NBA Trade Deadline 2012: 11 Possible Destinations for Greg Oden
The Portland Trail Blazers were busy at the trade deadline, but at the same time, it was puzzling to say the least. Raymond Felton and Jamal Crawford had been subject to trade rumors and linked to teams almost every day, but both of them will remain in a Blazers uniform...at least for the rest of the season.
Instead of dealing away Felton and Crawford, the Blazers severed ties with veterans Marcus Camby and Gerald Wallace and in return, they acquired Jonny Flynn, Hasheem Thabeet, Mehmet Okur's expiring contract and Shawne Williams' expiring contract. The team also announced that Nate McMillan's reign was officially over.
So needless to say, they were pretty busy. And they weren't done, either.
As first reported by ESPN yesterday,
"The Blazers waived Oden Thursday because they needed to create roster room to accommodate all the Portland players acquired earlier in the day in separate trades with New Jersey and Houston."
In December, the team and Oden restructured his contract, as his salary decreased from $9 million to $1.5 million for cap flexibility. But that doesn't necessarily mean anything now.
As we all know, Oden has been a major disappointment. Since being the No. 1 overall selection in the 2007 draft, the former Buckeye has played in a total of 82 games. Yes, 82 out of a possible 371 games.
The oft-injured big man just hasn't had things go his way since his arrival to the NBA. It's quite a shame, as Oden showed flashes of brilliance when he was actually on the court.
But he just hasn't been able to continually be on the court. Even though Oden is out with a season-ending injury, there are still likely to be teams out there that want to take a shot on him and have him on their roster for next season, especially if he comes at a cheap price.
There's no way Oden would receive a long-term deal from any team because of his past issues, so it'd be entirely plausible for a team to offer him a two-year, $3 million contract, or something of that nature.
He's worth the risk, believe it or not. For all we know, he can play in 60 or more games for the next few years and be the All-Star caliber player we were all hoping for. Or, he could continue to be the big man in the suit we always see on the bench.
But it's worth the risk in my opinion, and let's be honest, if Brian Scalabrine can take up a roster spot, Oden can, too.
Yes, the Grizzlies need frontcourt help—Darrell Arthur has been out with a season-ending injury, and Zach Randolph has played in just four games this season. But if anything, the Grizzlies will likely keep their roster intact through free agency, even though they could make a run at a big man (or a backup point guard) in the upcoming draft.
Oden-to-Memphis isn't because the Grizzlies necessarily need him.
It mainly has something to do with Oden being reunited with his best friend and former college teammate, Mike Conley Jr., who is also Memphis' starting point guard.
The two were practically inseparable in college, and both were highly coveted at the draft. Oden, as we know, went first overall while Conley was taken with the fourth-overall selection by the Grizzlies.
They went their separate ways and would not be teammates for the first time in many years.
But a couple of years ago, there were talks that the Conley experiment could be over here in Memphis. Conley snickered at one point through that process, stating that he'd welcome a trade to Portland because he'd be teammates with Oden once again.
But the Grizzlies decided to retain Conley and ultimately sign him to a long-term deal, so it has remained highly unlikely that Conley would get traded anywhere. Because of that deal, the only possible way for them to be teammates again would be for Oden to somehow find his way to Memphis.
And he may have that shot now.
Like I said above, the Grizzlies really don't need Oden. It's more for Conley than anything else.
If Randolph, Marc Gasol, Marreese Speights, Arthur (or possibly Haddadi) went down with an injury, Oden could come in if he's healthy. If he does well, then that's great for the Grizzlies. If he stays injured and doesn't play, then oh well, he'll be there for Conley. Either way, it goes down as a win in my book.
Some of you may be wondering: "Seriously? You've got to be kidding me."
But hey, it could happen.
Prior to the start of last season, the Heat made one of the biggest free-agent splashes in sports history when they were able to acquire LeBron James and Chris Bosh to go along with Dwyane Wade. The new edition of the "Big Three" exponentially hurt the team's pocketbook.
Last season, James and Bosh made around $14.5 million, while Wade brought in $14 million. Combined, that's a grand total of $43 million invested in just three players last season, and they're getting paid even more this year. Teams have to have twelve players on their roster at all times, so that's at least nine spots to fill up with random players.
With not much cap space left after the two main acquisitions, the Heat had to resort to signing multiple low-tier veteran free agents who would come there and hopefully contribute. To round out the roster, players like Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Juwan Howard, Jamaal Magloire, Erick Dampier, Carlos Arroyo, Jerry Stackhouse and Mike Bibby were brought in.
Howard is the only one of those players that currently remains, while Eddy Curry was signed before the start of the season.
