NBA Free Agents 2011: 10 Teams That Need to Sign Greg Oden This Summer

Joel C. Cordes@@bballJoelNBA Associate EditorMay 9, 2011

NBA Free Agents 2011: 10 Teams That Need to Sign Greg Oden This Summer

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    Greg Oden has played a full 82 games.  The problem is that's a total over the past three seasons.  Still, the former No. 1 draft pick could be an asset to a number of teams next year.

    The "cons" surrounding Greg Oden are certainly well known by this point: 

    He's probably never going to be a super-star.  His body continues to be a ticking time bomb.  There's no way he's worth $6 million per year.  His offensive moves are limited.  His Sam Bowie impression has probably scared Portland away from him for good.

    Make no mistake about it though, there are still plenty of legitimate "pros" when it comes to the "man who went before Kevin Durant":

    He's only 23 years old.  His career numbers are actually pretty darn good for someone only playing 22 minutes per game.  He is a legitimate shot blocker and rebounder.

    Like Blake Griffin, this agonizingly long time spent on the bench has not necessarily been in vain.  Greg Oden is also a very cerebral player who has gotten a chance to study the game A LOT during the past few years.

    Consensus is that Greg Oden will certainly be worth another look over the next couple of seasons.  Yet, because of the risks inherent with his health situation, Oden may struggle to make more than a minimum salary next year.

    Expect a lot of teams to pursue him on one and two year deals in the $1-3 million dollar per year range.  Oden will have to prove himself worthy of anything more lucrative, but he's certainly going to be given the chances.

    Here are the top 10 teams who could benefit from having a healthy Greg Oden around:

Los Angeles Lakers

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    Outside of the rarely seen Theo Ratliff and Joe Smith, the Los Angeles Lakers really only use Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol at their center spots. 

    Though Gasol has certainly struggled during the Lakers' current Playoff debacle, both he and Bynum have typically been sufficient, especially with super-sub Lamar Odom available at power forward. 

    Still, the Lakers could stand to add a competent insurance policy for depth. 

    Greg Oden's size alone is a nice match with this gargantuan front line.  At the same time, this would be a fantastic situation for Oden to reboot his career. 

    A lot of eyes might be on him in L.A., but expectations would be fairly low.  He'd merely need to provide a few quality minutes on defense while he continues to get healthy. 

    Even if he suffers minor setbacks, the Lakers already would have their front-line core in place without him.

    Though Phil Jackson may be moving on after this season, Greg Oden is certainly the type of low-risk center reclamation project that Jackson used to especially excel with.  No matter who's coaching the Lakers next year, Oden would be worth a low-cost look.

New York Knicks

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    Greg Oden isn't a lumbering behemoth, but he's not exactly a gazelle either.  That automatically makes him a curious fit for such a fast-paced team like the New York Knicks.

    Yet, when one remembers that the Knicks' center spot was so shallow following the Carmelo Anthony trade that they had to start Ronny Turiaf and back him up with Jared Jeffries and Shelden Williams, having Greg Oden alongside Amar'e Stoudemire suddenly doesn't sound so bad.

    Ronny Turiaf certainly gives the effort and deserves to play at least 20 minutes per game, but he's not a full-time starter. Oden might not be ready for big minutes yet either, but he and Turiaf could effectively split time together. 

    Oden would take a lot of defensive pressure off Amar'e Stoudemire. In fact, camping Oden under the basket for rebounds while Amar'e outlets for fast breaks would be a huge improvement over this season's final product. 

    Oden doesn't have to run if the rest of the Knicks can.  He just has to clean the glass and start the break. 

    The Knicks just need a few big bodies who can play.  A healthy Greg Oden would be worth the minimal financial risks at this point.

Miami Heat

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    In case you haven't heard, the Miami Heat's centers aren't good.  Maybe you've also heard that they don't have a lot of money to spend anymore either.

    When it comes to Miami's centers, Joel Anthony certainly does battle, but his skill set limitations should be keeping him as a 12-15 minute player, whether as a spot starter or off the bench. Instead, he's typically averaged twice that amount. 

