Kevin Durant sticks up for Greg Oden, calls bust talk 'nonsense'

OAKLAND -- Golden State Warriors superstar Kevin Durant has a message for Greg Oden, who told Outside the Lines last week that he'll "be remembered as the biggest bust in NBA history."

"Nonsense. That's nonsense," Durant adamantly told ESPN on Sunday night. "In order for you to be a bust, you have to actually play and show people that you progressed as a player. He didn't get a chance to."

Oden and Durant were taken No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, in the 2007 NBA draft by the Portland Trail Blazers and Seattle SuperSonics. The debates about who would go No. 1 were minimal. Oden was viewed as a future Hall of Fame big man, the next coming of Shaquille O'Neal.

Portland elected to add the 7-footer to a team that featured rising All-Star Brandon Roy and a young, emerging inside-outside player named LaMarcus Aldridge. Oden missed his entire rookie season after undergoing microfracture surgery on his knee.

His best season was the 2009-10 campaign, when he averaged 11.1 points, 8.5 rebounds and 2.3 blocks in 21 games.

Multiple knee injuries led to multiple surgical procedures, cutting his career with the Trail Blazers short in March 2012 when the team waived him. In five seasons with the franchise, Oden played in only 82 games and did not play a single game in his final two seasons under contract.

After taking the 2012-13 campaign off to regroup and get healthy, Oden got a second chance when the Miami Heat signed him to a one-year deal for the 2013-14 season. He was never able to establish himself as a consistent rotation player and ended up appearing in 23 contests that season. Oden hasn't played in the NBA since.

Meanwhile, Durant has become one of the faces of the league. He has won a Rookie of the Year award and an MVP and is a seven-time All-Star and a four-time scoring champ.

Oden had previously told Sports Illustrated that he was "one of the biggest busts in NBA history" and that "it would only get worse as Kevin Durant continues doing big things."

Once again, Durant defended his draft classmate.

"He didn't want to get hurt. That was the last thing he wanted to do was to get hurt," Durant told ESPN. "That wasn't even in the cards, and he got injured and that was unfortunate. But when he did play, he was a force. Protecting the paint. They were so good with him and LaMarcus down low, with Brandon Roy [and] Andre Miller at the time. They had a nice team. So he was a big part of that.

"He's not a bust. He just didn't play a long time because of injuries, and that's just what it is."

Initially, Durant said he desired to play for the Trail Blazers.

"I definitely wanted to be the No. 1 pick, but I landed in a great situation," he said. "I couldn't ask for anything better. I would love to play with LaMarcus and Brandon Roy, but when I was the second pick, I was very excited to get to Seattle. We had traded Ray Allen, like, two picks later, and I was like, 'Wow. They're really opening it up for me and really allowing me to grow as a player.' So I didn't even worry about being the No. 1 pick after that. Once we traded Ray Allen, I was like, 'This is my team.' They're going to allow me to grow and make my mistakes. So I was looking forward to it."

Oden and Durant will always be connected, just as Michael Jordan and Sam Bowie were. Unfortunately for the Blazers, they were also involved in that selection in 1984 when they took Bowie No. 2 ahead of Jordan.

Although Durant believes it is unfair to compare his career to Oden's, he has come to the realization that they will probably be forever connected for various reasons.

"I think we're always going to be linked together as far as our draft class," Durant said. "That was [one of the first years] that you had to go to college for a year. So I think that played a part in how big that draft was. We were [one of] the first real one-and-done [classes]. He would have come out of high school; I probably would have done the same, but we had to go to college and we were one-and-done. I think that played a huge part in it, and just the fact that two freshmen went back-to-back 1 and 2 picks, that was a huge part. So we're always going to be linked together no matter what."