Friday , Jun , 29 , 2007 C.Y. Ellis

Portland selects Oden with top pick

New York, NY (Sports Network) – The first two picks of the NBA Draft went
according to form, as Portland selected Ohio State’s Greg Oden at No. 1 and
Seattle took Texas forward Kevin Durant with the second selection.

The Trail Blazers, who finished 32-50 in 2006-07 and did not qualify for the
playoffs for the fourth straight year, made the No. 1 choice in the draft for
the first time since 1978. They selected Minnesota big man Mychal Thompson
with the top pick that year.

Oden played just one season for the Buckeyes, who were defeated by the
Florida Gators in the championship game of the NCAA Tournament. The seven-foot
center averaged 15.7 points, 9.6 rebounds and 3.3 blocks in 32 games.

Durant was the consensus National Player of the Year in 2006-07, the first
freshman in NCAA history to claim the award. He led the Big 12 Conference in
scoring with 25.8 ppg and in rebounding with 11.1 rpg, while topping the
league in blocked shots.

“I know we’re going to be connected for a long time,” Oden said of him and
Durant. “He’s a really, really good player. I’m a pretty decent player. So I
hope things work out. I would love to get way more championships than him.”

A short time later, the draft took a big turn with the Celtics and SuperSonics
pulling off a major deal, as Boston acquired seven-time All-Star selection Ray
Allen to fortify its backcourt. Guard Delonte West, forwards Wally Szczerbiak
and Jeff Green, who was chosen as the No. 5 overall pick on Thursday, went to
Seattle.

“Ray Allen is a great player, and it would have been fun learning from him,
but Delonte West and Szczerbiak are not bad at all, great players and looking
forward to playing with them,” Durant said. “Jeff is from D.C. so it’s going
to be an easy transition knowing those two guys. So I can’t wait.”

Five players from this past season’s national championship game were chosen
among the top 10.

Atlanta chose forward Al Horford with the third pick. The 6-foot-10 Horford
was an important part of Florida’s two-year run as national champions. Memphis
took Ohio State guard Mike Conley Jr. with the fourth selection. Georgetown’s
Green was taken next by the Celtics, but was told right away that he was
headed to Seattle.

A member of the All-Big Ten Freshman Team, Conley was one of only two players
on the team to start all 39 games and finished third in scoring with 11.3 ppg.
He also was the lone guard chosen among the top 10 players.

“It’s been a whirlwind,” Conley said. “I had no idea, or a year ago I would
have not thought I’d be in this position at all. I had planned on staying in
college as long as I could and trying to get a degree as fast as I could. And
the way that last year went and the things that happened, I was just so
grateful and blessed to be in this situation.”

The 19-year-old Oden is very athletic, plays strong on the defensive end
around the basket and runs the floor effectively. He is still developing his
low-post game offensively, but with more experience he will polish his moves
and could become a dominant force in the paint as a pro.

Fans in Portland are hoping picking Oden won’t be a case of deja vu. In the
1984 draft, the Trail Blazers selected Kentucky center Sam Bowie at No. 2
instead of North Carolina’s Michael Jordan, who was grabbed by Chicago with
the next pick. Jordan, who is arguably the greatest player to ever play the
game, won six titles and five MVP’s with the Bulls, while Bowie averaged 10.9
points in 511 games during an average 10-year career. The Kentucky product
played for Portland, New Jersey and the Lakers, and was hampered with injuries
throughout his career,

The arrival of Durant and Green give the Sonics a much-needed boost to their
frontcourt, and that could prove dominant if Seattle can keep Rashard Lewis
from leaving via free agency. Seattle is coming off a disappointing 31-51
season in which it missed the playoffs for the second straight year.

“Now that Ray is gone, and I think Rashard is a free agent, I’d love to get
him back,” Durant said. “He’s a great player and one of my idols as well and
now he’s my teammate well, I hope he’s my teammate. If he’s there, it’s going
to be a plus.”

The Hawks, who have missed the playoffs in eight straight years, ranked worst
in the league, just behind Portland, in offense last season, averaging less
than 94 points a game. Horford, though, could help Atlanta’s cause, as he
averaged 13.2 points and 9.5 rebounds a game.

Chinese forward Yi Jianlian was taken sixth by Milwaukee, while Minnesota,
unable to strike a deal for Kevin Garnett by draft night, selected Florida
forward Corey Brewer seventh. North Carolina forward Brandan Wright was taken
eighth by Charlotte, and Gators forward Joakim Noah was chosen ninth by
Chicago.

Wright, though, was traded to the Golden State Warriors with guard Jason
Richardson going to the Bobcats. Charlotte also got the rights to Alabama
forward Jermareo Davidson, chosen 36th overall in the draft.

Horford, Brewer and Noah made history by becoming the first trio from the same
school to be taken in the top 10 of a draft.

The Sacramento Kings, coming off their first losing season since 1998,
selected Washington center Spencer Hawes at the 10th spot.

Guard Acie Law IV of Texas A&M was chosen 11th by Atlanta, while Georgia Tech
forward Thaddeus Young was taken 12th by Philadelphia. That was followed by
Kansas forward Julian Wright going to New Orleans and Florida State forward Al
Thornton heading to Los Angeles to play for the Clippers. Rodney Stuckey, a
guard from Eastern Washington, was taken 15th by Detroit, while Southern
California swingman Nick Young went to Washington at No. 16. New Jersey took
Boston College big man Sean Williams at 17th, while Golden State chose Italian
guard Marco Belinelli next.

The Los Angeles Lakers, who have been pressed by trade demands from Kobe
Bryant, were unable to move their superstar and took Georgia Tech guard
Javaris Crittenton at No. 19.

Colorado State forward/center Jason Smith was taken 20th by Miami, while
Philadelphia took Ohio State guard Daequan Cook at No. 21. However, the two
teams exchanged the picks before the first round was over. The Sixers also
sent the Heat a 2009 second-round pick and cash.

Charlotte selected Boston College forward Jared Dudley next, followed by New
York selecting DePaul forward Wilson Chandler. Guard Rudy Fernandez of Spain
went to Phoenix at No. 24, and Rice guard Morris Almond was taken by Utah at
the 25th spot.

The final five picks of the first round saw Oregon guard Aaron Brooks going to
Houston, UCLA guard Arron Afflalo heading to Detroit, Brazil forward Tiago
Splitter joining the NBA champion Spurs, Wisconsin forward Alando Tucker
heading to the Phoenix Suns, and Finnish guard Petteri Koponen going to the
76ers. Koponen was then dealt to Portland for the rights to No. 42 pick
Vanderbilt guard/forward Derrick Byars and cash considerations.