    Zydrunas Ilguaskas, Jamal Magloire and Erick Dampier were all solid players in their day, but they've recently embodied the very definition of "stiff."

    With Magloire, Dampier and Juwan Howard's contracts set to expire this offseason, the Heat would be wise to sign Greg Oden to a part or all of that $2.5 million. 

    They don't need a scorer, but having a guy around who can finish a little at the basket, block some shots and clog the paint (while actually pulling down the ball) would be a huge upgrade over the "walking dead" front line that they currently employ.

    If Oden is healthy, he'll pair extremely well in taking a big chunk of minutes from Anthony and Ilguaskas. 

    If he struggles with his health again, then the Heat are right back to using the same guys they're currently getting by with.  That's relatively low risk with a lot of potential reward.

Atlanta Hawks

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    The Atlanta Hawks like to keep a few spare centers around.  In fact, they went into the Playoffs with six on their roster, five of which were activated at all times.

    Besides preferring to move Al Horford to his natural power forward spot against over-sized opponents, the Hawks especially like to send waves of bodies at the likes of Dwight Howard

    Doing so allowed them to continuously shuffle six fouls at him while successfully playing the rest of the Orlando Magic straight up.

    With Jason Collins, Hilton Armstrong, Etan Thomas and Josh Powell's contracts all up at the end of this season, the Hawks will be looking to replenish their center stock around Horford and Zaza Pachulia.

    Were the Hawks able to re-sign Jason Collins to the veteran minimum and then bring in Greg Oden on a reasonable deal, they'd have more quality at the position without needing the additional quantity. 

    Oden would be a nice option in that he could start alongside Horford, depending on the matchup, while also being a more than competent backup when Horford and Josh Smith get their turn at the post spots.

Detroit Pistons

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    Unlike the Atlanta Hawks, the Detroit Pistons only carried one center on their roster all year. 

    They tried to dredge up one more season from Ben Wallace while then relying on forwards Greg Monroe and Jason Maxiell to play out of position.

    This jump-shot happy team desperately needs another post presence to pair with the promising Monroe. 

    Oden might not give them all the post scoring they need, but his length and shot blocking would nicely compliment Greg Monroe, allowing him to slide back to his natural spot at the four.

    The Pistons' half-court pace and collection of shooters would also work well, as Oden doesn't need the ball a lot, but would be able to occasionally collapse defenses and open up the arc.

    Despite Detroit's curiously strained budge, with Tayshaun Prince's $11 million coming off the books next year, the Pistons could afford a half-way decent offer to Oden, while also bringing in another middling big for insurance. 

Orlando Magic

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    The Orlando Magic certainly have a lot of questions looming this offseason, but they don't necessarily have a lot of options. 

    Outside of Jason Richardson's expiring $14.4 million contract, they don't have a lot of cap room with which to retool around a pensive Dwight Howard.

    While they'll need to find some additional shot creaters, the Magic are also badly in need of another big who can spot minutes for and with their All-Star center. 

    Ever since Marcin Gortat was traded to the Phoenix Suns, the Magic have sported one of the shallowest front lines in the league. 

    Brandon Bass and Ryan Anderson should both still be part of the equation, but neither of them should be playing minutes at center. 

    Expecting Malik Allen or Earl Clark to cover Howard during moments of foul trouble or potential injury is just plain stupid.

    While Greg Oden's inability to stretch the floor might not mesh well with Howard's similar limitations, this scenario with Orlando would only require him to play a few minutes per game and act as a comforting insurance policy. 

    If Howard actually would leave Orlando within the next year, then the Magic would at least have someone to man the paint while they assessed their options and rebuilt. 

    At only 23 years old, Greg Oden could actually turn out to be one of them.

Cleveland Cavaliers

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    Can the Cleveland Cavaliers use this off-season to turn their random collection of players and assets into a discernible plan for the future?

    Anderson Varejao and J.J. Hickson very well could be their front line going forward.  Semih Erden also has a place in this league.  

