NBA Rumors: Teams Would Be Smart to Take a Flier on Greg Oden

Joseph ZuckerFeatured ColumnistJanuary 11, 2013

Greg Oden may make a return to the NBA
Greg Oden may make a return to the NBAJonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Greg Oden can resurrect his NBA career.

Insider Ric Bucher posted on Sulia that Oden is working toward making a return either sometime this year or next fall. The post in full:

Someone asked in my Comcast/NBC chat yesterday about Greg Oden and whether he'd ever play again. I'm told by Mike Conley, his college teammate at Ohio State, that Greg is back in Columbus, taking classes and trying to get into playing shape and that he hopes to be available to hit the free-agent market and join a team before the end of this season. If he can't get his body right by then or there isn't sufficient interest, he intends to take another shot at it next fall. The takeaway: Oden hasn't given up on resuming his -- or, perhaps more accurately, having a -- NBA career.

Should Oden return to full health, it is worth taking a chance on the oft-injured big man. His story is well-known by now, so there's no need to recap it all.

This time around, the center wouldn't have to carry the weight of expectations. Everyone has gotten over the fact that he'll never be a dominant starting center or match the career of Kevin Durant.

When you look at the numbers from the 82 regular-season games he played, Oden wasn't all that bad.

In 2008-09, he played in 61 games and averaged 8.9 points and seven rebounds. The following season, even though he was only on the court 21 times, Oden showed quite a bit more of his potential. He averaged 11.1 points, 8.9 rebounds and 2.3 blocks a game.

Those aren't the numbers of an elite center. Again, though, nobody would be asking him to try to be the top option for an offense.

A team could put him on the bench and have him play 15 to 20 minutes a night unless he could handle more as his career progressed. Oden provides a very strong defensive ability in the low post and capable rebounding skills.

Losing what explosiveness he possessed hurts, however, it's not as if Oden needs to be able to jump out of the gym, or jump at all, with his size.

In today's NBA, the prototypical big man is being outmoded a bit. You don't see offenses revolving around feeding a big guy in the post like in the 1990s, when Shaquille O'Neal, Hakeem Olajuwon and David Robinson prowled the paint.

The league is also in a place where there are so few talented centers out there that when one actually does well, it's up to the opposition to gameplan for him.

That's why everybody would love to have a guy like Dwight Howard or Andrew Bynum. Centers aren't necessary for success in the league, but they can cause fits for the teams that don't have one.

While the on-court product is a huge risk, an area the team wouldn't have to worry about is Oden's off-court self. As soon as he hit the NBA, Oden became one of the more marketable players because of his easygoing personality and dry sense of humor.

Don't remember? Here's a refresher.

Let's not forget that Oden is still only 24 years old. His physical appearance and state of his knees make him seem to be in his mid-40s.

He's had plenty of time off, so his knees should be as ready as they'll ever be.

Oden is the kind of low-risk, high-reward acquisition that any NBA team should be running at as fast as it can to complete when the center is ready.