Before the start of the season I wrote, Greg Oden: How Good Can He Be as a Redshirt Rookie? In it, I looked at the games, and rookie stats of some of the all-time great centers who were top draft picks in the past few decades.
I started with Hakeem Olajuwon, worked my way through Shaquille O'Neal and finished with Dwight Howard. Most agreed that Oden possessed many qualities of Patrick Ewing, but he isn't refined offensively like many great big men entering the league.
Then the season started, and Oden had the ankle injury. Since, Oden has worked his way into the starting lineup. He has had flashes, like a 22 point 10 rebound game against Golden State. He has also had the hands-in-the-head nights, most recently an 11 minute outing where he had two points and one rebound against Orlando.
Through 17 games Oden's numbers are: 21.3 MPG, 7.6 PPG, .489 FG percentage, 7.4 RPG, 1.5 BPG, 1.7 TPG, 3.7 FPG
Although I don't think Oden will ultimately go down this path, let’s take a look at how bad it could get.
Sam Bowie, Second Pick, 1984
1984-85: 76 G, 29.2 MPG, 10.0 PPG, .537 FG%, 8.6 RPG, 2.7 BPG, 2.3 TPG, 3.7 FPG
The possible Bowie-outcome looms over the heads of Blazers fans like a crown of thorns. It's not so much that Oden's game skills are reminiscent of Bowie's, its the injury factor. Sam Bowie never played 82 games in his 10 year career, and came into the Blazers organization injured.
Looking at their stats, both players have an affinity for fouls. As Oden works on his quickness, gets used to the NBA speed, and limits the stupid fouls, he can change his ways. I truly hope Greg Oden does not have a career that is defined by injuries like Bowie. Bowie being picked before Michael Jordan didn't help things either.
Rik Smits, Second Pick, 1988
1988-89: 82 G, 24.9 MPG, 11.7 PPG, .517 FG%, 6.1 RPG, 1.8 BPG, 1.6 TPG, 3.8 FPG
Rik Smits, affectionately known as the "Dunkin' Dutchman", had a successful NBA career that resulted in one All-Star appearance and one NBA Final appearance in 11 seasons with the Indiana Pacers. Surprisingly, for being 7'4" Smits never has a double-digit rebound average in his career.
Smits' offensive game was much more refined than Oden's as he could hit free-throws, and knock down jumpers. Oden is a much better rebounder and shot blocker than Smits, but they both fall victim to foul trouble. Although they are different players, if Oden can have the success that Smits had he would not be considered a let-down.
Shawn Bradley, Second Pick, 1993
1993-94: 49 G, 28.3 MPG, 10.3 PPG, .409 FG%, 6.2 RPG, 3.0 BPG, 3.0 TPG, 3.5 FPG
No player in the NBA has been the butt of more jokes then Shawn Bradley. The closest he came to being a star NBA player was his role in Space Jam. Oden provides similar comedic value in his ESPN and local-TV Blazers' comercials but unlike Bradley, Oden is feared on the court.
Bradley and Oden share the injury bug, and while Oden is more efficient he still needs to step his game up to outshine Bradley's numbers. Unfortunately if Oden cannot learn to foul less, and play more minutes, he won't get the opportunities he needs to. It sickens me to have to realize that Oden could go down this path.
Michael Olowokandi, First Pick, 1998
1998-99: 45 G, 28.4 MPG, 8.9 PPG, .431 FG%, 7.9 RPG, 1.2 BPG, 1.9 TPG, 3.0 FPG
The Kandi Man's game was not-so sweet, especially his career 43.5 field goal and 59.7 free-throw percentages. Oden already has more offensive game then Olowokandi, he has more of a repertoire and is a better dunker.
Early in his career, 'Kandi showed he could grab some boards, and block some shots. Just as it looked like he was ready to solidify himself in the Clippers front-court, the injuries came. As long as Oden has a ten year career, he will be a better pick than Olowokandi, but that's not saying much.
Kwame Brown, First Pick, 2001
2001-02: 57 G, 14.4 MPG, 4.5 PPG, .387 FG%, 3.5 RPG, 0.5 BPG, 0.8 TPG, 1.8 FPG
Kwame Brown has successfully unseated Olowokandi as the worst first pick of all-time. Brown was more of a PF/C, but much like Oden scouts drooled over his rare physical gifts at a young age.
Oden is a much better defensive player than Brown, and the only thing Brown could do better is get up for an alley-oop dunk. As long as Oden isn't out of the league in a few years, he will not be mentioned in the same break of Kwame Brown when it's all said and done.
Darko Milicic, Second Pick, 2003
2003-04: 34 G, 4.7 MPG, 1.4 PPG, .262 FG%, 1.3 RPG, 0.5 BPG, 0.4 TPG, 1.0 FPG
Now Oden has already surpassed Darko, but I felt it was necessary to include him as a potential bust. Darko is the black sheep in one of the best drafts of all-time, and was a result of the ESPN hype-machine.
Milicic is a below average rebounder, doesn't move like he was supposed to, and cannot shoot like mist European bigs. Oden was better then Darko possibly as a 16 year old, but now there is no question.
Andrew Bogut, First Pick, 2005
2005-06: 82 G, 28.6 MPG, 9.4 PPG, .533 FG%, 7.0 RBG, 0.8 BPG, 1.5 TPG, 3.2 FPG
This season Bogut is having his first double-double average, and around the league the general consensus is that he's an above-average center. Bogut is not the athlete that Oden is, but he does have better touch around the basket.
Both players have trouble with fouling, and shooting free-throws. Oden is a much better shot blocker, and his defense sets him apart from Bogut. Their games may not duplicate, but they could have similar numbers, going down as players who weren’t stellar, but did not bust.
When we look at all of the players and numbers, Sam Bowie, Shawn Bradley, and Andrew Bogut are the three who Oden could most possibly follow from a numbers perspective; but I think his career will not fall below the success of Rik Smits.
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