Thursday, 8 February 2007

Kevin Durant or Greg Oden?

I know we're a long ways from the Draft, and we don't know for sure whether both of these guys will be in the Draft, but assuming they are, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at who the better pro prospect is right now.

Coming into the year, Greg Oden was the consensus #1 prospect, but now that Kevin Durant has asserted himself as the frontrunner for the NCAA Player of the Year, things have changed in the eyes of some people. Both are extraordinary players in very different ways, and both will contribute immediately.

Some analyst said not too long ago, and I don't remember who exactly, but he basically asked would you rather have David Robinson or Dirk Nowitski? That's probably who Oden and Durant compare to the best, and if they turn out anything like them, well, you can see what all the hype is about.

First is Greg Oden, the most highly touted Center prospect in a long, long time. Despite limited use of his right hand, Oden has averaged over 15 PPG so far this year while shooting 62% from the field. He has developed a solid offensive game in the post with his left hand, even shooting free throws right handed. Still, he does have a way to go on the offensive end, as he is not really polished at all yet with his back to the basket. However, the fact that he is so athletic and agile suggests that that will come with time and experience.

But offense is not where Oden will make his living... right now, as a freshman, Oden is the best defensive big man in college basketball. That's not a slight to guys like Joakim Noah, who are very good, but Oden is just in another world. He's always in the right position, he has an NBA-type body already, and he has unbelievable instincts. He averages 3.7 BPG, and that's even with teams knowing what kind of force he is down there. Another good thing is that he's smart down there and not over-aggressive... even with all of the blocks, he's not putting guys on the line and getting himself into foul trouble, as he averages 2.4 fouls per game and has not fouled out in a game this year. Athleticism, positioning, smarts, and timing make Oden the best defensive college big man in the country.

Next is Kevin Durant, who has taken the college basketball world by storm. His numbers alone are almost mind-boggling. He's averaging over 25 points and 11 rebounds per game as a freshman in the Big 12. What's more, he is averaging about 33 points and 14 rebounds per game in conference play. That is simply incredible.

Many are saying Kevin Durant will 'redefine' our notion of a forward offensively, though admittedly I can't really see that. What does Durant do that Nowitski or McGrady doesn't? That's not a slight to Durant at all, but I wouldn't say he's redefining anything. But that doesn't really matter all that much... what does matter is that his offensive skill set might be better than any other college player's has been for quite a while. He's a very solid 3-point shooter, he can get by his man and get to the hoop, or he can post up smaller defenders. He is the entire package offensively.

Defensively, he's not there yet but the potential is there. He has long arms that can wreak havoc on an offense... as evidenced by 1.9 BPG and 1.5 SPG. He's an average defender right now, but with his tools and some good coaching, he has the ability to develop in a very good one.

So who would I choose? Certainly you can't go wrong with Oden or Durant. However, if I had the #1 pick in the NBA Draft and these 2 guys were on the board, my selection at this point would still be Greg Oden. Defensively, he can step in and immediately challenge for the All-Defensive team, and that's no exaggeration. He is that smart, that strong, and that athletic. Offensively, he's a work in progress to some degree, but the potential to be a great scorer in the post is there, which we will certainly learn more about at his right wrist gets healthier. So for these reasons, I would give Oden the slightest of nods over Durant, though the way Kevin Durant is playing, that could change.

If you had the #1 pick in the NBA Draft and these 2 players were on the board, who would you choose?