While the Orlando Magic traded away a former seven-foot No. 1 draft pick, there have been rumblings of another former seven-foot No. 1 draft pick possibly coming to Orlando to play for the Magic.
When the Magic traded away Dwight Howard as part of a four-team deal, they lost a franchise center. The package the team got in return made it clear that this team is in full-rebuilding mode. It seems bottoming out and getting another crack at the top pick in the NBA Draft wouldn’t be an unwelcome event for management.
But as the team looks to the future and life after Dwight Howard one player that there have been rumors of coming to Orlando and working to take Howard’s place in the lineup is former top-pick Greg Oden.
Oden, like Howard, has been a bit indecisive about his future in the NBA. In an interview with Grantland writer and former Ohio State teammate Mark Titus, Oden said he plans to take the 2012-2013 season off in order to properly rehab his knee.
“I just want to play basketball. I could've signed with a team after Portland cut me and just sat on the bench and collected paychecks, but that's not my style,” he said. “That just seems really unethical. Besides, money doesn't matter to me. I've got enough money. All I want is to get 100 percent healthy and get back on the court.”
According to the Tribune-Star in Terre Haute, Ind. playing in 2012-2013 isn’t totally out of the question.
It says that his agent, Mike Conley Sr., said the Oden was talking to the Miami Heat about joining their team.
Oden spoke on that, saying, “What I told Mike was ‘Look, I want to get back with a team. I want to play. If there’s a chance that later on in the [NBA] year, if I feel good or if I’m healthy enough to play, I would love to play this year.’ That’s the conversation we had. I think some people kinda blew that up and took his words and kinda changed them around. I know I need to get healthy first before I do anything.”
In response to this chatter, OrlandoMagic.com’s John Denton wrote that the Orlando Magic were reportedly one of a few teams to be interested in Oden’s services.
If Oden were to get healthy and he was still committed to playing basketball—two strong “ifs” right now—could Oden be a viable replacement for Howard at center?
After all the injuries, cell phone pictures and overall disappointment from his production, many forget that coming out of college in 2007 they hype for Oden was even bigger than it was in 2012 for Anthony Davis.
ESPN NBA writer Chad Ford said at the time, “In a league devoid of big, traditional centers — Oden’s numbers add up to a perfect 10,” and “Oden’s agility, flexibility, balance and explosiveness are remarkable for a player his size. He’s a 2 guard in a center’s body.”
Oden was marked as an exceptional shot blocker with a solid low-post game. Even looking back at the draft and knowing the success that No. 2 pick Kevin Durant had and will continue to experience, Chad Buchanan—the team’s acting GM in 2012 and former Director of College Scouting—said in February that he would still have drafted Oden, standing by the team’s decision.
“I was very excited,” he said. “A chance to draft a player who could potentially get your franchise to your ultimate goal. Looking back on it, we were all excited. We had visions of Greg being a great player for us for years to come.”
Looking at the Magic roster, two of the prime contenders to get major minutes at center are second-year pros Gustavo Ayon and Nikola Vucevic. As rookies in the lock-out shortened 2012 season, Ayon, 27-years-old, played in 54 games starting 24 of them, averaged 5.9 points per game, 4.9 rebounds per game, 0.9 blocks per game and shot 53.6-percent from the field.
Vucevic, 21-years-old, played in 51 games with 15 starts, averaged 5.5 points per game, 4.8 rebounds per game, 0.7 blocks per game and shot 45.0-percent from the floor.
That’s not to say either couldn’t develop further, especially the much younger Vucevic. But in Oden’s 82-game career, despite being constantly hampered by injuries, Oden averaged more minutes per game than either player, has career averages of 9.4 points per game, 7.3 rebounds per game and 1.4 blocks per game while shooting 57.7-percent.
Take a look at his numbers before his injury in the 2009-10 season. Oden had started every game and had increased his shooting percentage, free-throw shooting percentage, points per game, rebounds per game and block per game compared to his rookie season. It suggested a player on the rise.
With the Magic in full rebuilding mode, would it hurt to take a flier on Oden?
In numerous articles it has been speculated that the Magic took back such a paltry offering in return for Howard in order to bottom out and receive a high draft pick to rebuild around. And that could still happen.
But in bringing in Oden the team could add another former No. 1 pick, a guy that was supposed to be a franchise-changer.
With the right deal, the upside is that with a change of scenery and training staff—Oden said he felt rushed to return in Portland—and with a franchise that seems to want to be patient with its roster Oden could finally heal properly and return to the court. From there he could either develop into the franchise player everyone had hoped he would become (yes, a long-shot but it would be the best-case scenario) or a solid center that gives you a double-double night -in and night-out.
Worst case, Oden never heals and continues to be hurt and the team cuts its losses, which should be very low considering Oden doesn’t have too much contract leverage; he hasn’t played since December 5, 2009.
The Orlando Magic could be the right opportunity for Oden to continue his basketball career. It all starts with new GM Rob Hennigan’s emphasis on being patient with this team and continues with an opportunity for playing time because of a need for good players.
Oden always was a good player.
AP Photo/Don Ryan