And the Dancers all Danced

I have not come here to debate whether Greg Oden or Kevin Durant should be selected first overall in the NBA Draft. First of all, we usually leave discussion of college hoops up to our collegiate expert, Brown Wreckluse, Esq. Second of all, the answer is quite clear that Greg Oden should be your #1 Overall, and anyone who says otherwise is fooling themselves. Earlier in the week, I fumed when heard Right-way advocate, Rick Majerus, discredit Durant because his team is not winning. It was something along the lines of, "I like Durant's numbers, but the number that matters is the one on the left side of the team record, and that's why I like players like Joakim Noah and Arron Afflalo better." I'm sure Rick Majerus would have liked Ed O'Bannon and Shawn Respert more than Kevin Garnett back in 1995, but that's a different story.

Then, on Monday night, I finally watched a full game of Durant vs. A&M. His numbers, of course, were staggering, but I found myself oddly agreeing with Majerus, leading me to perceive Kevin Durant as a mere few footsteps away from, say, Joe Johnson right now." Durant is an amazing do-it-all player with a young/confused team surrounding him, and I'm not sure there's much he can do along the lines of a Carmelo Anthony, to single-handedly propel Texas to even staying in the top 25 by the end of the year. Regardless, Durant most certainly, at this point, seems like he will win player of the year. Perhaps this a much gone-over point, but it bears revisiting. The past few Naismith POY award-winners look as follows:
I like Duncan and Brand, but I think this list speaks volumes about "players of the year" and their success in the Lig. Individual numbers in college lie...a lot. We haven't even gotten to Oden, but I think it's pretty much understood that, to quote Kiki Vandeweghe, "You don't pass up 7'0" and 255 pounds."

I will now thank you in advance for allowing me to take a huge leap in thought process, but....all of this week's bantering back and forth about Durant vs. Oden has brought me to wonder, is it not possible that Chris Bosh would win a championship before LeBron, and perhaps even Carmelo? I think it is in fact probable. The league is in a weird transitory state right now, sitting somewhere in between dynasties. Teams can win it all in a variety of ways: ugly (Pistons 04), Euro-style (recent Spurs), solo job (Heat 06), or perhaps even run-n-gun if the Suns reach their goal this year. However, these are the final minutes of that in-between time, before the big man reaches down, and extends his grasp. It seems quite logical then, that the league should fall into the hands of either Dwight Howard, Chris Bosh, or--without seeing him play one NBA minute--Oden.

LeBron, Durant, KG, and (without his supporting cast) Nowitzki are current evidence, until I am proved otherwise, that the do-it-all player does not win. The complexity of these players' skill-sets becomes diluted, and eventually dissolves. Pippen is no Jordan. Shawn Marion is no Amare. The player who plays big, and whose talent is a monolith, shall reign next.

I close by pointing you to the excellent work of our fellow-bloggers, D-Wil and Tragic Johnson. Keep on pushing. Oh, and if you didn't think Freedarko was being repped at the Superbowl this past weekend, like my man KG said, "You were FOOLED"


At 2/07/2007 11:43 AM, Blogger Bret LaGree said...

I don't know that Rick Barnes's inability to coach team defense very well should impact projections of Durant's future value beyond assuming that whoever drafts him will have to teach him how to play defense.

At 2/07/2007 11:51 AM, Blogger stopmikelupica said...

Picking Durant over Oden would be a mistake for the same reason picking anyone over Reggie Bush was... it just crushes your fan base. And that's the worst thing you could ever do as an executive.

I've said that Chris Bosh could win a championship before LBJ, but it has to do with management - the Cavs have sh*tty GMs, the Raps have a (supposedly) smart one. Only time will really tell, but that's the main key. The Cavs are still built and coach like a Van Gundy team, despite the fact they have the King... it really makes no sense.

But it doesn't mean that Bosh is automatically a better team player, or player to build around, then LeBron. Switch places, and LBJ and the Raps would be the ones with the brighter future... better yet, put Rod Thorn or some other super-GM in charge of the Cavs, and let's see how quickly they win a championship....

