Although the Cleveland Cavaliers, will have plenty of space under the NBA Salary-Cap starting on July 1, speculation is growing that the club could complete a deal; that could be qualified as a “low risk move, with a possible high ceiling.” The “Akron Beacon Journal,” has reported that the team has confirmed they have interest in signing oft-injured veteran center Greg Oden to a contract, possibly within the next week.
The big man who was selected with the number one pick in the 2007 NBA Draft, by the Portland Trail Blazers; will not be ready to take the court until next season, however Cleveland and other franchises in the Association, have explored locking him up to an extended-year pact this year. The sad tale of how the former Ohio State center’s body has broken down under the rigors of the Association, is well-known throughout the NBA.
His knees have failed him, having already undergone three micro-fracture surgeries, before reaching his 25th birthday. The man whom the Blazers hoped would be the next “Bill Russell” has been about as effective as “Billy Crystal,” due to the lack of time he has been on the court. Since Portland chose him over Kevin Durant, the big man has played a total of just 82 regular season contests, and has not been on the hardwood since the 2009-2010 campaign.
The deal is certainly not imminent as there were reports that the big man met on Saturday with Boston Celtics Director Of Basketball Operations on Saturday and the Miami Heat are also known to have interest in seeing what Oden can do after recuperating from his latest surgery. Although the teams that have already had discussions with the veteran Free Agent, would like to sign him before the end of the current campaign; it might behoove Oden to wait until after July 1, to see if he can get teams into a bidding war and increase his value.
Although the city of Portland, has had lots of misfortune in the pivot position; especially with early first round picks (as Bill Walton and Sam Bowie, can attest to,) Cleveland has also spent years waiting for talented centers to regain their health. Cavaliers fans watched Brad Daugherty’s career cut short due to back problems and Zydrunas Ilgauskas, underwent seven operations on his feet, before he could return to the floor. Z, would make an NBA East All-Star squad, after returning to action; but he was the exception not the norm.
At this point; the odds are far greater that Oden will never set foot on a court to play in an NBA contest; than are his odds of reaching the potential that he had when he was drafted. New York Knicks forward Amar’e Stoudemire had one such procedure and he lacks the explosiveness he once had. Playing center even at Oden’s height, he will need to be able to jump on both offensive and defensive possessions; if he has lost that ability, his value would be minimal.
That however, will not preclude a franchise from the Association in taking a chance for the big man; if the deal is right. That should be a pact that would give Oden a base salary of somewhere between the veteran’s minimum and part of the mid-level exception slot; plus incentives based on his production. Offer him a two-year-deal with a club option for the third year and a buyout clause after the first. That is a very low risk situation for any squad, while giving Oden what would most likely be his final shot to reach his life long dream of being a productive NBA player.
What should the fans of the Cavaliers, Celtics, Heat, or any other team that signs Oden to expect? Initially, not a lot; other than to most likely see the center on the bench wearing a suit and tie for the balance of this campaign. The center should start to ramp up his conditioning this summer, so that he can be ready for the start of training camp in October.
If the former Blazers center is able to play next season; it is important for his new fans to keep their expectations; tethered to reality. Oden will be a work in progress upon his return, there will be nights that he will thrill his new city, while other nights, the teams fans will rip him apart on the post-game shows. Don’t expect him to play anything more than 20-25 minutes per game, a restriction that could be eased if he shows that he is getting stronger. Could he eventually be as successful in his comeback as Z was with the Cavaliers? That is an answer we won’t know for a while; however as the credo of the NBA states “You Can’t Teach Height.”