The No. 1 pick in the 2007 draft hasn’t played a game in the league since 2009, but he’s only 25 years old and still has plenty of potential—if healthy.
Let’s take a look at the latest rumblings on the injury-plagued star’s potential return to the Association, the organizations that may be interested and more.
After it was initially reported that Oden would potentially try to be ready for the tail end of the 2012-13 season, it seems that he’s instead gunning to suit up in time for the 2013-14 tip.
This is a wise call, especially for someone who has knees as fragile as the former Ohio State Buckeyes product.
According to ESPN’s Chris Broussard, the big man is currently working out in Indianapolis and at the OSU campus in Columbus, Ohio. He underwent the same Orthokine procedure that Kobe Bryant made famous this past fall.
After undergoing multiple knee surgeries during his five years in the league, Oden was only able to participate in 82 total games. He missed the equivalent of four seasons and it has been—and will continue to be—an arduous process for the talented young man to get back on the hardwood.
As per Broussard, there are a handful of franchises closely following Oden’s rehabilitation process, and a few may even consider doling out a contract to add him to the roster prior to the end of this season.
The San Antonio Spurs, New Orleans Hornets (soon to be Pelicans), Charlotte Bobcats, Indiana Pacers, Dallas Mavericks, Cleveland Cavaliers and Miami Heat are all rumored to be inquiring about the much-maligned big.
Miami has long been linked as a potential landing spot for Oden if he is found fit to return, as the organization has had no qualms with gambling on a high-potential center during the LeBron James era.
While Eddy Curry and the other projects haven’t panned out, that hasn’t deterred team president Pat Riley from exploring all options in order to bring in a serviceable and—more importantly—cheap post player to augment Chris Bosh.
However, the Heat aren’t able to offer much more than the veteran’s minimum to Oden, while a team with plenty of cap space—such as the Cavs—could come in and guarantee more money, as risky as the proposition sounds.
Wherever Oden winds up, it will be good to see him back on the court and actively playing in the NBA. He has so much untapped potential and was the No. 1 pick (over Kevin Durant) for a reason.
When he was healthy, the big fellow was an absolute menace in the paint and used his large frame to grab rebounds, block shots and score buckets. If he has any semblance of those skills left and can avoid further injuries, Oden will be a great pickup in free agency.