At 2/07/2007 12:04 PM, Blogger SuperFrankieLampard said...

i might be biased because i'm a cincinnati fan, but i will always believe that if kenyon martin had been able to stay healthy he would have been a pretty formidable presence in the league.

every few years you get that special true center (recently shaq, then duncan), and oden is the current cog in that wheel. he's the truest center since timmy.

At 2/07/2007 12:20 PM, Blogger Vegan Viking said...

If that last photo doesn't embody everything I've read on FreeDarko, nothing ever will.

At 2/07/2007 12:40 PM, Blogger T. said...

Y'all forget Walter "The Truth" Berry was Naismith. Oh wait, that helps your argument.

I don't really follow the logic of since Durant is multi-skilled and probably Naismith, he should be passed over because look at this uneven list of NBA players.

I think it's just as telling to say "Here's a list of 7-foot, 255 pound stiffs that have been drafted in the lottery over the last several years"

Araujo #8 2004
Swift #12 2004
Ely #12 2002
Brown #1 2001
Diop #8 2001
Mihm #7 2000
Przybilla #7 2000
Moiso #11 2000
Thomas #12 2000
Bender #5 1999
Radojevic #12 1999
Olowokandi #1 1998
LaFrentz #3 1998
Doleac #12 1998
Battie #5 1997
Wright #7 1996
Walker #9 1996
Potapenko #12 1996
Reeve #6 1995

and so on.

You might posit that none of those players are as good as Oden (and you'd probably be right) - but the converse of that is none of the Naismith Award winners is exactly Durant either.

WV: drvclqte:: Dr. Vince Carter, liftoff quality technician, esquire

At 2/07/2007 1:12 PM, Anonymous D-Wil said...

I didn't know y'all hung out with Clinton Portis down at South Beach!

At 2/07/2007 1:30 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

i think of durant as bush. . .fantastic, mesmerizing talent who might be passed over in favor of a more "solid" or "rational" piece

At 2/07/2007 1:38 PM, Blogger Pooh said...

I think it's just as telling to say "Here's a list of 7-foot, 255 pound stiffs that have been drafted in the lottery over the last several years"

But come on, is there anything about Oden that says "stiff"?

Personally, I think Durant will be a 'better' NBA player, but Oden will be more 'valuable/important'. It's about relative scarcity, yo. By which I mean that there are a ton of wings which can do Durant-like things, even if not quite as well. There are about 2, maybe, centers that can have Oden's defensive impact while not destroying your offense in the process - D-Howard and JO.

I haven't watched Bosh enough to know if he will, but I'm very skeptical that LBJ will win a chip anytime soon. And while the Cavs GM's haven't helped, it's still on him.

At 2/07/2007 2:13 PM, Blogger T. said...

Pooh - exactly my point. Just because there's a long line of 7' stiffs out there - it has no bearing on Greg Oden. And just because the list of Naismith Award winners is a mixed bag when it comes to predicting NBA ability - it has no bearing on Kevin Durant. Past does not predict future when talking about individual talents.

At 2/07/2007 2:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I concur with shoals. I watched that Longhorn / Aggie game and that was probably one of Durant's weakest all round games and he was still great. Credit the Aggie D there. Durant has a lot of the same skillset as KG but has better range. Now its true KG hasnt won anything, but basketball is still a team sport if I remember. Durants situation is reminiscent of Joe Johnson in Atlanta.

More interesting than the which is the better titan are some of these other players. How about Acie Law dropping 15 dimes against texas? (not to mention high shooting percentages, leadership, D and 23 points)

At 2/07/2007 3:26 PM, Anonymous jr said...

I understand that college stats sometimes lie, but Durant isn't just putting up good numbers. He is obliterating everything in his path. He's in the top 5 in ppg (25.4) and rebounding (11.6) Carmelo, incidentally, averaged 22 and 10 at Syracuse. The only other guy who's even close to what he's doing is Nick Fazekas, who's a senior. His 37-23 game against (Texas Tech? I already forgot) was one of the craziest things I've seen in a long time.

