Nearly three years ago, when the Oklahoma City Thunder were in the midst turning the corner into a perennial playoff contender, I dubbed Kevin Durant as the league’s official next transcendent superstar. Megastar, even, if you will. Such a statement was far from a “risk,” but it wasn’t the first time a bold proclamation was made as it referred to KD’s NBA future. In June 2007, I made one of my most off-base statements ever. I once proclaimed Portland’s best bet was to draft Greg Oden.
Before taking to Twitter, Facebook or your medium of choice to tar-and-feather me, just hear the reasoning. Kevin Durant becoming a great – hell, superstar – was expected. His one year at Texas literally resembled playing one-on-one with your little cousin on those Fisher Price rims in the driveway. And winning Player Of The Year as an 18-year-old freshman had “special” written all over the Seattle skyline, despite the jokes of him being unable to bench press 185 pounds prior to the draft.
Point, blank, period, if nothing else, Durant was going to be a sniper capable of averaging 25 every time he traveled to a new city. I knew that, but Oden to Portland – at least at the time – made sense. First and foremost, take a look at Portland’s squad that year. Brandon Roy was the reigning Rookie Of The Year, LaMarcus Aldridge was a raw talent still learning the game and Portland somehow managed to finagle the top overall selection in 2007. And not to mention, the Blazers had Zach Randolph.
The same Zach Randolph who averaged 24 points and 10 rebounds during the 2006-07 season with Portland. The same Zach Randolph whose season was cut short, but managed to post 43 points and 17 rebounds in his last credited game March 29 (against Memphis of all teams). Granted, and to be fair, the same Zach Randolph who once punched Ruben Patterson in the face: breaking his left eye socket.
My logic in the summer of 2007 was based off placing Oden – a seemingly legit and talented seven footer (rare) with a defensive calling in the vein of Mutumbo or Mourning – on that Portland team in the post alongside Z-Bo. That’s a front line no team in the league lines up against. Willingly, of course. And with a rising stud at the two in Roy? Aldridge coming off the bench? Any GM in basketball would kill for a nucleus of that caliber. Portland, in this ideal scenario, would’ve been fun as hell to watch battle with those Lakers teams of 2009 and 2010, too. I digress though.
Yet, as with most cases in life, plans rarely unveil as expected. Z-Bo was shipped to New York on draft night, then later to the Clippers, then even later to Memphis on a team now viewing themselves as legit title contenders. Portland’s wave of the future never cashed out with Roy and Oden having their careers cut short by injuries.* Aldridge currently finds himself as the last man standing and left praying this Damian Lillard thing doesn’t end how it always does in Portland.
Kevin Durant, on the other hand, blossomed (and is still blossoming) into one of those rare megastars the league has cultivated its image on under the Stern regime. Without predicting titles, there’s a good chance Kevin Durant ends his career (in like 12 years) in the top five of total points scored and more scoring titles than fingers. The current second best player on God’s green Earth surpassed even my initial expectations, scary considering the fact he’s still technically not old enough to rent a car. Oh, and he still may be another two seasons away from his “prime.” Let that marinate for a moment.
Hindsight is 20/20, though, which reminds me. It’s about time I schedule another eye exam.
* – Had they all developed, I always believed a trio of Roy/Aldridge/Oden would have still been hell for the Western Conference. Dah well.