Friday, November 19, 2010

Great Oden's Raven!

Awesome line from Anchorman aside, Greg Oden is the focus of this one. It's been a horrible week for the Blazers with franchise player Brandon Roy found to have no meniscus left in either knee - meaning it's bone on bone - and no way to fix it, followed up more recently by Greg Oden's newfound need for microfracture surgery. Say goodbye to the 10-11 season, and suddenly the decision to allow Oden to be a RFA isn't such a bad one.

By all accounts, the fans in Portland have had enough of this immensely talented C teasing them with flashes of brilliance and with Roy never to be the same again, the best thing for the Blazers to do is to re-adjust from "win-now" mode and start again. Which means more than saying goodbye to the 10-11 season, but likely the Blazers as an organisation. While this sucks for Portland fans who were very much on the cusp of challenging for a title if they could just get healthy, what happens to Oden now? Given how few games he has played until this point he can likely be had for a bargain and he's just the sort of low-risk (money-wise), high-reward player who can alter the course of a franchise.

The first thing I'll say is that Oden could very well re-sign with the Blazers for a significantly lower price than they anticipated. However, there are enough teams desperate enough - particularly in the West - looking for that length to compete with the Lakers' size and exploit Miami's weakness inside that makes this scenario unlikely.

So let's take a look at the possible suitors...

Denver Nuggets;
Melo has made it clear that he wants to be closer to a championship than he is now or he's gone. With Lebron forming the Miami Thrice in South Beach Anthony had a knee jerk reaction, feeling he can no longer compete with the Nuggets. However, Melo doesn't want to face the same public backlash as Lebron for nothing, so if the Heat don't win this season it might be enough to convince Melo to stay. Assuming the Nuggets manage to keep Melo around they will have a go-to guy and All-World scorer, a veteran PG for at least another couple of seasons, an All-Star calibre PF/C in Nene Hilario, young defender in Arron Afflalo, and good depth off the bench with Smith, Birdman and Ty Lawson. While Nene has done a great job in Denver, he struggles to defend the bigger bodies found at C and would be better served at PF. Enter Greg Oden. He is a legitimate championship calibre C when on the court and with a number of expiring contracts coming off the books this season the Nuggets might be able to outbid other teams for his services. A starting five of Billups, Afflalo, Anthony, Nene and Oden is strong enough to contend with the Lakers, Celtics, Heat and Magic. If a lock-out eventuates, that means more rest time for Oden and hopefully a full rehabilitation once he's out of the hands of the seemingly inept Portland organisation. That team might just be worth Melo sticking around for.

Atlanta Hawks;
The Hawks are being continually abused by Dwight Howard and the Magic. They were still good for 4th in the East until Miami came along and upset their division standing, so they'll need to address their major area of weakness - size and PG play. Hopefully Jeff Teague can make some strides this season but there are enough very talented PGs available in this draft that the Hawks might be able to snag one from beyond the lottery. Cs who can go toe-to-toe with Dwight are a bit rarer, especially when you've just given Joe Johnson a max deal. Luckily, GO will likely be available for a relatively low price, and is only 22 years old, so will have a lot of playing time left in him if he can just get healthy. If it doesn't pan out, provided they don't overpay for him then no harm done. If it does, then Teague, Johnson, Smith, Horford and Oden would be a starting five capable of matching any in the L. Having Marvin Williams and Jordan Crawford (unlikely Jamal sticks around) coming off the bench means that they have the depth to compete too.

Boston Celtics;
Okay, being a Celtics fan, maybe I'm a little biased, but the Cs need to start looking past the Boston Three Party to what the team will look like in two years. Shaq and Ray Allen are almost definitely going to retire by then, Garnett might just follow, and Pierce isn't going to be capable of carrying the franchise on his back like he used to. Which leaves Rondo as their franchise player and Big Baby Davis as probably their third option. Huh. However, Avery Bradley is a lock-down defender, and he and Rondo could form the best defensive back-court in the NBA. Davis is capable of playing big minutes, and is a proven playoff performer too. Plus, Pierce will still be a competent closer and perimeter threat. The thing that doesn't add up is Kendrick Perkins. Don't get me wrong, Perk is a great fit for this current team, but he is too offensively limited to survive with the Celtics post-Big 3. Oden would provide a more offensively capable Centre who can bang inside with the opposing bigs in the East. Given that Oden won't be needed for another season or two, he won't be rushed back and should hopefully be able to fully recover. Oh, and don't worry about Perkins, he'll find a home somewhere, because defensive Cs as good as he is don't come along every day.

So there you have it, three (or four I guess) possible futures for Greg Oden. Whatever happens, let's just hope he spends a lot less time in a suit, and a lot more time in an NBA uniform.


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