Beyond the numbers, Durant to me is like a rich man's KG with better range and ball handling skills. Granted his defense is less than stellar, but it's not terrible and he does block shots (just under 2/game). I think it could be improved significantly with better coaching and experience.

Does all that mean he should be taken over Oden? No, not in and of itself. As Pooh pointed out, it's a matter of relative scarcity. The Odens and Ewings of the world come along very,very rarely. Even though Durant is fairly unique (and I think lumping him in as a wing, however exceptional, is selling him short) his skills are easier to replicate, even with multiple lesser players. As Dr. Lic indicated he's more in the jack of all trades mode of KG. Whether he wins the Naismith or not it seems fairly ridiculous to judge Durant based on its' previous winners. Also, the Naismith isn't nearly as ridiculous as say, the Heisman.

At 2/07/2007 3:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not sure how much of a role numbers can have in this conversation, especially points. Durant is the focal point of the Texas offense; he's the number one option. Oden, though, is on a team where the guards sometimes fall in love with their shots. Look at the game where Drew Nyquist almost single-handedly beat them in the second half. In the first half, OSU built a big lead by running the offense through Oden in the post, freeing up the guards for open shots. His dominance made everything easier. In the second half, the guards tried creating for themselves, and the defense recognized adapted. They stopped sagging on Oden and played tighter on the perimeter. OSU collapsed and almost lost.

My only concern with Oden is his quickness. OSU plays a lot of zones, but the NBA is almost exclusively man-to-man, and I'm not sure he has the quickness to dominate the way he does in college.

Oden and Durant are now in a dead heat for the number one pick, and it's going to come down to team needs, I think. Suppose Atlanta gets #1. They've gotta go with Oden because they have a ton of Durant-esque players already. What if, say, Orlando collapses and gets the first pick? They go with Durant.

At 2/07/2007 4:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Durant is a taller T-Mac, not Ticket. Also, comparing recent Naismith winners to this year leaves out one MASSIVE difference: the rule change that prevents players from jumping to the L straight from High School. Something tells me Mamba, LBJ, etc. would have picked up a couple of those trophies if they had been forced to waste everyone's time in college (as I personally believe Durant is doing now).

At 2/07/2007 4:57 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

i will still never understand the logic behind anonymous swag.

on durant vs. melo: melo played without an age limited ncaa around him, and wasn't nearly as consistently dominant as durant. not to mine a cliche here, but durant looks like a man among boys. even more so than oden, who is big but doesn't have nearly the next-level aura about him.

granted, i don't watch as much college baskebtall as some, but what i'm describing has more to do with presence than production.

At 2/07/2007 4:57 PM, Anonymous JoshLove said...

It's hard to get an idea watching Durant this year of how he'll handle himself in the lig, or in any situation where he has to integrate himself within a team. UT this year looks more like a superstar-propelled high school team than any college outfit I can remember in some time. There's rarely even a pretense of attempting to involve the other four guys on the floor. Durant's waving his hand for the ball as he crosses half-court and usually gets it, and mostly likely it ain't coming back out. Obviously he's great and the numbers are sick, but how often do you see a guy routinely jacking up 25 shots in a 40 minute college game?

At 2/07/2007 6:17 PM, Anonymous jr said...

couple things

I understand that numbers can be misleading, and that Durant is clearly the #1 option for Texas' offense. Still, he's shooting 49% from the field, just under 40% from 3, and over 80% FT. While he usually takes over 20 shots from the field he's efficient with them. He's not just Antoine Walker jacking up a million shots. And he routinely scores through double teams and hits tough fadeaways and runners.

