April 23, 2014

Pro and Cons of Greg Oden

Singing Oden will be worth it for the old man and porn jokes alone.

Signing Oden will be worth it for the old man and porn jokes alone.

I love the  idea of the Cavs signing Greg Oden.

I love the idea of kicking the tires on a former number one pick and seeing if he can revive his career in the wine and gold.

I love that the Cavs are mentioned alongside perennial contenders  like the Miami Heat and Boston Celtics as Oden suitors.

And while it’s usually the Indians (with guys like Kevin Millwood), I love when Cleveland teams take low-risk, high-reward deals.

Sure, there are some problems. Since being drafted in 2007, Greg Oden has appeared in less NBA games (82) than Kyrie Irving (90).  He’s had a multiple microfracture surgeries. He’s battled alcohol, leaked private photos and the dealt with pressure of being the face of a franchise. He hasn’t played in a NBA basketball game since December of 2009. Greg Oden is far from a sure thing.

So why do I want the Cavs to sign an oft-injured center to a multi-year contract?

Because he went to Ohio State, duh.

That’s a joke1.

I’d like to think that my Ohio State homerism isn’t influencing my thought process; that if Oden had gone to North Carolina, I’d still be happy that the Cavs are in talks with the former top pick. If my scarlet and gray glasses are coloring anything, it’s that I’d rather Oden sign in a no pressure situation, than be expected to contribute right away on a playoff team. Of course I want Oden, like any Buckeye, to succeed. I won’t deny that.2

I’m probably more biased as a Cavs fan. I watched Zydrunas Ilgauskas battle foot injuries early in his career, only to see him become the Cavs’ all-time leader in games played. Sure, Oden’s injuries aren’t similar to Z’s, but the longterm prospects of centers with chronic feet injuries wasn’t good either. I’ve seen with my own eyes that a lumbering center can get his body right and go onto a long career.

Basically, if Greg Oden is going to make an attempt to restart his career (and he is), I’d rather he do it Cleveland. I don’t really see the downside.

The Cavs have roughly $29 millions of salary committed to next season’s roster. Under the NBA’s new collective bargaining agreement, the salary floor is now 85% of the salary cap. Given that this year’s floor is $49 million, I would expect next year’s floor to be something similar. At the moment, the Cavs are roughly $20 million below next year’s floor, so they’re going to have so sign some players regardless of what happens with Oden (EDIT: The Cavs don’t have to sign anyone to meet the floor. If team fails to meet the salary floor, the difference is distributed evenly among the players on the roster).

And have you seen the 2013-14 free agent list? It is not pretty. Here’s a quick list of non-PG (unrestricted, no player options or early termination) free agents3:

  • Shooting Guard: Kevin Martin, Corey Brewer, J.J. Redick, Tony Allen, Randy Foye, Ronnie Brewer, Kyle Korver, Nick Young, Mike Dunleavy.
  • Small Forward: Stephen Jackson, Dorrell Wright, Matt Barnes, Corey Maggette, Josh Childress, Chase Budinger, Josh Howard.
  • Power Forward: Josh Smith, David West, Paul Milsap, Elton Brand, Lamar Odom, J.J. Hickson, Jason Maxiell.
  • Center: Dwight Howard, Andrew Bynum, Al Jefferson, Chris Kaman, Zaza Pachulia, Samuel Dalembert.

Those are the best of the bunch. Are you excited?

So who should the Cavs target?4 Cleveland’s biggest position of need is the small forward spot and the 2013 class is horrendous.((but the 2014 class…)) I’d be fine with taking a look at someone like Barnes or Dunleavy, but odds are they’ll want to sign with a contender (and they won’t get you to the floor by themselves).

The power forward position looks fairly decent, but I worry about overpaying someone like Paul Milsap or David West (and are you signing them to start over Tristan Thompson? No? So they’ll sign with Cleveland to come off the bench? Really?). I’d like to see the Cavs do what the Pacers did with David West and pay a second tier free agent a lot of money over a short period5, upgrading the roster while keeping their long term flexibility open, but I’m not sure who that free agent is.

