Greg Oden is not a dominant force in the NBA. We were hoping to be seeing a dominant force at some point this season, weren’t we? Isn’t that what a number 1 pick does? Yes, unless you’re Kwame Brown.
He’s showing some excellent signs in the rebound and block departments, but he’s fairly slow down the court, a little part of us cringes each time he’s backing someone down – preparing for the possible travel call, and… how to put this nicely… scoring outside 3 feet has looked a little more difficult than we were hoping it would be for him. Dwight Howard certainly pushed him around the other night, and Oden’s foul trouble has existed since the first time he played against NBA players (Remember Summer League 2007? 19 fouls in two games?). He has a major issue with letting his arms sag over a player, who gratefully jumps into them for some freethrows; I’m surprised at how long it has taken him to understand to keep his arms straight up – especially since Przybilla is a master at it.
But what will Greg Oden become? Clearly he’s not Shaq, who averaged 24 points and 14 rebounds his rookie season with Orlando. But let’s look at another rookie season in Orlando; a more recent rookie season. Dwight Howard was a 12 and 10 man back in 2004, and he played a nice 32.6 minutes per game. Well, shucks, Oden is averaging 7.6 points and 7.4 rebounds, but in barely over 20 min/game. I’d be curious to see what Oden could do with the extra minutes (Remember, you can’t estimate based on proportion of minutes. Those extra 10 minutes of being in the game and warm put up more stats than you would think.). Actually, Oden has played 30 or 31 minutes in four games this season. In those four he had 13/9, 13/10, 11/13, and 22/10. That’s an average of 14.75 points and 10.5 rebounds; not too bad. In fact, in games where he has played at least 25 minutes, he averages 13 and 10.7. By the way, Howard averaged 1.7 blocks in his 30 min/game; Oden is averaging 1.5 in his 20 min/game. Not to get too excited, but Howard is now the NBA leader in blocks… by a lot.
Okay, so he’s the next Dwight Howard? Well, probably not. Oden has a lot of Howard's defensive and rebounding abilities, and they both dunk… a lot. Howard dunks because he has to, though; his touch is just awful. As I said before, Oden has also looked very uncoordinated offensively in games, but almost too uncoordinated. He looks nervous, doesn’t he? His touch was a lot better in college, and you don’t lose coordination when you get better coaches. Listen, playing 20 minutes a game is tough for player – just when you’ve been in the game long enough to settle down, you’re taken out, only to be subbed in cold again. Add nerves and it a rough day on the court.
So is Greg Oden a dominant force in the NBA? No, but he will be.
I don’t know when, exactly. He just hasn’t caught up to game speed yet. This could be due to the fact that he wasn’t quite good enough to bypass the rookie growing pains like we were hoping, it could mostly be nerves, or maybe conditioning is a big part of it. In any case, he’s a guy that hadn’t touched a basketball in a year trying to combine a rookie season with a surgery-comeback season. At some point we'll know that he's no longer feelings so nervous, worrying about his knee, and can play 25 minutes a game without oxygen masks standing by. I’ll tell you what – let’s reevaluate after I see Greg Oden smile during an NBA game.
In the mean time, you should rewatch the game that made me fall in love with Greg Oden: his first game back from the ankle injury (against Miami). It was beautiful! He did both nothing and everything. He racked up very few statistics of any sort, and yet he was involved in every play. He looked tired, he looked slow, he looked confused on offense, and he could barely get his two hands on the ball! But when he boxed out, he cleared the paint. If he didn’t shoot, he attacked the offensive boards and got a hand on almost every one of our misses. He only controlled one of those, but I remember thinking “Oh my gosh, when he catches up to game speed, the Blazers will have their missing link.” (As you remember, others weren’t so optimistic.)
Maybe he’d be better by now if he wasn’t so nice and so sensitive to all of this hype; maybe if he had a little more Bayless in him we’d be seeing a different player. But he’s not Jerryd. Instead, we have to wait for our big, raw, talented teddy bear. Darn.
If you feel the need to say anything involving the word “injury”, I suggest you save your breath. Greg Oden may or may not be injury prone. It’s discouraging that he has had multiple injuries, but most of the players since Jason Kidd have had a lot of success after microfracture (see Amare). His wrist hasn’t been an issue since it was an issue, and the ankle was clearly a situational event. MAN it annoyed me when everybody screamed Sam Bowie after the ankle problem. Did you see how his ankle buckled? Anybody in the NBA would be on the DL after that. He made it many years of playing basketball without any ankle problems… you’re telling me all of a sudden he forgot how to land on two feet? Seemed like bad luck to me. I’m not saying he’s not injury prone, but I am saying it’s very encouraging that these are all separate issues that don’t seem to be recurring. Ask any team that has had Baron Davis – you don’t want recurring injuries. I’ll say one thing, though, if I’m Paul Allen, I’m telling Greg that his knee is worth a lot of my money, so he needs to stop slamming his huge frame down on the court after every dunk Maybe that's the reason he needed microfracture in the first place...
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