Also, while the Longhorns are clearly centered around him it's not like everyone else is terrible; that's a common misconception because of their youth (they start 4 freshman and a sophmore). Look at some of the other starters:
AJ Abrams-15.6 ppg
DJ Augustin-13.7 ppg, 7 dimes
Damion James-7.1 ppg, 7.1 rbpg

So while Durant has the ball a lot he doesn't completely dominate it. If anything sometimes the Longhorns inexplicably go away from him like they did for a stretch in the 2nd half against A&M. Granted they score quite a bit (over 83/game) which contributes to Durant's numbers. As a freshman he's 3rd in the country in rebounding. I don't know if anyone takes advanced metrics for college bball, which seems like it would be a monumentally difficult task given the # of players/teams, and if so where to find them so I'm stuck with conventional stats.

Don't get me wrong. Oden is a great, great player with a very rare size/agility combination and I fully expect him to go first in the draft.

Also, is T-Mac a great rebounder? KG is consistently among the league leaders in rebounding. Durant is perhaps a mix of T-Mac/KG (or maybe that's what a rich man's Kevin Garnett IS) but T-Mac is more of a perimeter player. I'll stick by my Durant/Ticket+better ball handling/range comparison. Then again, what do I know?

At 2/07/2007 6:27 PM, Blogger Pooh said...

Re: Durant vs. Melo, Shoals, you are forgiven for not having a lot of college knowledge, but this years Big 12 vs. Melo's Big East is no comparison. A quick perusal makes it look like 6 first rounders and 2 second rounders from the Big East in '03, 2 top 5 picks on '04 and about six more drafted in '05 who were in the Big East in '03.

Aside from Durant, who in the Big 12 now is even going to get drafted? Rush, Wright, Arthur and maybe Chalmers from Kansas. Maybe Acie Law and DJ Augustin. Maybe someone from Tech. Maybe Mario Boggan. And that's without HS guys taking up 10+ draft spots.

At 2/07/2007 8:05 PM, Anonymous jr said...

pooh: I'll freely admit to not knowing all of the Big East '03 rosters but that quick persual turns up guys like Mike Sweetney and Reece Gaines; dubious examples for claiming it's better than the Big 12 this year. Sure, you have Dwayne and Carmelo, but nothing after that. Emeka Okafor and Ben Gordon in 2004, Charlie Villanueva in '05 and a bunch of marginal/role players (Travis Diener, Francisco Garcia, Dahntay Jones, etc.). Aside from that you make it sound like Melo was playing D Wade one on one when Syracuse played Marquette; I'm sure you know that in college ball talent disparity can be overcome by experience and coaching much easier than the pros. I would even agree that the Big East '03 was better but even though I talked up the Longhorns Melo still had a much better supporting cast.

At 2/07/2007 8:27 PM, Blogger Pooh said...

pooh: I'll freely admit to not knowing all of the Big East '03 rosters but that quick persual turns up guys like Mike Sweetney and Reece Gaines; dubious examples for claiming it's better than the Big 12 this year.

Au contraire, that they got drafted speaks, to a large degree, to their college performance, as that is largely what they got drafted on.

I won't disagree about supporting casts, but my post was in response to Shoal's discussion of the relative dominance of Durrant and Melo.

At 2/07/2007 9:40 PM, Anonymous Freddie said...

You know the scare quotes you put around player of the year is just so incredibly weasely and lame. I mean goddamn.

At 2/07/2007 10:58 PM, Blogger d.d. tinzeroes said...

That list of Naismith winners needs context bad like a stiff pour. I've annotated it to include the actual draft position of the Naismith Winner in the draft, & in [brackets] have noted either who actually went #1 overall or who followed them if they did go #1.

