The Portland Trail Blazers Biggest Mistake in the Last Ten Years

Mistakes happen. We sleep in a little too late or we forget to do a project. But for us, mistakes are simply, just that – mistakes. For the thirty NBA teams, mistakes cost them, potentially, tens of millions of dollars, a playoff appearance, or even a championship. They have been riddled throughout history. It can be draft picks (Blazer fans know what this is like), it can be free agency (can I get an amen from Knicks fans?), or it can be virtually anything else (in the case of the King’s, EVERYTHING ELSE). Thus, we present the worst mistakes from each NBA team over the past ten years.

The Portland Trail Blazers Biggest Mistake in the Last Ten Years

Over the past 30 years, few franchises have had the amount of constant success as the Blazers. From the Clyde Drexler era to the early aughts teams with Rasheed Wallace and Scottie Pippen to the recent successes, the organization has been in a good situation more often than not. When LaMarcus Aldridge left Portland, along with three other starters, the Blazers were expected to take a step back. But Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum, two solid draft picks in their own right, took the requisite steps forward to keep Portland in contention. Now, the team (regardless of what was thought about their offseason moves) has a bright future thanks to smart moves by General Manager Neil Olshey.

But before Olshey came in, there was a man named Kevin Pritchard running the Blazers’ front office. He helped the team throughout his tenure from 2007-10. He helped secure two future assets in Jerryd Bayless and Nicolas Batum in the ’08 draft. The current Pacers GM also orchestrated a deal to bring in Rudy Fernandez the previous season, who ended up being a nice rotation piece for a few seasons. Oh, and he made that one draft pick that year…

The Mistake

Heading into the 2007 NBA Draft, it was a two man race at the top of the draft. Greg Oden was a 7’0″ center who had just finished a dominant freshman year at Ohio State. Kevin Durant was a long, lanky 6’10” small forward with a smooth shooting stroke. The Blazers had their chance to finally make up for the Sam Bowie pick. The only thing is they made the wrong pick ONCE AGAIN.

What the Experts Were Saying

“Here’s the analogy I use. Taking Kevin Durant is like dating a supermodel. She’s hot. Everyone thinks you’re cool for being next to her. For a few years everything is great. But when it’s time to settle down, have kids, start a life … she’s eyeing younger guys. Partying late at night. Leaving you in the dust the next time a good thing comes along.”

“Taking Oden is like marrying the girl you don’t want to date, but the girl you want to spend the rest of your life with. She’s responsible. She looks out for you. She helps you be the best person you can be. She’s not hot on the outside. But inside she makes your life worth living.”

This quote is from the Chad Ford-Bill Simmons mock draft in ’07. Ford also goes on to say that Oden is the most talented big since Duncan in 1997. (I miss this so much. ESPN let ESPN people do things on other places.) I do recommend that you go read this piece because in hindsight, it is quite funny.

How it Turned Out

For what it’s worth, drafting Oden was what most people would’ve done at the time. He was coming off an incredible NCAA Championship game in which he had 25 points, 12 rebounds, and 4 blocked shots. Steve Kerr even called him a “once-in-a-decade player.”

But Oden ended up missing his rookie year in the NBA due to micro-fracture surgery in his knee. Those knee injuries are what ended up derailing Oden’s career. Not to mention the fact that some fans believe Portland’s medical staff could’ve treated him better/differently. Combine that with his struggling alcoholism, Portland and Oden couldn’t catch a break. And it didn’t end without giving Blazer fans some hope. During his second season, he played 21 games before getting injured again and his per 36 numbers were: 16.7 points on 60% shooting, 12.8 rebounds, and  3.4 blocks.  Those numbers are still not in line with what they could’ve gotten from Durant, but it would’ve been a respectable pick if he could’ve kept that up.

What it Lead to

Greg Oden was released from the Blazers on March 15, 2012 after playing just 82 games in a Trail Blazer uniform. He would end up playing just 23 more games in his NBA career.

Durant, meanwhile:

7x All-Star, 5x First-Team All-NBA, 4x Scoring Champ, 2007-08 Rookie of the Year, 2013-14 MVP, 2x Olympic Gold Medalist.

I hate to rub it in for Portland supporters but someone has to do it. I also understand OKC fans are not happy with the situation, but I’m sure all Portland fans would take Durant leaving after last season over not having him at all. You know what they say, it’s better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all.

Where Are They Now?




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