Besides going the route similar to last season, the Heat have rounded out their roster with rookies and two-year pros such as Terrel Harris, Dexter Pittman and Norris Cole, who actually gets decent minutes. Furthermore, Mickell Gladness has been off and on the roster throughout the season.
The point I'm trying to make here is that the Heat, a championship-contending team, usually have a few players that are just there to fill a slot, cheer on the rest of the team, occasionally sneak a high-five and watch 48 minutes of basketball. And that's what Oden can become if he stays injury-prone.
Or, if he manages to stay healthy, he could work his way into the starting rotation at some point. Let's face it, Joel Anthony is not a good player, and that's just the way it is (of course, the Heat could always use their first-round selection on a center this summer).
But if they manage to need help at center next season, Oden could be there, waiting with open arms. I'm sure the big man would be more than overjoyed to don a Heat uniform and play alongside the new "Big Three." Wouldn't you?
New York Knicks
Ah, the New York Knicks. The dysfunctional, star-ridden, inconsistent New York Knicks. Their season has been so up-and-down, it makes you wonder if they honestly think they're on a roller coaster. They are undoubtedly one of the most inconsistent teams in the NBA, but I'll stop there.
The Knicks are just a very puzzling team to me.
Not to mention, there's Jeremy Lin, a point guard that came out of nowhere to become one of the most amazing and inspiring stories in America. And you can't forget J.R. Smith either, a player who is considered to be a cancer more than a helper, but is still a quality player in the process. And oh yeah, one more thing, their abundance of point guards.
And I may have forgotten to mention that the team and head coach Mike D'Antoni parted ways Wednesday, with former Hawks leading man Mike Woodson becoming the interim head coach.
Did I miss anything? Didn't think so.
The Knicks are currently playing three players at least $13 million per season—Chandler ($13,107,837), Stoudemire ($18,217,705) and Anthony ($18,518,574). No other player on the team makes more than $2 million this season if you exclude J.R. Smith, who recently just signed a contract with the team and is making roughly $2.3 million.
Needless to say, they don't have much cap space. After all, Bill Walker makes $885,120 while Steve Novak, Baron Davis, Jared Jeffries and Mike Bibby make $854,389 apiece. Lin and Fields both make $762,195, while Josh Harrellson and Jerome Jordan make about $473,000 each.
The purpose behind all of this is that they are much like the Heat. They have copious amounts of money tied up in three players with random other players just thrown in there. Since they have such a talented corps, the team hopes to lure solid free agents there that would take a drastic pay cut (like J.R. Smith) because of the possibility of winning a championship.
That's a category Oden falls into. He's an average player that will rarely see the court if there's even the chance of him being hurt. But like I said, it's worth the risk.
If the Knicks offered Oden a deal similar to that of Bill Walker's, he should take it. For the Knicks, he'd have a solid opportunity of getting some quality playing time if he managed to stay reasonably healthy.
There's not going to be a single team out there that's going to offer him big money. Teams are going to go for a low-risk, potential high-reward situation. Oden brings that to the table, and honestly, I think he'd fit in great with the Knicks (minor sarcasm).
But hey, it could happen. The Knicks have no frontcourt depth, and Oden could end up in the Big Apple if the roster remains intact—the Knicks do not have a first-round selection this summer either.
So just remember, the Knicks have made questionable decisions before. This could just be another chapter that could have substantial benefits.
Even though Oden was born in Buffalo, New York, he went to Lawrence North High School in Indianapolis. He played college ball at Ohio State, where his success led him to be the No. 1 selection in the 2007 draft.
A return to Ohio would probably mean great things for Oden. I'm just going to take a wild guess and say that fans treated him mightily better in Ohio, as he was helping the Buckeyes win, than the fans in Portland, who constantly cursed his name when they thought of having the opportunity to pick Kevin Durant over Oden in 2007.
Not to mention, it hurt to see Oden sit on the bench in a nice suit while being paid millions and millions of dollars.
But that's just the way the cookie crumbles sometimes, I suppose.
Even though it's not a true "homecoming," I'd consider it one. It also helps that the Cavaliers are somewhat thin in the frontcourt.
As of this moment, Cleveland's frontcourt consists of the overpaid veteran Antawn Jamison, the currently sidelined Anderson Varejao, rookie Tristan Thompson and minor role players such as Luke Harangody, Semih Erden, Ryan Hollins and Samardo Samuels.
Though the Cavaliers could use their first-round selection in this year's draft on a big man, I don't think it'll happen. Jamison's $15 million salary also comes off the books at the conclusion of the season, so Dan Gilbert will have oodles of money to fool around with. But what he does with that money remains to be seen.
