It’s easy to incorrectly remember some events in our lives. I believe this to be the case while Greg Oden was at Ohio State. Was he a good player who deserved to be a lottery pick? Absolutely. But, if you listened to some people, like announcer Dick Vitale, the master of hyperbole, then Oden was destined to be the greatest big man of all time. This is where the problem lies. We always want the next big thing. People tell us what to like and how much we should like it.The center position throughout NBA history has been a fragile one. For every Russell, Olajuwon, Shaq, and Chamberlain there are the chronically injured players like Ric Smits, Bill Walton, and Sam Bowie who never reached their potential.
There are two groups of people in this argument: the haters and the defenders. The haters would argue that Oden was hyped up far beyond what he could deliver. While the defenders would fight to the death to protect Oden’s reputation. To them he can do no wrong and for every imperfection he may have, there is a reason and excuses for it. I would consider myself a hater. Before you try to pick sides or blast me for my position, let’s just look at what he did in his one season for the Buckeyes.
Oden’s college stat averages for his 32 games played according to ESPN.com are as follows: played 28 minutes, 61% field goal percentage, 62% at the line, 9.5 rebs., 3.3 blocks, and 15.6 pts. For any person who didn’t watch the games, these stats would look pretty good. However, what I saw when I watched was Oden being the beneficiary of the amazing play of Mike Conley Jr. The 62% field goal percentage is staggering. It was made possible by the great penetration and vision of Conley Jr. I continue to maintain that he, not Oden, was the best player on that Ohio State team. Oden put down dunk after dunk and never really developed or expanded his offensive game. That year, he was also hurt the first seven games of the year with his broken hand. Going back further, he fractured his hip in middle school. Nobody can predict injury but there appeared to be a fairly serious history even before his NBA career started. That is a might big risk to invest money and the future of an organization on.
Oden was not the best player in the 2007 draft. That was and still is Kevin Durant. Also, I can make the argument that Oden isn’t the best big man to come out of Ohio State in the past five years. Jared Sullinger had a better freshman year with 17 pts and 10 rebs. Sure, people see Oden and think about his potential, but Sullinger delivered night after night. He was a glass eater, and he could step away from the basket and stretch the defense. Really it is what style you prefer and I have always liked a smaller more versatile forward/center.
The Oden defender’s arguments are also logical. The reason he only took 9 shots per game on average was because they spread the ball around, and they had a balanced attack. He only played 28 minutes a game because they had big leads, not because he was out of shape. His stats would have been more appeasing if he had played the first 7 games. As a shot blocker he could change the game. He was a defensive force with his shot blocking and affected the game on both ends of the court. As far as the draft goes they would argue that nobody passes on a 7’0″ 250 lb center with loads of potential. Another point to make as far as his professional career would be that with only 82 games played as a pro (1 full NBA season), we don’t have a big enough sample size to draw long term conclusions about his pro career.
Maybe these things are true and maybe they aren’t. We’re only able to assume and you know what happens when we do that…
The fact is that Oden is coming back from horrible knee injuries. It’s like we are at that juncture in an R.L. Stine book where we can choose the ending. Does Oden resurrect his career and show people why he was the number one pick? Or does this once bright star just simply fizzle and fade away? Though I never believed the Oden hype, I don’t wish him any harm. I think it would be a great story for him to stay healthy and form some semblance of a career.
Photo courtesy of: totalprosports.com