    Yet, it's questionable as to whether Luke Harangody and Samardo Samuels have the upside, or whether Ryan Hollins has the mindset, to be major rotation guys for the Cavs.

    Cleveland obviously has to draft and sign scoring and star power this off-season, but Greg Oden would also be an intriguing acquisition for them.  

    The Cavaliers would get to take a look at what Oden has left to offer, while not having to place a lot of expectations on him either.

    What's more, because both Varejao and Hickson can play the power forward, it's not out of the question that Oden and Erden could BOTH fill reasonable roles.  That would be a front-line rotation with a ton of size and pretty decent mobility. 

    Jump shooting would be an issue, but the entire unit is also young enough to hone their skills together.

San Antonio Spurs

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    As I've discussed time and again, the San Antonio Spurs desperately need to add a player who can protect the rim and clean the boards.

    The Spurs' lack of athleticism was especially apparent during their recent First Round ouster against the Memphis Grizzlies' enormous front line. 

    While Oden wouldn't initiate a lot of low post scoring, he'd be a legitimate seven-foot pairing with whatever Tim Duncan has left.

    Make no mistake about it, I'm not suggesting that adding Greg Oden would fix all of San Antonio's roster concerns. 

    At the same time, his youth is definitely intriguing.  If he can add some front-line beef this year, and then possibly develop alongside Tiago Splitter and DeJuan Blair, the Spurs might find their big man rotation of the future.

    The Spurs built more than a decade's worth of NBA excellence by taking calculated risks that offered huge rewards, even if they were unforeseen by peers. 

    Greg Oden may never regain the ability that made him the No. 1 pick in 2007.  At the same time, if he can just stay healthy at all, he'd offer the Spurs a lot of the length and physicality that they so badly need.

Toronto Raptors

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    The Toronto Raptors had only two centers on their roster last season: Andrea Bargnani and Alexis Ajinca.

    One of those big men with girls' names excels at long jump shots, is not a post presence, does not rebound particularily well and can't protect the rim.

    The other is Alexis Ajinca.


    Hopefully you're starting to see how the Raptors were not only the 2nd worst team in the Eastern Conference last year, but why they were also in the league's bottom third when it came to rebounding and shot blocking.

    This is one of those teams desperately in need of a big body who can simply run the floor once in awhile and protect the paint. 

    For having a roster so devoid of star-power, the Raptors sure don't have a lot of cap space.  However, they cold afford a reasonable deal for Oden, and would be able to guarantee him a starting spot, if healthy.

    Bringing in Greg Oden would not only move the overwhelmed Amir Johnson back to the bench for a year or two, but would allow Bargnani to return to his more natural power forward spot. 

    That Oden has to play near the basket in order to be effective would actually work out quite nicely, as Bargnani could go back to perfecting his "Diet Dirk" impression.  (One he'll be quite good at by the way.)

Portland Trail Blazers

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    Every game that Greg Oden misses or struggles in becomes just another reminder that Kevin Durant plays for the Oklahoma City Thunder

    As frustrating as that thought is, this is worse: Greg Oden needs to get healthy and last a few more seasons just to get into Sam Bowie career territory.

    Surely the best option for the Portland Trail Blazers would be to cut ties now and move on from the disappointment and their sense of deja' vu?

    I'm not so sure about that...

    Firstly, the Blazers still do need a lot of help on their front-line.  Marcus Camby was able to gut out another effective season as a rebounder and shot-blocker, but his plummeting point totals noticeably betrayed his age. 

    Even though Nic Batum and Gerald Wallace can certainly board with the best of them, outside of Camby and LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland was badly in need of size in the low post.

    Like Brandon Roy, if Greg Oden can simply provide quality minutes at this point, he's going to be a major asset to the new-wave core that Portland has assembled.  He doesn't have to be a star or live up to former expectations. 

    If Greg Oden gets healthy and proves halfway competent, he could be a key sub on a string of legitimate Blazer contenders. 

    That in and of itself would provide a lot of catharsis to such a star-crossed but ultimately admirable franchise.

    What's more, how badly would it sting if, after all this, Greg Oden went on to do all the things mentioned above for someone else instead?