Could he go out and sign a contributing All-Star capable veteran? Or will he sit around and sign mediocre players to rich contracts?
We don't know yet, but Oden could be part of the latter. It's entirely possible that he could end up in Cleveland if they manage to not help the frontcourt during the offseason. He could come cheap, but I wouldn't doubt seeing Gilbert offer him a $5-plus million per season deal.
You just never know, but there's always the possibility of Oden returning to Ohio for a second time.
At one point in time last year, the Celtics were interested in somehow acquiring Oden, even though they already knew of his speckled past with injuries and—to put it nicely—it's hard not to notice what Oden has yet to accomplish in his career.
The Celtics are currently one of the oldest teams in the NBA. With the signing of Oden, the Celtics would be acquiring a young player, although he is practically a 24-year-old trapped in a 37-year-old man's body.
Currently, the team has just two centers on the roster—Jermaine O'Neal, who has primarily played power forward throughout his long career, and Greg Stiemsma, who is unproven but has shown potential since arriving from the NBA Developmental League.
A potential signing of Oden would mean that the Celtics would have to add more frontcourt depth. Because they cannot solely depend on him for all of his needs, the team would have to acquire another center through free agency or the draft.
Oden could be worth the risk, however. As stated before, he's showed potential in the past, but he has yet to actually turn that into solid play. The oft-injured Oden could do some damage in Boston if he were healthy, and not to mention, there'd be a slight chance that he could take home a championship ring.
And isn't that what all players want? Thought so.
This scenario may also seem puzzling, but it could still legitimately happen.
The Hawks have been historically thin in the frontcourt—there's no doubt about that. Al Horford, one of their best players, is practically out for the entire season. There's also Josh Smith, one of the best all-around and defensive players in the NBA. There had been rumors that Smith could be shown the door at the trade deadline, but he remained in a Hawks uniform...at least for now.
With Horford sidelined and Smith still intact, that leaves the Hawks with career backup Zaza Pachulia, the unproven yet surprising Ivan Johnson, the inconsistent career backup Vladimir Radmanovic, the seldom-used Jason Collins and the disappointing veteran Erick Dampier.
So, needless to say, the Hawks need frontcourt help, and it is likely that they'll address that via free agency or through the draft later this summer. But if they don't, Oden could be there for the taking. There's even the possibility that he could land in the south if the Hawks manage to snag up a center or two in the offseason.
If he could stay healthy, Oden would be a solid fit in Atlanta. There's no doubt he'd serve as a backup to Horford, and depending on what the team does, he could be the main center off of the bench.
Atlanta has already invested myriad amounts of money in some of their players, as Joe Johnson is currently collecting an $18 million paycheck. There's also Horford ($14.5 million), Josh Smith ($12.4 million), Kirk Hinrich ($8.1 million, although his contract is expiring) and Marvin Williams ($7.5 million).
Other than Pachulia, who is currently earning a $4.75 million paycheck, there is not a single player on the roster that is earning more than $1.6 million this season.
With that, they've shown that they have fully invested in their own version of the "Big Three." The rest of the team would be rounded out with mediocre or average players that would take minor pay cuts to play for a championship-contending team. That's where Oden comes in.
I'm sure Oden would much rather sign with a team such as the Hawks and have the chance to play, rather than sit at home and watch cartoons all day. Plus, he'd be making some money, which is never a bad thing, especially if he is injured at that point.
The Kings are one of the most confusing teams in the NBA. At we know now that they will remain in Sacramento for the foreseeable future. But their roster is still somewhat of a mess.
Their currently-highest-paid player, John Salmons, is owed $8.5 million this season and has an additional three years on his contract after the season is over. Salmons is currently having one of the worst seasons of his career, averaging 7.5 points per game, his lowest output since the 2005-06 season.
Francisco Garcia, the team's third-highest-paid player, is collecting a $5.8 million paycheck this season and has two more years left on his deal once the season concludes. Like Salmons, Garcia is having one of the worst seasons of his career, as he is averaging a career-low 5.4 points per contest.
It's just really questionable as to why two of the Kings' three highest-paid players are having such horrible seasons, yet they managed to stay with the team through the deadline. Luckily for them, the Kings have a bright future with Tyreke Evans, DeMarcus Cousins, Jimmer Fredette, Marcus Thornton, Jason Thompson and Isiah Thomas, the last pick in the 2011 draft.
There's also Chuck Hayes, who is in his first season in Sacramento. He's also having one of the worst seasons of his career and could very well be shown the door in the offseason. The same applies to the young J.J. Hickson, who is also statistically having a bad season and has been subject to trade rumors.
