NEW YORK - The Portland Trail Blazers got Greg Oden and felt like they won a championship.
The Seattle SuperSonics settled for Kevin Durant, thrilling fans disappointed by the trade of All-Star Ray Allen to Boston.
The Trail Blazers ended months of debate Thursday night when they chose Oden over fellow college freshman Durant with the No. 1 pick in a highly anticipated NBA draft.
Portland opted for the 7-footer who can dominate a game with his defense over the sensational scoring of Durant, who would have been the No. 1 pick in many other years after one of the most outstanding freshman seasons in NCAA history.
But franchise centers are hard to find, and most believe the Blazers got one.
“I was on the phone with the radio station back in Portland,” Oden said. “They said they stomped the floor like they won the NBA championship once they called my name.”
Fans rushed the court at the Rose Garden, where a perennial playoff team has fallen on hard times after some worse behavior. But the Blazers got Rookie of the Year Brandon Roy last year and got an early start on having next season’s winner when they grabbed Oden to play alongside LaMarcus Aldridge.
“They did have a bad (reputation), but I think Brandon and LaMarcus kind of turned that around,” Oden said. “I hope that I can come and just push that along some more.”
Even with Durant, feelings weren’t quite the same in Seattle.
Moments after he was picked, Durant saw on TV that the SuperSonics had traded Allen, their leading scorer, to Boston. Fans booed the Allen trade at a draft party for the Sonics, who still face losing Rashard Lewis to free agency.
The 6-9 Durant, wearing an orange tie to match Texas’ colors, doesn’t consider himself the Sonics’ savior.
“Not at all, not at all,” Durant said. “When you play since you were 8 or 9 years old, you know the game is not a one-man sport. I’m far from being a savior.”
Portland also made a deal, clearing room in the middle for Oden by trading Zach Randolph to New York. The Blazers also sent Fred Jones and Dan Dickau to the Knicks for Steve Francis and Channing Frye.
The only other trade involving an NBA player came when Golden State sent Jason Richardson and the rights to Jermareo Davidson, the No. 36 pick, to Charlotte for Brandan Wright, taken at No. 8 by the Bobcats.
The rest of the trades, most in the second round, involved picks or cash.
The Pacific Northwest rivals got an immediate jump-start to their rebuilding plans by moving up in last month’s lottery to grab the top two picks. Though this is considered the deepest draft in years, Oden and Durant were regarded as the only can’t-miss players.
Oden led Ohio State to the national championship game, despite never playing at full strength after surgery on his right wrist. Still, he averaged 15.7 points and shot nearly 62 percent while drawing comparisons to Bill Russell for his rebounding and shot blocking abilities.
Joining Durant to help the Sonics rebuild is Georgetown’s Jeff Green, picked by Boston with the No. 5 pick. Durant knows Green from growing up in the Washington, D.C. area.
“I know Jeff pretty well, on a D.C. Blue Devils team we gained a friendship from there,” Durant said. “He’s a great player, and I can’t wait to play with him.”
The Atlanta Hawks used the No. 3 pick, their first of two in the lottery on Al Horford, who saluted the pro-Florida crowd with the Gator chomp. The two-time defending NCAA champions became the first school with three players selected in the top 10 of the same draft.
They made it when Corey Brewer went to Minnesota at No. 7 and Joakim Noah — donning a bow tie and getting a huge reaction from his hometown crowd — was taken by Chicago two picks later.
Rick Bowmer / AP
Trail Blazers fans in Portland's Rose Garden react after the team selected Ohio State's Greg Oden as the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA draft Thursday.
Two more Gators went in the second round: Chris Richard at No. 41 to Minnesota and Taurean Green by Portland at No. 52. The five players equaled the second-most for one school in a draft. UNLV had six in 1977 — though that came in four rounds.
The Hawks passed on Michael Conley Jr., even though they still need a point guard after passing on Chris Paul and Deron Williams two years ago. The Memphis Grizzlies then grabbed Conley, Oden’s teammate since their junior high days and the third freshman in the top four picks.
Atlanta finally grabbed that point guard by taking Acie Law at No. 11 — the first college senior taken.
“Freshmen are very, very talented,” Law said. “I think in the draft, it’s all about position and what a team needs, and you see some great, great players in this draft. I’m happy with the team that I went to and just happy to get to Atlanta and help turn that franchise around.”
The Milwaukee Bucks took a chance at No. 6 on the draft’s mystery player, Chinese forward Yi Jianlian. Though Yi was getting plenty of attention — half of the record 60 international media members were from China — he came with plenty of question marks. He hasn’t played against top competition in the Chinese leagues, and he is rumored to be older than the 19 he is listed.
Milwaukee also ignored concerns that Yi only wanted to play in a major market with a large Asian population. He didn’t even work out for the Bucks.
“It’s a surprise to me as well, because when I was in China, Milwaukee didn’t come to watch me play or work out,” Yi said through a translator. “Myself, I’m not really familiar with the city. But I’m happy with the team, and I’m happy to play in the NBA.”
Charlotte took North Carolina’s Wright at No. 8, and Washington center Spencer Hawes was picked by Sacramento, the fourth and fifth freshmen in the top 10.
The nation grieved for those hurt, killed and affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. After one of the suspects was caught on Friday — following a day-long lockdown and manhunt — sports returned to Boston over the weekend.
The Bobcats later sent Wright’s draft rights to Golden State for guard Richardson and the rights to Davidson, taken by the Warriors at No. 36.
Ohio State’s Daequan Cook went to Philadelphia at No. 21, giving both national championship-game teams three players in the first round. His rights later were sent to Miami for the rights to Jason Smith of Colorado State, taken by the Heat with the 20th pick.
Thaddeus Young (Philadelphia, No. 12) and Javaris Crittenton (Los Angeles Lakers, No. 19) gave Georgia Tech two first-rounders. Sean Williams (No. 17, New Jersey) and Jared Dudley (No. 22, Charlotte) did the same for Boston College — though Williams was kicked off the team last season for rules violations.
The second round included some players with famous relatives. The Lakers used the No. 48 pick on Marc Gasol, the young brother of Grizzlies star Pau Gasol. Phoenix took D.J. Strawberry at No. 59, bringing chants of “Darryl, Darryl!” from the crowd who remember his father playing in New York for the Mets and Yankees.
Y! Sports: For Roy Hibbert, a sense of ownership means knowing he should have fought to get in the game with two seconds remaining in overtime, when his absence allowed LeBron James to hit the winning lay-up.
Highlights of the top NBA draft prospects, featuring Greg Oden, Kevin Durant and more.
Video: NBA from NBC Sports
Reason for optimism after Game 1 loss?
PBT Extra: The Heat snuck past the Pacers in the final seconds of overtime in Game 1, and PBT’s Kurt Helin breaks down where the Pacers can go from here. Paul George had a monster game, and Helin believes the Pacers have a real chance at upsetting the top-seeded Heat.
Latest from ProBasketballTalk
Get your NBA cheer on
Check out some of the dancers from the NBA.
Trail Blazers hope history doesn’t repeat
June 28: The franchise famously took Sam Bowie over some Jordan guy. It hopes it doesn’t repeat the mistake with Greg Oden. How the team involved the fans in his selection. “On the Money’s” Darren Rovell reports.