Greg Oden: Is It Smart for the Portland Trail Blazers To Extend Him?

Allen KimSenior Analyst INovember 24, 2010

OAKLAND, CA - NOVEMBER 20:  Greg Oden #52 of the Portland Trail Blazers looks on against the Golden State Warriors during an NBA game at Oracle Arena on November 20, 2009 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

Here we go again.

Greg Oden just recently underwent yet another microfracture surgery on the same knee that kept him out of the 2007-08 NBA season.

Things were looking fairly promising for Oden and his return to the court just a few short weeks ago. However, a recent MRI revealed damage to the surface of his femur.

This is yet another setback in a career that has been marred by injuries from the very beginning.

Portland president Larry Miller recently went on record saying that the Blazers plan on offering Greg a qualifying offer of $8.8 million in order to retain his rights as a restricted free agent in the offseason.

"If Greg Oden plays up to his potential he is worth that," Miller said. "We will see where (rehabilitation) things are at that level. But at this point, I don't see us not giving the offer if Greg is doing the things we need to see him doing to get back on the court. That's how I feel. If he is doing those things, we want to keep Greg around. I don't feel like I'm ready to give up on Greg Oden. I don't think anybody in our organization is ready."

It's good to see the organization continue to have faith in Oden, but is it really a wise decision to invest that much money into him?

Since his rookie season, Greg has only played in 82 games. To put that in perspective, he has played the equivalent of one full season since being drafted just over three years ago. By the time this season comes to a close, Oden will have played in just 25 percent of the games he was eligible for.

In spite of all his injuries, Oden is a rare talent and fits into the mold of a true center, something that you seldom see in the NBA these days.

Greg is a legitimate seven footer that tips the scales at roughly 285 lbs. As the saying goes, you can't teach size, and he possesses the type of imposing physique that any franchise covets.

Of course, Oden is not just a big body. He's unbelievably athletic for his size and has the natural defensive instincts that coaches can only dream of. He has also shown that he is capable of making an impact at both the collegiate and NBA level.

In his lone year at Ohio State University, Oden helped lead the Buckeyes to the National Championship game. On the biggest stage of his young career, Oden stepped up in a big way and recorded 25 points, 12 rebounds and four blocked shots. While it was in a losing effort to the Florida Gators and their dominant front line made up of Joakim Noah and Al Horford, Oden showed the sort of toughness and tenacity that is required at the pro level.

Keep in mind that Greg managed to lead his team just short of a title with a bum right wrist that limited his output. He managed to average 15.7 points, 9.6 rebounds and 3.3 blocks that year, all while primarily using his off-hand.

Imagine what he could have done with his dominant hand at full strength.

Even with limited playing time while with Portland, Oden provided glimpses of the sort of impact he's capable of providing.

Through 21 games last year, Oden averaged 11.1 points per game while hauling in 8.5 rebounds and blocking 2.3 shots. He managed to put up those numbers in just under 24 minutes per game. Spread that production out over 36 minutes and you get 16.7 points, 12.8 rebounds and 3.4 blocks.

These tantalizing numbers are what makes him so enticing as a prospect.

In hindsight, picking Greg Oden over Kevin Durant was clearly a colossal mistake. However, at the time of the draft, not many questioned the pick. Greg was seen as a dominant defensive force and the final missing piece to the championship puzzle.

Despite his string of bad luck, Oden has managed to keep his head up and work through all of the setbacks he has faced thus far.

While Greg is not likely to ever live up to his billing as a No. 1 overall draft pick—especially since Portland chose him over Kevin Durant—all hope is not lost.

At this juncture, Greg rides that fine line between what could have been, and what could still be. There is still a glimmer of hope for Oden's future prospects.

Even with his fragile injury history, Oden deserves another chance to turn his career around. He's only 22 years old, and he hasn't even begun to scratch the surface of the immense potential lurking inside of him.

Players like Greg only come around once every decade or so, and if it isn't Portland, there will be plenty of teams knocking at the door.

With Paul Allen's deep coffers, the organization can certainly afford to give him one more chance.