If the Kings were to give up on Hayes and Hickson, that leaves some slots open on the team's roster. With only Cousins and Thompson left, the Kings would all of a sudden be in dire need of a backup big man, a void Oden could fill if healthy.
Portland Trail Blazers
Of course, there's always the possibility that Oden could eventually return to the Blazers.
Yesterday, Oden was pretty much a victim of roster space. Since he's injured, the Blazers really have no need for him at this point in time. So with new players coming in, the Blazers had to do something, and unfortunately, Oden was the unlucky victim.
If the Blazers have some cap space left this summer, they could always bring back the 2007 No. 1 overall pick. He's spent his entire career with Portland, and I believe there's a good a chance as any that he eventually makes his way back there.
As stated in previous slides, there's no way that any team in the NBA will offer him a big deal. He'd likely receive a smaller deal, and the Blazers could sign him to a contract, similar to the one they restructured a while ago.
A return to Portland could happen. We'll wait and see.
(And by the way, as a Blazers fan, I don't want him back but that's just me.)
Wherever Nate McMillan Goes
As we all know, Nate McMillan became the Blazers' head coach in 2005. The team drafted Oden with the No. 1 selection in 2007.
To make room for other players, the team severed ties with Oden. They also let go of McMillan, who led the team to three playoff appearances over his time with the team. So needless to say, McMillan has been the only man to coach Greg Oden and continually give him shots.
Honestly, I believe it to be a miracle that he wasn't let go of sooner. I really had no idea how Oden had been able to stick with the Blazers for over four seasons. Most coaches and front offices would have given up on him by that point, but not McMillan.
He decided to keep him on, but the front office ultimately decided to let them both go on the same day.
There should be no doubt that McMillan will latch on somewhere else. He's a quality head coach, although he never helped the Blazers get past the second round in any of their three playoff appearances.
If he doesn't get hired as a head coach, he'd be a top-notch assistant, much like Mike Woodson, who is now the interim head coach for the Knicks after the franchise and Mike D'Antoni parted ways.
There is a possibility that Oden could sign with the same team McMillan latches on to. They know each other exceedingly well, so it makes sense. McMillan really never gave up on Oden and gave him solid playing time when he was actually on the court.
(And by the way, of course I'm not insisting that Erik Spoelstra or Gregg Popovich be fired—in those scenarios, McMillan would be an assistant. But I fully believe he'll be a head coach with someone next year.)
Europe or China
It's a completely likely scenario. If the 30 teams currently in the NBA feel that Oden is not worth the risk, he could head overseas in hopes of revitalizing his injury-prone career. It wouldn't be the first time it happened.
Over the years, we've seen a multitude of recently-released players who could not find spots on NBA rosters. So to do what they love, these players would head overseas to show NBA teams that they still got some gas left in the tank.
Examples include: Allen Iverson, Stephon Marbury, David Harrison, Marcus Haislip, Taurean Green, Rodney Carney, Josh Boone, Rodney White, Josh Powell, Ike Diogu and James Singleton. Oden could become the newest name on that list.
Not to mention, players like Wilson Chandler, Sonny Weems, Kenyon Martin and Aaron Brooks left prior to the NBA season because they were fearful there would be no NBA season.
Now that the lockout is officially over and there will undoubtedly be future seasons, players don't have to worry, but anyone could still go overseas if he wanted to.
Additionally, Oden could become an attraction overseas. He's a former No. 1 overall pick—that could fill arenas if he remained healthy. I'm sure fans over there would be clamoring to see the Greg Oden, a former collegiate star and a former No. 1 overall selection.
It works out for both sides—Oden would be able to hopefully revitalize his career in a new country, while the lucky team he goes to would be able to fill seats and be the team that got Oden's career on track.
For all we know, if Oden doesn't sign on somewhere or go overseas, he could call it a career. You just never know.
As we've seen in the past, recently-departed people in the sports world like to go to ESPN to be analysts, such as former Spur Bruce Bowen, ex-Knick Jalen Rose, former offensive lineman Damien Woody, former Red Sox fan favorite Nomar Garciaparra and former Browns head coach Eric Mangini.
There's also NASCAR's Dale Jarrett, who retired a couple of seasons back, and hockey's Barry Melrose, who at one point took a head coaching job, only to be let go and then immediately go back to ESPN.
Oden could fall into one of those categories. It probably wouldn't matter too much for ESPN, as they are already the main sports network and no one really even comes close. So having a former No. 1 overall NBA pick really wouldn't do much for their ratings.
And honestly, it'd be a funny sight to see a 7'0" Oden, in a bow tie, talking basketball on ESPN.
If he can't find a job playing basketball, then there may be a job waiting for him in Bristol to talk about basketball.