Former No. 1 pick Greg Oden has a lot to think about heading into a comeback season. After a few knee surgeries, he will need a destination with the least amount of pressure for him to produce early.
Oden has not played in the league since the 2009-10 season, and has played only 82 games since Portland drafted him No. 1 overall in 2007. As of today, the Spurs, Miami Heat, and Dallas Mavericks are rumored to be the leading suitors for his NBA comeback.
What makes the Spurs the best spot for Oden is the fact that they don't really need him. If Oden takes his talents to The Alamo City, he won't be needed to play big minutes early. He can play for a coach who knows the best way to assign minutes, and he can learn the ins and outs from one of the best to ever play.
Last season the Spurs were one game away from winning another NBA title, a season which saw them rank No. 7 in offensive efficiency and No. 3 in defensive efficiency. San Antonio also finished No. 2 in effective field goal percentage at 53.1 percent, just behind the champion Heat.
For his career, which consists of only two seasons, Oden possesses averages of 9.4 points per game, 7.3 rebounds per game and 1.4 blocks per game while converting at a 57.7 percent clip. A healthy Oden is efficient, but he wouldn't be an imperative piece for the Spurs to utilize, which would help him readjust to minutes in the league.
San Antonio finished last season No. 17 among NBA teams with a 49.3 rebounding rate. They also finished No. 19 in turnover ratio. Oden is a true 7-footer who can easily get team 10 rebounds a game when healthy and averages only 1.5 turnovers a game for his career.
Statistically, Oden can greatly benefit from the Spurs efficiency and depth while the Spurs could benefit from the strengths of a healthy former No. 1 pick. From a coaching perspective, the benefits are also prevalent.
Gregg Popovich has long been considered one of the best and smartest coaches in the NBA. His ability to center his game plans around his player's strengths and play efficient basketball with a number of different lineups in unparalleled.
Last season, Popovich's starting lineup was No. 24 in the league in minutes played per game with 29.3 while sitting at No. 2 in the league with 100 total games played. While the Spurs' bench was No. 7 in the league in minutes played, these statistics prove his ability to coach with any lineup.
The starting center for the Spurs, Tiago Splitter, averaged only 24.7 minutes per game for the season. A starting-caliber player in forward DeJuan Blair averaged only 14 minutes per game.
In short, Popovich knows how to best allocate minutes to ensure health and efficiency from any team on the floor. Oden is an All-Star player when completely healthy and Popovich can maximize his talents.
The profit of playing for Pop is endless, but another leader on the Spurs could have the biggest impact on Oden's eventual success. Greg Oden can learn from Tim Duncan, both on and off the court.
Duncan had the privilege of teaming with Hall of Fame center David Robinson in his first six seasons in the league, allowing him to develop into a star while learning the ropes from one of the best. While the comparison between the two tandems isn't really solid, an argument can be made for it.
Obviously Oden is not at the level of a Duncan or a Robinson, but who's to say he wouldn't be if his chronic knee injuries were out of the equation? Oden proved to be the No. 1 selection in the 2007 NBA Draft, overtaking Kevin Durant for that top spot.
If Oden had the chance to play alongside Duncan, he would see first-hand how a humble veteran, who won the Sportsman of the Year award in 2003, does it every day.
Duncan has career averages of 20.2 points, 11.2 rebounds and 2.2 blocks while averaging 50.7 percent shooting from the field. This is enough to detail the benefits of playing with one of the best power forwards of All-Time.
All things considered, Greg Oden needs the Spurs more than they need him and that should be the selling point for him.
With a storied history of injuries, Oden needs a team where he won't be thrown into a large amount of minutes early on, a team that can play with a methodical pace and game plan, and a team that has veteran leadership to show him how to conduct himself both professionally and physically.
With the Spurs, Oden will eventually be a top-10 NBA center, especially when Duncan rides off into the sunset.
And if he doesn't become this, at least it won't be because he was forced into too much too soon.