* 1988 - Danny Manning, Kansas (#1) [Rik Smits #2]
* 1989 - Danny Ferry, Duke (#2)[Pervis Ellison]
* 1990 - Lionel Simmons, LaSalle (#7) [Derrick Coleman]
* 1991 - Larry Johnson, UNLV (#1) [Kenny Anderson #2]
* 1992 - Christian Laettner, Duke (#3) [Shaq, 'Zo]
* 1993 - Calbert Cheaney, Indiana (#6) [Webber]
* 1994 - Glenn Robinson, Purdue (#1) [Kidd, Hill go 2-3]
* 1995 - Joe Smith, Maryland (#1) [McDyess Stackhouse Sheed KG]
* 1996 - Marcus Camby, Massachusetts (#2) [AI]
* 1997 - Tim Duncan, Wake Forest (#1)[followed by VanHorn, Billups, Antonio Daniels]
* 1998 - Antawn Jamison, North Carolina (#4) [Olowokandi 1st, Bibby 2nd, Raef 3rd)
* 1999 - Elton Brand, Duke (#1)[followed by Francis Baron Odom]
* 2000 - Kenyon Martin, Cincinnati (#1) [followed by Swift, Miles, Fizer]
* 2001 - Shane Battier, Duke (#6) [Kwame-CHandler-Gasol-Curry-Richardson]
* 2002 - Jason Williams, Duke (#2) [Yao, lil Dun #3, Gooden #4, Tskita #5}
* 2003 - T. J. Ford, Texas (#8) [Lebron, Darko, Melo, Bosh, Wade, Kaman, Hinrich]
* 2004 - Jameer Nelson, St. Joseph's (#20) [Howard-Okafor-Gordon]
* 2005 - Andrew Bogut, Utah (#1) [Deron Williams & Chris Paul go 3-4]
* 2006 - J.J. Redick, Duke (#11) [Bargnani]

Offa top of my head, Simmons, Martin, Jay Williams & Ford can all sorta be let off easy since injuries have been problems for them either before college or before they could ever show us what they could do.

2ndly, since 2001 5 of the last 6 #1 overall picks have been HSers
(Kwame, 'Bron, Howard) or foreigners (Yao, Bargnani) - Battier suffered the worse for this, being drafted behind 3 HSers & a Skita).

Outside of that a lot of those drafts were pretty weak, or at the least history has shown us that there were few if any standouts present.

Joe Smith in '95 is prob the most offensive in terms of who he got drafted over, although I don't bear the guy any animosity. I think Nelson falling to #20 is the most offensive plummet for a Naismith winner, although I can't really say how I'd reorder that draft - who gets bumped down? Telfair at #7's pretty bad, restrospectively. I'm still unimpressed w/ Livingston, too, though. And Childress.

All I think you can really say about all of this is that (a) there's a huge disconnect between success in college & in the NBA, for a bunch of reasons. That's pretty obvious, but maybe more interesting is (2) the very real sense that the importance of the Naismith might have been undermined, concretely since the Battier draft, but maybe going back as far as '95 w/ KG hit the L.


At 2/07/2007 11:04 PM, Blogger The Assimilated Negro said...

Spurs got a lot of europeans, but can we call them euro-style. they're like the pistons just with a dominant big man. halfcourt o and defense. and the pistons weren't viable until they got someone with duncanish skills (at least on offense) in wallace.

love the first graf and picture.

At 2/08/2007 12:40 AM, Blogger GentleWhoadie9000 said...

quick- somebody use calbert cheaney's name in a sentence.

At 2/08/2007 1:52 AM, Blogger d.d. tinzeroes said...

quick- somebody use calbert cheaney's name in a sentence.

Better Living Through Chemistry didn't mind lending me the extra energy up front, in the form of pretty pastel pills; but, to use one of Calbert Cheaney's favorite phrases, paybacks are a bitch.

At 2/08/2007 2:36 AM, Anonymous D-Wil said...

Barnes is a very good defensive teacher - check the Longhorns' last two teams before this one....

Oden must be the first pick, but I really feel he might just stay another year. If Okefor and D-Howard can succeed, GO can - and will.

Durant is thinking of staying, too. Athletes who come to UT and Austin end up falling in love with the ummmmm, city. KD reminds me of a taller Reggie Lewis, which is a very good thing. If he does bolt, he'll make some team very happy. However, if he stays for one more year and adds another 25 lbs. to his body, gets more play with his present cohorts, the 'Horns will go way deep into the Tourney and he'll be much more NBA ready. This year the 'Horns too young at guard to make a splash.

