Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
The Portland Trail Blazers are about a 30- rack of Miller Lite and a couple of KFC buckets away from becoming the Boston Red Sox.
Right now, the Trail Blazers are free falling like Tom Petty. Portland, which hasn't captured an NBA title since Grateful Dead-loving center Bill Walton was on the team, have lost nine out of 12 to drop to 12th in the Western Conference.
But unlike the Red Sox, the Trail Blazers didn't wait until the end of the season to clean house. Portland had their clearance sale last Thursday, swapping Gerald Wallace and Marcus Camby for draft picks (they got Jonny Flynn and Hasheem Thabeet, too, but is that even worth mentioning?) right before the trade deadline.
Wallace and Camby were not the only casualties of Portland's fire sale Thursday. The Trail Blazers showed coach Nate McMillan the door and most surprising of all, Portland cut former No. 1 draft pick Greg Oden.
Oden has been a Ryan Leaf-level bust in the NBA, struggling through years of debilitating knee injuries and compiling a career average of just 9.4 points per game.
When thinking about Oden's NBA misfortunes, it's impossible not to wonder what would have happened to the Trail Blazers had they taken Kevin Durant with the first pick in 2007 instead of letting him slip to the Seattle SuperSonics (now the Oklahoma City Thunder) at No. 2.
While Oden hasn't seen the court in nearly three years because of his balky knees, Durant has won two straight scoring titles and led the Thunder to an impressive 34-12 record in 2011-12.
Durant is an MVP candidate and the Thunder look like the team to beat in the Western Conference. Oden is team-less and it's uncertain if anyone will be willing to take a risk on him when his knee is healthy again.
This is Sam Bowie and Michael Jordan all over again. Poor Portland.
But today, we're going to play a little pretend. Think of this as the NBA's version of "The Parent Trap."
Close your eyes. Now open them. Durant is on the Trail Blazers and Greg Oden is in a Thunder uniform.
How would your fantasy team look if this was true?
Let's start with the Thunder. Losing Durant would certainly be a blow to Oklahoma City's playoff chances. But it might actually increase Russell Westbrook's fantasy value.
Westbrook is the definition of a "shoot-first" point guard. Without Durant in the fold, Westbrook would pass even less.
Being Oklahoma City's go-to offensive player would likely boost Westbrook's scoring average from his current 23.9 to around 26 or 27 a game. It also would mean Westbrook would be guarded more closely than ever, which is why anything higher than 27 a night is likely out of the question.
Durant's absence also would help sixth man of the year favorite James Harden's fantasy stock. Harden would likely be moved into the Oklahoma City starting five at shooting guard with Thabo Sefolosha moving to the three. Suddenly, without Durant, Harden looks like a 20-point, five-assist-per-game type of player.
Daequan Cook would inherit Harden's role as the Thunder's sixth man. With a rise in minutes (right now, Cook only plays about 19 minutes per contest), Cook will get more shots off and burn opponents with his lethal 3-point stroke (because he basically doesn't shoot any two-pointers).
Cook's 5.7 points per game make him a bit of a fantasy wild card at the moment, but without Durant he could get you around nine or 10 per game and be a decent fantasy play, depending on the depth of your league.
Compare Durant's 49.4-percent field goal percentage to some of the game's other top small forwards like Carmelo Anthony (40 percent), Danny Granger (39.2 percent) and Paul Pierce (42.1 percent) and you'll find Durant has been incredibly efficient this season. He's not quite at LeBron James' level (he's shooting a superb 54.1 percent this year), but the dude still makes a lot of shots.
Whoever replaces Durant would undoubtedly miss more shots than Durant, meaning more opportunities for offensive rebounds. That could improve both Serge Ibaka (7.8 rpg) and Kendrick Perkins's (6.2 rpg) fantasy values.
Of course, Oden would not factor into any of this, at least not until his knee heals.
The Portland fantasy situation would be a little more complicated. Like he did in Oklahoma City with Westbrook, Durant would be playing alongside another capable scorer in LaMarcus Aldridge.
What makes Aldridge different than playing with Westbrook is that Aldridge is a power forward, not a distributor who will be looking for ways to get the ball to Durant like Westbrook was (though Westbrook would look for his own shot just as often).
This one-two punch might work out similarly to the Anthony/Stoudemire duo in New York, at least statistically. Durant has plenty more intangibles than Anthony does, so chemistry wouldn't be an issue, but Aldridge's stats could still suffer.
Stoudemire scored 25.3 ppg last season only having to play with Anthony for a couple months. In his first full season teaming up with Anthony, however, Stoudemire has slipped to just 17.5 ppg.
Aldridge is averaging 21.7 ppg now and that would probably drop off a little bit if he had to share the load with Durant on a consistent basis.
But remember this, Aldridge has been going through the motions and scoring less during Portland's recent meltdown (just 17.8 ppg). Playing with an All- Star like Durant and having a chance to do damage in the Western Conference would give Aldridge the motivation he seems to be lacking right now. That's why Aldridge could score 19 to 20 per game with Durant around.
The positive energy that Durant would bring to a Debbie Downer Portland team right now could boost everybody's stats a notch or two, but the player who really stands to become a fantasy star with Durant on the team is Raymond Felton.
Felton tallied nine assists a game when he was playing with Stoudemire in New York last season, so he's capable of big assist numbers. This season, in Portland, he's had less help and seen his assist totals drop to just 6.1 per game. Double-digit assists per game doesn't seem that farfetched for Felton with Durant in the lineup. Those kind of numbers would propel Felton to "must-have" fantasy status.
Here's another interesting idea to ponder: Would Brandon Roy have retired if Durant was on the team? Roy did have knee issues, but we're guessing he wasn't super-enthusiastic about going back to a mediocre Portland team, which could have factored into his decision to retire early.
There have already been rumblings that Roy is considering a comeback and if Durant was on the Trail Blazers, he might be back in a heartbeat. Who knows what Roy's role would be given his injury history, but at the very least, he would be a nice complement to guards Wesley Matthews and Jamal Crawford.
It's fun to think about, but, sadly, these "what-if" scenarios won't help Portland's playoff chances this season. Trail Blazers fans shouldn't feel too bad, though. We're sure Carmelo is hatching some diabolic plan to sabotage New York's run of recent success. When that happens, nobody will be talking about Portland anymore.