**The case for Durant**
p. With both Texas forward Kevin Durant and Ohio State center Greg Oden having now declared for the 2007 NBA Draft, the debate over who should be picked no. 1 is now well underway. While a solid case could be made for either player, Durant is clearly the better selection.
p. Durant emerged this year as a game-changing performer, taking over for his team right when they needed him. His jump shot is lights out from any distance, his mid-range game is solid and he can get to the rim practically at will. His defense certainly needs some improvement, but someone with his length (6 feet 10 inches tall) has the natural tools to make an impact on the defensive side of the ball.
p. Oden certainly has plenty of good things going for him. At 7’, 280 lbs, he is a true center — a rare find in the NBA. He can change a game defensively with his shot-blocking presence, and the tremendous strides he made offensively this season show his potential to become a big-time scorer as well.
p. But Oden also displayed some troubling tendencies during the NCAA Tournament, losing his cool at key points by committing careless fouls and not stepping up when his team needed him most, leaving it instead to guards Mike Conley and Ron Lewis. While Durant’s Texas squad suffered an earlier than expected second-round loss at the hands of USC, Durant proved all year long that he was the go-to guy for the Longhorns, often carrying his team to victories.
p. One argument that will be made before the draft is that while talented swingmen like Durant come around often, skilled centers like Oden are a rarity. While there is certainly truth to this, it must be noted that Durant is not your run-of-the-mill swingman. He is the type of player who only comes around once in a blue moon, a pure scorer with three-point range and the competitive spirit to put a team on his back. Oden would be one hell of a player to have on your team, someone you could put talented guards around and field a very competitive team, but Durant would instantly lift your team. Teams should not let the big versus small arguments sway them too much one way.
p. Whoever grabs the top pick via the NBA’s lottery system (the Memphis Grizzlies, Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks, in that order, have the best chances), they should disregard team personnel and other factors and simply take the best player available in the draft — Kevin Durant. The good news for the team with the second pick is that Oden’s no slouch either.
p. __Jeff Dooley is the sports editor for The Flat Hat.__
p. **The Case for Oden**
The past year in College basketball saw the implementation of the NBA’s new age limit. The result has been two of the most talented college basketball players in recent memory — Ohio State center Greg Oden and Texas forward Kevin Durant. It is almost a foregone conclusion that these two will be selected first and second in this year’s NBA draft, and while the selection order will be contingent on what mediocre franchise wins the May 22 lottery, Greg Oden should and will be the first player taken.
p. This is not to take anything away from Durant, whose 25.1 points per game were tops in the Big 12, and who was consistently the nation’s most exciting player. However, Oden’s talent level and potential for development are downright scary. He is one of few players in this day and age who is a true center. He is a menacing presence on defense, leading the Big Ten in blocks and rebounds, and was a dominating force for Ohio State, despite playing half the season with only one good hand.
p. The obvious case for Oden is that he has the potential to develop into the game’s next great big man. While it was potential that led the Pistons to select Darko Milicic with the second pick in the 2003 draft — passing on Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade — this situation is entirely different. Oden has emerged from some of the most intense competition in the country. Despite foul trouble and fatigue issues during the NCAA tournament, Oden’s performance on basketball’s biggest stage — 25 points and 12 rebounds in 38 minutes of play during the Buckeyes’ 75-84 defeat at the hands of Florida in the NCAA championship game— showcased that he is not only ready for the NBA, but ready to step into the starting role for just about any team.
p. The teams most likely to draw the first pick in the lottery are Memphis and Boston, though several other cellar-dwellers also have a shot. The Grizzlies, with the inside presence of Pau Gasol, might at first-glance be inclined to take Durant, but the mere prospect of Gasol playing alongside Oden is frightening, and would make them instant contenders in the Western Conference. The Celtics, and just about any other team in the lottery, would reap the benefits of a dominant big man that has been compared to Patrick Ewing and Tim Duncan. Durant will be taken second, and both will see significant minutes and contend for rookie of the year honors.
p. __Alex Ely is the editorial writer for The Flat Hat.__