Oden vs. Durant: Let’s Beat the Dead Horse
Recently there’s been a lot written about my point of view that the Portland Trail Blazers should have drafted Kevin Durant NOT Greg Oden in the 2007 NBA Draft. it all stems from my new book where I talk about one of my early encounters with former Blazers GM Kevin Pritchard. Headlines like, “Blazers consultant would not have drafted Greg Oden” and “Blackjack King Jeff Ma saw the NBA’s future in 2007″ highlight my Nostradamus type qualities when using my magical slide rule to evaluate NBA players.
If only I were that smart.
Yes our numbers had Durant rated higher than oden but that is akin to saying Obama’s approval rating is dropping – pretty much a non-story. Durant had a phenomenal college season – one for the ages. Would have been hard for anyone let alone a guy playing with his off hand to top him statistically.
I’ve never approached a reporter or written a blog to highlight my displeasure with the Trail Blazer’s brass for picking Oden. That’s because there is no displeasure. Yes I admit at the time I was “disappointed” that they chose Durant but that isn’t sour grapes harbored for three years, that’s simply an answer to the question, “were you disappointed that they didn’t take Durant?” it’s a pretty natural reaction to have some level of disappointment when a decision goes opposite of what you hoped for. But that disappointment was quickly replaced by hope that my numbers were wrong.
Likewise, the statement, “I would have drafted Durant” is simply an answer to the question, “who would you have drafted?” People ask me all the time in passing – what did your number say – Oden or Durant? And each time I answer with candor that our numbers said durant. If I am giving up some trade secret with that admission I apologize to the Blazers’ organization.
I have always believed in transparency, especially with bloggers. Ben Golliver was introduced to me through ESPN’s Henry Abbott so I was indeed very candid with Ben. Perhaps too candid. But that is my nature as I don’t believe in hiding facts so long as they don’t compromise competitive advantage. I don’t believe I did that.
It’s hard to know for sure without using the wayback machine but as i recall most people believed that oden should be the first choice that year, yet let’s forget about that right now and say that it was instead 50/50. With such a disparity in production with hindsight as our friend so far we would have 50 percent that were right and 50 that were wrong. I just happen to sit in the 50 percent that “look” correct at this point.
And “being right” here is not a testament that using stats works as much as our lauding of guys like Sean May and Kyle Lowry is not a testament that that stats don’t work. Like any method the proof is in the results over a long time frame not one individual pick.
I do think Durant would have been the more unconventional choice (which i admit occasional bias towards) simply because Oden was the consensus pick of most experts. If I am wrong on that I apologize for my poor memory.
I have always tried to practice humility in my use of analytics and even within this interview I made a point to marginalize our role in the process for what it was – one of many pieces to the puzzle. And that is my only real issue with the reaction to my statements about Oden, etc. If I sounded like I knew I was right and like I think my crap doesn’t stink then I apologize because that is the worst mistake a numbers guy can make.