The 2007 NBA Draft was one of the most interesting in the history of basketball. It had everything: great freshman, key trades, and an entire two time championship team. With players being barred from entering the draft straight from high school in 2006, all the top freshman prospects declared for the 2007 draft.
Five freshman were drafted in the Top Ten, including the two top picks, Greg Oden and Kevin Durant. Both of them were ranked 1 and 2 respectively in High School and it stayed that way when they entered the draft. Oden was joined by his high school and college teammate, Mike Conley Jr., a point guard, who was drafted 4th overall. Together they led Ohio State to the National Championship game. Durant, a University of Texas alum, offered an outstanding scoring ability proven by his win of the Naismith Memorial Trophy, the basketball equivalent of the Heisman Trophy. The remaining freshman in the Top Ten were Brandan Wright, 8th overall and Spencer Hawes 10th overall. Wright attended North Carolina and was traded on draft night to the Golden State Warriors. Hawes played for University of Washington and he was drafted by the Kings and played there for three years before being traded to Philadelphia.
Currently Greg Oden is a free agent who has been plagued with chronic knee injuries which has kept him off the court for 3 years. In the six years since the draft he has played a meager 82 games, totaling one full season. In stark contrast Kevin Durant has had an enormously successful career: leading the league in scoring three times, winning gold at the Olympics, and receiving a number of awards including 1st Team All-NBA, Rookie of the Year, and others. Although one accomplishment is missing – a championship ring. His Thunder lost in the NBA Finals during the 2011-2012 season to the Miami Heat. Right before the playoffs started Durant was on the cover of Sports Illustrated with a long quote about how he was tired of being second. He was the second rated High School player, the second draft pick, second in the MVP and second in the NBA Finals. Unfortunately he won’t be able to win the title this year because of the injury to star Russell Westbrook. They just lost against the Memphis Grizzlies who are led by Mike Conley (4th overall, 2007) and Marc Gasol (48th overall, 2007). Gasol won the 2012-2013 NBA Defensive Player of the Year award. Brandan Wright, the 8th overall pick currently plays for the Dallas Mavericks. He has had an average career but was certainly expected to be better.
The 2005 National Title was won by the University of Florida. In a surprise move, all of the core players returned to school for another season and won a second consecutive National Title. They were the first back to back winners since Duke in 1991 and 1992. Florida had five players drafted including three Top Ten. The first was Al Horford, drafted 3rd overall. He has had a great career so far, playing in the All-Star game and leading his team to the playoffs. The 7th overall pick, Corey Brewer, was selected by the Minnesota Timberwolves. He has had a slightly above average career and currently plays a key role for the Denver Nuggets. Brewer won a NBA Title with the Dallas Mavericks during the 2010-2011 season. Joakim Noah, another Gator, was drafted to the Chicago Bulls with the 9th overall pick. His defensive skills have lead to a stellar career, including a spot on the All Star team and many playoff appearances.The final two players from Florida were Chris Richard and Taurean Green. They were both second round picks and are no longer in the NBA. Overall, Florida contributed immense talent to the NBA. Most college teams who send three or more first round picks to the NBA in the same year don’t have the same amount of success that the Florida players had. Teams were eager to draft them because they were coached by the legendary Billy Donovan, who is in the Rick Pitino coaching tree, as well as because they were two time national champions.
The Boston Celtics used their top draft choice to acquire Ray Allen from the Seattle Sonics, now the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Sonics received Delonte West, Wally Szczerbiak and the 5th overall pick. That gave the Sonics picks two and five. They ended up drafting Kevin Durant at two and Jeff Green at 5. Ironically, Jeff Green was traded back to Boston. The Celtics were able to also acquire Kevin Garnett, thus the legend of The Big Three was born. Paul Pierce, the Celtic for life now had Allen and Garnett beside him on the court. They went on to win a title by defeating the Lakers in the NBA Finals. Both of the Celtics second round picks won a title on that team: Gabe Pruitt, drafted 32nd overall and Glen David, 35th overall.
Another big trade was Eddy Curry moving from Chicago to New York in 2005. The deal ended up being ugly for the Knicks. They gave up their first round pick in 2006 and additionally gave Chicago the option to swap 2007 picks. New York ended the year with the 9th pick while Chicago ended with the 23rd. The Bulls were able to draft Joakim Noah at pick nine. The Knicks took Wilson Chandler at 23. Overall, that trade favored the Bulls. The Knicks were stuck paying Curry around 45 million dollars over five years in which he averaged less than 50 games a season because of injuries.
In hindsight many say that the Portland Trail Blazers, who held the number one overall pick, should have drafted Kevin Durant instead of Greg Oden. I wonder if people would be saying that if Oden hadn’t been injured. Oden missed his entire rookie year and finally returned in 2008-2009, averaging 8.9 points and 21.5 minutes per game. The next season he averaged 11.1 points and 23.9 minutes per game. However, his injuries returned and he ended up playing in only 21 games. If he had averaged 36 minutes a game his numbers would have been decent. According to basketballreference.com he could have potentially hit 15.3 points per game if he had averaged 36 minutes of playing time. Those numbers aren’t bad considering he was injured his whole career.
On the other hand Kevin Durant quickly became one of the best players in the game. This draft repeated the Blazers nightmare from the 1984 draft when the they selected big man Sam Bowie 2nd overall, passing the legendary Michael Jordan to the Chicago Bulls. Bowie continually suffered injuries both in college and the NBA. The Blazers have one of the worst reputations for their selection decisions but are not entirely at fault. How could have they predicted Bowie and Oden would get hurt? They made the best decisions at the time: drafting Bowie to help fill the need that Bill Walton left and selecting Oden because he was the best player in the draft. He was the star of Ohio State when he led them to the title game..
The 2007 draft class was extraordinary. Many players are still actively beasting in the NBA. Although the class still has to prove themselves by winning championships. Kevin Durant, Al Horford, Al Thornton and Jeff Green were named First Team All Rookie and they continue to thrive. Other players have been stepping up slowly over the years like Marc Gasol, Tiago Splitter and Marco Belinelli. Some of the young freshman like Mike Conley and Spencer Hawes have been getting better as they earn more experience and playing time. I look forward to seeing their continued success in the NBA.
You can follow Thomas Frey on Twitter: @ThomasFreyRP