In case you missed it, ESPN reported that a Greg Oden comeback tour may be in the works. Oden, of course, had the misfortune of being selected over Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant with the top pick in the 2007 draft – the misfortune being not that Oden earned a lot of money as the #1 overall pick, but rather that he’s had to endure non-stop rants ever since about how the Blazers should’ve taken Durant and how he’s the Sam Bowie to Durant’s Michael Jordan.
That said, Oden had a pretty ridiculously successful run during that period in 2009 (wow, that really was an eternity ago…) when he was healthy. For the 21 games he played in the 2009-10 season Oden averaged just shy of 17 & 13 per 36 minutes. He also blocked 3.4 shots per 36.
I’ve always been forever enamored of Oden’s talent, soft touch around the hoop, rebounding, and, of course, his size. And I’d really like a rim protector not named Greg Stiemsma to take the backup minutes when Pek isn’t out there. (And yes, for the record, this discussion assumes the Wolves match any reasonable Pekovic deal, so we’re not looking at this as an either/or despite the potential salary cap challenges the Wolves will face.
Andy G and I took to the wheel to discuss whether the Wolves – still scarred, certainly, from last season’s free-agent acquisition of Oden’s former Portland teammate Brandon Roy – ought to take a gamble on Oden this offseason, and what they should do with him if they were to acquire him.
Patrick J: Okay, the question is, should the Wolves take a flyer on Greg Oden? Before getting into issues about his health – neither of us has any clue what the long-term prognosis will actually be – let’s first look at the list of 2013 free agent centers to get a sense of what else is out there. I’d categorize them into five groups that roughly correspond to “good but too expensive,” “no good and too expensive,” “irrelevant,” and “don’t touch with a 10-foot pole.” Then you have the fifth group, which I’d call “potentially interesting candidates.”
List of 2013 Free Agent Centers
Ivan Johnson – potentially interesting candidate
Timofey Mozgov – potentially interesting candidate
Daniel Orton – don’t touch with a 10-foot pole
Johan Petro – irrelevant
Chris Wilcox – don’t touch with a 10-foot pole
Byron Mullens – don’t touch with a 10-foot pole
DeSagana Diop – irrelevant
Nazr Mohammed – irrelevant
Chris Kaman – good but too expensive
Andris Biedrins (ETO) – potentially interesting candidate
Ryan Hollins – don’t touch with a 10-foot pole
Dwight Howard – good but too expensive
Chris Andersen – don’t touch with a 10-foot pole (or he might touch you back)
Samuel Dalembert – potentially interesting candidate
Kurt Thomas – irrelevant (sadly)
Kwame Brown (P) – irrelevant
Andrew Bynum – good but too expensive/don’t touch with a 10-foot pole
Jermaine O’Neal – irrelevant
J.J. Hickson – no good and too expensive
Cole Aldrich – irrelevant
Tiago Splitter – good but too expensive
Emeka Okafor (ETO) – good but too expensive
Jason Collins – irrelevant
Based on my back-of-the-envelope calculations, most fall into the “irrelevant” or “10-foot pole” categories. A few are good but will be beyond our means.
The list of potentially interesting (realistic) candidates is pretty short: Johnson, Mozgov, Dalembert, and Biedrins. Of those, Johnson and Mozgov are restricted.
So, if you’re in the market for a backup center, these might be the guys you look at. Shouldn’t Oden be in the conversation?
Andy G: I want Oden to be next year’s Stiemer. He should never practice, just play short minutes for 60 or so games (maybe no back-to-backs?). He’s a luxury piece at this point, not a heavy contributor. But I know what’ll happen, just like you do: Some team will work him out and have their Brandon Roy Moment, delude themselves into thinking he’s back! and overwork his vulnerable knees. Teams and players just can’t help themselves. Same thing’ll happen with Bynum. It’s the Bill Walton story recycled a million times over.
Patrick J: I’m not a gambler in my own life, but I don’t mind gambling with Glen Taylor’s money. I loved the Roy gamble and I like the idea of an Oden flyer for the right price. High risk/reward is fun. Plus, didn’t Bill Walton help the Celtics to the ‘86 championship? What’s your take on this stuff?
Andy G: Yeah I like the risk and liked the Roy risk — just not how Roy was WAY overused. He was practicing really hard, full time/full speed. He should be on the ELIPTICAL! in practice and just doing walk-through stuff so he knows the plays. Yeah he won’t be in “game shape” but he can still give a couple of 5-7 minute stints per game.
I just checked about ’86 Walton: He played 19.3 minutes per game (in an impressive-by-his-standards 80 games). The next year he played 10 games and called it a career.
I’d like to see Oden playing 10 or so minutes/game and basically not practicing. I just think it’s the only way, and that he could be valuable in that role.
He could *maybe* even break the WIN SHARES PER 48 record?