If neither exit the collegiate ranks, what happens to the Cees if they get the first pick? Maybe make Paul Pierce player-GM? His wanting to pick up a top-tier vet makes much more sense than anything BYU Danny has offered up.

Additionally, if neither exit, who's the first pick? Nick "the American Pau" Fazekas? Corey Brewer, Noah, or Al Horford? Certainly not Alando Tucker!? From the U.S. side, pickins' is slim! Anybody know who's hot from the Euro-ball side of things?

an aside... anybody read Ric Bucher's piece on Shaun Livingston?

At 2/08/2007 2:50 AM, Blogger T. said...

Really? Nick "the American Pau" Fazekas? I don't see Pau Gasol's game in Nick at all. Rahseed Wallace without the temper? Austin Croshere against the Lakers in the 2000 Finals? Keith Van Horn?

Another aside, since I know FD is heavy with the Jewish sports fans - how great was Bornstein on the left side (yeah i know as a hoops fan I should have been watching UNC/Duke) tonight against Mexico? Future USMNT regular I think.

At 2/08/2007 2:56 AM, Blogger Pooh said...

KD reminds me of a taller Reggie Lewis, which is a very good thing.

That's an excellent spot. I originally said "evolutionary Gervin" but I think Reggie is a great comparison - he's got that same quarter-beat off rhythm thing going with his game that makes him very difficult to guard - Lewis was the master of this...

how great was Bornstein on the left side

Word, though the best player on the field was the Mexican left winger who came on in the second half, Guardado.

At 2/08/2007 6:20 AM, Anonymous jr said...

KD:Reggie Lewis

I was like 9 years old when he died so I can't say. However, "quarter-beat off rhythm" struck me as an apt description.

In other news for all the Jews on FD while everybody was watching the US house Mexico again your Hebraic (I think?) brother Jon Scheyer was busy dropping 26 on UNC and generally playing the best game out of any guard on the floor. Meanwhile Josh McRoberts cried worse than Adam Morrison after he had to leave with 4 fouls halfway through the 2nd half. Oh and Tyler Hansborough is wildly, wildly overrated; that dude looks like he's moving in molasses. There's a guy whose college stats don't mean all that much.

At 2/08/2007 6:29 AM, Anonymous Jerome said...

Yao, the biggest of the non-Shaq bigs out there today, should be added to the list. Doesn't Houston with T-Mac and Yao bear at least some resemblence to the Kobe/Shaq Lakers???

At 2/08/2007 9:23 AM, Anonymous JoshLove said...

agreed jr...any team that takes Hansbrough in the top 10 is basically begging for another Todd Fuller...and I say that as a UNC fan.

Branden Wright, however, is the truth.

At 2/08/2007 10:31 AM, Blogger salt_bagel said...

D-Wil: Are people still so sure that staying an extra year makes you more pro-ready? I can see with the adding of weight, but that can happen either way. I think for these two, you can probably throw that out the window, no?

Re Duke/UNC: Hansbrough superlatives you tend to hear:

"This guy just works SO hard."

That should be a clue.

Wright and Lawson will be the best pros from that game. Noah or Horford would be the first picks if Durant/Oden stay.

At 2/08/2007 10:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting that your list of bigs who will next inherit the earth doesn't include Yao. Not sure that's right -

At 2/08/2007 1:24 PM, Blogger Pooh said...

Re Duke/UNC: Hansbrough superlatives you tend to hear:

"This guy just works SO hard."

That should be a clue.

Wright and Lawson will be the best pros from that game. Noah or Horford would be the first picks if Durant/Oden stay.

Except that Noah also "works so hard". The funniest bit from that game was when they showed side-by-sides of Hansbourough and Eric Montross with cuts...(does Tyler sue ESPN for defaming his draft prospects in that way?)


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