NBA Free Agency: What Is Portland Trail Blazers' Greg Oden Actually Worth?

Jesse DorseyFeatured ColumnistJune 30, 2011

CHICAGO - NOVEMBER 01: Greg Oden #52 of the Portland Trail Blazers watches from the bench as his teammates take on the Chicago Bulls at the United Center on November 1, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bulls defeated the Trail Blazers 110-98. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

According to multiple sources, the Portland Trail Blazers extended a qualifying offer to oft-injured center Greg Oden worth $8.8 million.

Now, Oden has spent more time on the bench for the Blazers in his four years in Portland, missing 246 combined games since he was drafted, playing just 82 games in that time.

The $8.8 million offer doesn't mean that Oden is going to be a Blazer without question next year, but it pretty much puts him out of reach for most other teams.  He is a restricted free agent, so other teams are free to offer him more money, but the Blazers would have the opportunity to match that offer and re-sign him.

Talk has already started that the offer is too large for Oden, whose future is always in question when considering that he is a seven-foot tall man with knees that may or may not exist at this point.  He has been hailed as yet another Portland big man to lose a career to injury.

First I thought that maybe Portland knew something that we don't know. After all, they and their doctors have had access to him for the past four years.  Who knows, maybe his knees are looking better than we all expected, or possibly he was diagnosed with a Benjamin Button disease and he'll go from an ailing old guy to a savvy veteran to a player at his peak and then slowly degrade into a rookie, at which point he'll retire.

Maybe not.

The question this signing has put into my mind is regarding what contract Greg Oden should have gotten.  What exactly is he worth?

So let's go over the pros and cons and see exactly what the Blazers are thinking here.



In the 82 games that Greg Oden has played, he has been quite good.  Hell, I would go as far as to say that he is a top 10 center when he is completely healthy.

His per 36-minute averages are 15 points and 12 rebounds with 2.3 blocks a game.  In the 21 games he played a year ago, he averaged 17 points, 13 rebounds and 3.4 blocks per 36 minutes.

I'm convinced that if Oden could stay in the lineup long enough to get into a groove and play with his team often enough that he would be able to stay on the floor for 30 or so minutes a game. 

Two years ago when he played a whole 21 games straight, he scored in double figures 12 times, had eight or more rebounds 13 times and had multiple blocks in 14 games, not fouling out once, so it's obvious there is improvement in his game.

However, there is a lot of gamble when we're talking about signing Greg Oden.



The cons here are so obvious and so many that I almost don't even need to talk about it.

DALLAS - FEBRUARY 04:  Greg Oden #52 of the Portland Trail Blazers during play against the Dallas Mavericks on February 4, 2009 at American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Greg Oden had microfracture surgery on his right knee back in September of 2007. In the middle of the 2008-09 season he was out for a few weeks when he knocked knees with Corey Maggette, chipping his left knee cap.  Then, in December 2009 he suffered yet another knee injury and had to have surgery on his left patella.  Finally, this season he had microfracture surgery on his right knee.

I can't take credit for this one as much as I love it (joke via Victor Hidalgo), but you could say that Oden has been wearing more blazers in the past four years than playing in games for them.

Besides that, I only have one real problem with Oden's style of play.  Oden is quite a foul prone player, averaging four a game in just 22 minutes played over the course of his career.  I would expect that to go down, however, with more time played in actual live game situations.


So, that leaves the question, how much should he make?

On one hand, how many centers can you list that have had surgeries on both knees only to come back and have productive careers?  Better yet, how many centers out there have had multiple knee surgeries and come back to have any career? The list is almost nonexistent.

However, I can't really say with confidence that he will never play a completely healthy season in the NBA.  With the advances in modern medicine, an adjustment in the way he plays and just some good luck (which Portland has to run into eventually, right?) he could still overcome his early career injuries.

OAKLAND, CA - NOVEMBER 20:  Greg Oden #52 of the Portland Trail Blazers shoots 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

When you think about it, Portland has to re-sign Oden for any price that doesn't induce a jaw-dropping reaction.  If they let him leave and he has a healthy season they'll look like they gave up on him too early.

What they did by re-signing him for a year was make it so they have another season to assess his progress both as a player and as a human recovering from multiple surgeries over the past four years.  If he get's injured again, then big deal, they're out $9 million and they can let him go next season.

They keep him on a team that was a sixth seed in a still tough Western Conference that lost to the eventual champions with a natural power forward playing center.  If he can come back and give them 15 to 20 minutes a game starting out and stay healthy through January, they can start to ramp up his minutes and test his body.

In all I love the offer the Blazers have given Oden, it scares teams off who were only half serious about him and keeps them from driving up the price and shows everyone else (including Oden) that they are thoroughly committed to Oden, something that should give him confidence merely for the fact that the organization is that committed to him.

I really hope Oden can come back from injuries; it's not every day you see a guy who could potentially average 20 and 15 with three blocks on the side.

It has to be this year though, if he stays hurt this season then even I will stop defending him, he will be relegated to a sixth man at the best in his future, and will never get to the height that we all once thought he could get to.