It was March of 2007. The Grizzlies were…well, awful. In the running for worst record in the NBA kinda awful, in fact. So, naturally, their focus shifted to the draft lottery. At the same time, an enterprising young(ish) man with lots of opinions and too much free time saw a void in the coverage of his favorite NBA team and started a blog called 3 Shades of Blue. Those two worlds met in the first real post of 3SOB: An Ode to Oden.
Re-reading that article nearly 6 years later is an interesting look into the past. Was I right about Kevin Durant? Yes and no. He’s better than I (or nearly anyone else) anticipated because he truly does have that hyper-competitive need to improve his game continually and often impose his will on those around him. He’s the best scorer in the league — LeBron’s recent efficient and historic outburst notwithstanding. He has improved his rebounding and defense, as well, making him a clear-cut choice to be one of the two best players in the league. So, I had his ceiling set too low and have no issue with admitting that.
How about the focus of this initial post? Was I right about Greg Oden? Once again, the answer is yes. And no. And maybe. And who knows?
There are two things that can be stated unequivocally when discussing Greg Oden’s NBA career to this point:
1. Greg Oden has suffered numerous injuries that derailed his career.
2. When on the court, Oden was a really, really good player.
When news of Oden attempting another comeback hit the news cycle, everyone weighed in with their thoughts — with many pundits proclaiming that he just needed to call it a day and accept that it simply wasn’t meant to be. I’m a sucker for a redemption story though. That’s why, when I saw this article from Truehoop’s Henry Abbott, I perked up a bit and started to consider the possibilities.
Is Greg Oden ready to contribute this season? Nope. But the reports are out there that a few teams are looking to go ahead and sign him to a contract now with an eye towards him being healthy next year. This recent post by Kelly Dwyer (Y! Sports) discusses the rumor that the Cavaliers are considering offering him a contract soon.
So what does this have to do with the Grizzlies?
Well, in case you haven’t noticed, with the inclusion of fan favorite Hamed Haddadi in the trade that sent Rudy Gay to Toronto, the team is a little short on 7-footers. Their current big men behind the 7’1″, 265 lb. frame of Marc Gasol are Darrell Arthur (6’8″), Ed Davis (6’10”), and the #foreverchilling Jon Leuer (6’11”). Arthur and Davis are both talented, but neither has the size to play heavy minutes at the pivot if Gasol gets in foul trouble.
Enter: Greg Oden
I realize that Oden won’t be any help to the Grizzlies this season/postseason, but if you’ve taken a look at the current free agents at the center position, the leading name right now is….Darko Milicic. And in terms of free agent big men next year that will sign for a cheap deal to be Marc’s backup/emergency replacement, that list isn’t too promising either.
Let’s look at the cold, hard facts.
1. Oden will have to sign for the league minimum, or pretty close to it.
2. For the money, Oden > Haddadi or Leuer.
3. When healthy, Oden was a game-changer — especially on the defensive end of the court.
4. If signed, Oden wouldn’t be pressured to be the franchise player he was expected to be in Portland. He’ll be lucky to get double-digit minutes most nights.
5. The Grizzlies already have one of the best frontcourts in the league with Gasol/Randolph/Arthur/Davis. Adding Oden to that mix gives them another option that allows them to match up with any team’s personnel or to overwhelm them with either size or athleticism.
Another factor is that the familiarity/friendship of Oden and Mike Conley should provide a comfort level to the still-young big man as he tries to recover what is left of his NBA career. Add all of those up and you get a low-risk, high-reward play that makes the Gilbert Arenas signing last year look tame in comparison.