My point is, barring a trade, the Cavs will need to spend some cash this offseason. Signing Oden to a multi-year deal at $4 million per helps them reach that floor and keeps them from overpaying someone like Paul Milsap (I want nothing to do with a 6-8 power forward). Even if Oden does gives you nothing, he’s replacing guys like Daniel Gibson and Omri Casspi on your books and he won’t hurt your ability to sign other free agents or make other trades.

And if Oden can give you something… anything…

Having Oden play 20 minutes a night in a big man rotation with Thompson, Anderson Varejao, Tyler Zeller wouldn’t suck (Speights has a player option and I’m not sure if he’ll be back). TT and Oden would be a nice back line of the defense and would allow Irving and Waiters to press a little more.

Sure, the odds are Oden won’t stay healthy. Kyrie Irving isn’t exactly known for his durability and he’s already played in more games than Oden. Can the Cavs really expect to keep Irving, Varejao and Greg Oden healthy for a full year? Heck, knowing Cleveland, he’d sign here, play healthy all year and then get hurt in the first round.

But despite all the risks, I really don’t see a downside. Oden won’t hurt your cap, he won’t hurt your ability to sign free agents and he’d take up a roster spot currently occupied by Kevin Jones/Luke Walton/Omri Casspi/Boobie Gibson.

And if nothing else, the Cavs singing Oden will keep us from having to watch the former Buckeye help LeBron win a title.

Well, until 2014, anyways. ;-)

___________________________________________________

Footnotes:

  1. but Jim Tressel should totally coach the Browns []
  2. I blame myself for all of Oden’s troubles. I’ve purchased exactly two Ohio State jerseys in my life, Oden and Maurice Clarrett. I apologize to all of Columbus []
  3. there’s some interesting restricted FA’s like Nikola Pekovic or Gerald Henderson, but you usually have to overpay RFAs so their teams won’t match. No thanks. []
  4. And please don’t say Howard or Bynum or Josh Smith. Players like that don’t come to Cleveland as free agents. []
  5. the Pacers gave West a 2-year, $20 million deal []

  • http://www.redright88.com/ Tom_RedRight88

    Oden has had three microfracture surgeries on his knees. There is not a single NBA player who has come back from that to even play in the NBA, let alone play 20 minutes a night.

    Oden originally hurt himself while getting out of a chair. Think about how fragile you have to be to hurt yourself while getting up out of a chair.

    If Dan Gilbert wants to give charity to someone, there are plenty of people more needy than Oden. Sure, “it’s only money” but the odds that Oden ever steps foot on an NBA court again are beyond immeasurable.

  • toledostripper

    I own a Greg Frey jersey. I also apologize.

  • BROSEPH

    “Oden has had three microfracture surgeries on his knees. There is not a single NBA player who has come back from that to even play in the NBA, let alone play 20 minutes a night.”

    Source? If you have one, I’d like to see it. I’d like to know how many NBA players have even gone through that more than 2. Tracy McGrady, Amare Stoudemire, Jason Kidd, John Stockton, Kenyon Martin, Zach Randolph etc have all had microfracture surgery and most of them returned to normal form upon returning (jury is still out on Amare). Yes many players’ careers end due to the surgery (Terrell Brandon, Allan Houston, Jamal Mashburn), but I just gave 6 fairly high profile names where it seems to have worked out and they went on to play at a high level.

  • Kildawg

    Maggette wouldn’t be a bad option for a 1 year deal, but the Cavs should re-sign Speights, Ellington, and Livingston (they have helped the team win and bought into Byron Scott’s schemes). Another option is to tough out 2013-14 with Gee starting at SF (again) and hopefully bring back the Ohio native in 2014.

