respectively), especially since his FT% was pretty good for a big man (at 76%). These are elite numbers for a big man and would likely have contributed to him becoming a scorer.
Also, given he could dribble as fast as a point guard during NBA combine (that's compared with Mike Conley Jr.), his ball-handling skills were pretty good for a center. Proof of this occurs when he ran a fastbreak against Minnesota. On defense, he already demonstrated good knowledge and instinct. There was a good reason he was being compared to Bill Russell at best and Ben Wallace at worst.
Greg Oden will always be one of the biggest what-ifs in NBA history, but Portland shouldn’t be blamed for drafting him. Blazers fans can only wonder if his knees would have held up.