NBA Roundtable

Paying Greg Oden

In General NBA on March 19, 2010 at 2:05 am

Interesting article on Sports Illustrated.com

The Portland Trail Blazers had a difficult decision to make a few years ago when they had the No. 1 pick in the 2007 draft: Should they take Greg Oden or Kevin Durant?

After making Oden the top pick that year, the Blazers now have another tough decision. For how long, and for how much, are they willing to invest in Oden?

After two major injuries have limited the former Ohio State star to just 82 games over three seasons, it could be prudent to ask if Oden will ever be the player the Blazers — and everybody else in the league, for that matter — thought he would be. And if he is not, how long do the Blazers delude themselves into thinking he will be?

Tim Duncan Trade Offer?

Also a very interesting tidbit of information midway through the article

One source close to the team said general manager Kevin Pritchard was swayed toward Oden not only because of the Blazers’ needs but also because nearly every GM inquired about making a deal for the right to choose Oden, including San Antonio, which was said to be open to offering Tim Duncan.

Not sure how reliable that information is. To be honest, I’d lean towards it being false information but it interesting nonetheless.

Paying Oden

The Blazers will be able to offer Oden a contract extension this summer worth around $80 million over five years.

I think the Blazers should try to take advantage of Oden’s injury history + good but unexceptional stats and try to lock him down to a long term contract. There are two reasons for that. The first being that the upside (cash savings) from him signing today is considerable and well worth exploring. And the second, well, we’ll come back to that in a few moments.

Greg Oden is coming towards the end of his third season. He has played a total of 82 games over those three years. 61 last season and 21 this season. Only one third of the available number of games due to injuries. Oden’s career averages are 9.4ppg, 7.3rpg and 1.4bpg in 22.1 minutes a night. This season he was averaging 11.1 points per game and 8.5 rebounds per game in just under 24 minutes.

Given that production + the injuries + the potential Oden has the Blazers could easily peg him into the $60 million bracket over five years. If they do a very good job in negotiations and if Oden is willing to go easy on negotiations due to his injuries + the desire to give Portland added financial flexibility to keep their other stars, then, Portland could conceivably get him down as low $50 million.

There is another situation which will likely be considered the best possible scenario for both parties and that’s the middle ground. Both sides are too far apart on long term money over five years but are willing to do a two or three year deal. As such, Portland would be willing to increase their per annum offer and Greg Oden would get a lot of financial security which is surely very important to him given his injury history. Say a three year $40 million deal. Actually, it would probably be lower, this is only a strong likelihood if Portland is hugely uncomfortable paying Oden large long money (offers in earlier negotiations would be a lot lower) and thus they could probably get away with a three year $30 million contract.

Anyway, I think they should go for the full five years. I think the savings they would make would be worth it. That is the first point.

Now, the second point — Portland should not be concerned about the injury risk to Greg Oden because simply put they are not going to win a title without Oden being healthy + playing at a high level. They’re not good enough, at the top of their roster, to survive the loss of a player like Oden and it’s highly unlikely that they’ll be able to find a way to adequately replace him.

In summary, Portland should pay Oden because not paying him is a much larger gamble.

Greg Oden’s Performance Level

I consider Greg Oden the best rebounder in all of basketball. I think he does a phenomenal job of snaring rebounds + keeping opponents off the glass. Several players can match, or at least are comparable, to Oden’s ability to grab rebounds but I don’t think any of them are his equal in keeping opponents off the glass. Both in his man-to-man rebounding, his boxing out, and his ability to eat up space in the paint and make it difficult for others to find room inside (similar to Shaq).

I also think Greg Oden has become one of the best interior defenders in the NBA. He is currently on track to be an All-Defensive candidate next season and if he continues to improve he’ll become a perennial Defensive Player of the Year candidate for the next 7-10 years.

To top it all off, Greg Oden is also a good offensive threat. He commands a huge amount of attention around the paint. Is a good passer. Sets strong picks both on and off the ball. Is an excellent finisher around the rim. Very efficient. And has a developing post game. In summary, he is a handful for opposing teams.

If you add together his contributions in each one of those areas you’ll quickly see that Greg Oden is already one of the best big men in the league + has considerable potential beyond the the state of his current game.

Greg Oden’s financial value in terms of his impact on the court is around $13-15 million. Oden is worth that much money if he (1) never improves (2) plays around 30 minutes a night. If Oden can play more than 30 minutes (good likelihood I reckon) and if he improves (a certainty) he’ll be worth a lot more than that.

In terms of ability, I think Greg Oden is already (present day) an All-NBA talent and I believe he has the potential to become an MVP caliber player down the road.

Conclusions

Portland should try to sign Greg Oden to a contract extension this summer.

They should use Oden’s recent injury history + solid but unspectacular production to get him to sign a contract in the $60 million range.

That contract would hugely undervalue Greg Oden and give Portland the added flexibility they want to keep the rest of their highly regarded young supporting cast.

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  1. Hmm… If I’m Portland Brass, I’m taking a more skeptical approach than you are, I think. Looking at the roster, we’ve got Pryzbilla, who’s solid, not great. We’ve got Camby who’s playing great baskteball, even at an old age. And we’ve got Oden, and only Portland knows the medical reports, but his injury history is very, very scary.

    Anything more than 3 years seems very risky. And $40 million over 3 seems way too high — who else in the league would pay him that much?

    As an alternative, why not lock up Camby for another 1-2 years — a known commodity at a lower price tag, retain Pryzbilla, and then offer a 3-year deal to Oden that’s worth a lot less?

    I just don’t see who is going to be offering Oden anything substantive without significant details related to his medical history. And only Portland has that. They’ve got all the bargaining chips, not Greg … as unfortunate for him as that is.

  2. Dave,

    I agree with your perspective on Oden’s situation with the Blazers.

    According to any of the reports which I’ve read, thus far, his career hasn’t been jeopardized by this latest serious knee injury.

    When he eventually comes back, what he brings to the table, no other still youngish Center in the league today has, to a similar degree.

    With a healthy Greg Oden plugged into their line-up … backed-up by Marcus Camby … Portland will become a serious threat to advance to the NBA Finals, as soon as next season.

    Without him … in contrast … they are just one of several other good teams in the WC straggling along in arrears of the LA Lakers.

  3. Kevin Pritchard on Greg Oden’s possible contract extension

    We have exclusive rights this summer. And then he’ll play next year. And then he’ll be restricted. So, any offer that we get, we would be able to match.

    We’re going to watch his development and help him as much as we can. Look, as the general manager, the best thing that I like is, going into negotiations knowing that a guy has had a great year, and that his future is as bright as it could be. I love that.

    It sounds like Pritchard is going to wait it out and see how Oden looks next season. If Oden plays well in training camp we may see Portland reach an extension with him immediately prior to the start of the season. Otherwise, it’ll be the following summer.

    The above link sends you to an article on the Columbian. It is a transcript of a Kevin Pritchard interview. He covers a couple of interesting topics. Just about worth reading.

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