  • bridgecrosser

    Has there been any quantified recap of his rehab? One of his legs was like 1.5 inches shorter than the other. Have they done any real to address that or have they just drilled a million holes in his knees. This is a hail mary move if that’s the case. Sad that his career didn’t take off but let’s not waste any of our flexibility with this otherwise.

  • Adam

    Lets face it… Cavs want Oden. And that’s a good thing. Low risk… super high reward. The ball at this point is in Oden’s court. Whether he’s coming back for money or coming back for redemption, here’s a few reasons why he’ll pick us…

    #1 We can clearly offer the most money.

    #2 We’re a “friendly” court. By playing for the Cavs there’s no better option for making a comeback. Homers can be way more patient and/or forgiving of a “home town” hero.

    #3 If Coach Scott can’t get him into playing shape, no one can. Hell, if he even survives Coach Scott’s off season without injury that will be a major victory.

    #4 Going to Miami would be foolish considering that team will be blown up in a year’s time.

    #5 The Wild Card…. Big “Z”. What better place to go than somewhere another “big” went from having injuries plague his early career to thriving in the NBA? Can you say mentor?

    #6 2 words… Kyrie Irving.

  • http://www.redright88.com/ Tom_RedRight88

    How many of those players you named had 3 of these surgeries?

    Players can and have come back from the surgery, but not after having 3 of them: http://www.oregonlive.com/news/index.ssf/2010/11/study_shows_limits_of_microfac.html

    What possible reason is there to believe that Oden is the one person who can do this?

  • CleveJeff

    I don’t see why there needs to be a reason. This is the thing, over the years, there were a multitude of injuries that if someone suffered the reaction was “he’s never playing again”–until someone did.

    At one point, everybody said Shaun Livingston would never come back from his injuries. It’s just hard work, advances in technology, and a little luck.

    What you’re saying is anyone who is down, should just give up. I don’t think you need to look for a reason to believe, just believe or don’t; it’s not a science. But if you’re really searching for a reason, believe that there’s a first time for everything, because that is fact

  • http://www.redright88.com/ Tom_RedRight88

    Maybe Oden can spend some time at the Cathedral of Tomorrow and have Ernest Angley “heal” him.

    And we all know that Cleveland sports is just over-flowing with luck.

  • CleveJeff

    All I’m saying is let him try, and if he fails, he fails. Why question his ability to comeback–by all means if you don’t think they should sign him, say it, but if the reason is because no one has done it before, that is close-minded.

    Cleveland has gotten so pessimistic that fans don’t even give a guy the chance to prove he can play. I don’t understand, the talent is there, why not see if he can still play–do you really think every player currently on the roster is better than him

    And seriously, when was the last time bad luck denied a Cleveland team the chance at a title? The 1997 Indians, maybe.

  • mgbode

    it’s pretty simple. if he checks out where our medical staff thinks he’ll be okay, then we sign him. if not, then we pass.
    noone can say anything definitively without that medical information. let’s just hope our staff gets it right (and don’t do what the Dolphins did with Drew Brees)

  • Big Z

    Greg Oden has 0.000 upside.

  • Lyon25

    Cavs already have a guy who shoots it every time he touches it in Miles. Maggette will not help this team.

  • Lyon25

    There is no wasting of flexibility. That was the whole point of the article. Signing him is basically a free pass.

  • NoVA Buckeye

    I heard Oden had a ridiculous PER of like 23.2, which is All-Star caliber. The real question is whether he can stay healthy. Worth the money if he does.

  • hutch058

    wow, someone has a ‘glass half empty’ view of the world….

  • BenRM

    It’s so low-risk, high reward, I can’t imagine anyone having an issue with this. Frankly, I am not optimistic at all about Oden’s future, which is a shame as a Buckeye homer.

    However, if asked if I would roll the dice on someone who can give you an easy 10&10 in about 18 minutes on the floor, I would respond positively.

  • Will

    “Homers can be was more patient and/or forgiving of a “home town” hero.

    LeBron, anybody?