Right now it sounds silly, but a few years ago, the hot debate at this time of year was whether the team that won the draft lottery should draft Ohio State’s Greg Oden, or Texas’ Kevin Durant. And as someone who was staunchly in the “draft Oden” camp, I feel especially silly.
But the argument I, and others, made back then is fueling a feeling of at least mild interest in Oden right now. He’s still a 7-footer. He’s still the guy who dropped five double-doubles, including a 12 points, 20 rebound, 4-block monster of a game before blowing out his knee (again) in December of 2009. And, despite the jokes about his appearance, he is still 23.
So as we enter restricted free-agency (assuming the requisite CBA items are worked out) armed with the knowledge that a young, 7-foot center is still a commodity in basketball, Oden’s camp is starting to let the world know that Greg still exists.
“He’s focused on keeping his weight down, getting back to figuring out how to stay healthy. I give him a lot of credit for staying motivated to get through all this,” his agent, Mike Conley, said.
“I know that he’ll play next year, and as long as he keeps his weight down, he’ll get back to being the Greg we knew, being able to run and jump and everything. The thing is keeping him healthy and give him the confidence to play without being scared.”
I know. I know. The reaction to that is “yeah, good luck with that.” It’s a perfectly reasonable reaction. It’s going to be a tough sell to fans if a GM throws millions at a guy who’s now missed two full NBA seasons… and only played in 82 games of the other two… only to end up writhing in pain on the floor one more time. And its going to be an even tougher sell for Rich Cho if Portland decides to give Oden the $8 million qualifying offer.
But assuming that Greg Oden is ready next pre-season, and assuming Portland passes on the qualifying offer, there will be teams bringing Oden in for workouts. The question then becomes “how much is Greg Oden worth?” His age and size will make him more valuable money-wise than you think. His injury history will only serve to shave years off the deal. No GM in his right mind will sign him to a long-term deal. But a team with a little money or cap exceptions and the need for a big man (just spitballling here… how about the Knicks?) might toss some cash his way for a couple of years and see how it works out. A big-market team that can eat a buyout if he gets hurt again might be fine with the risk-reward that Oden presents.
We will see Oden again. And his camp will make sure Greg we don’t forget about him until then.
(Link via SLAM. Photo via Getty Images)