Former No. 1 overall draft pick Greg Oden is set to make his return to action next season. The oft-injured center has several suitors, but it's still unclear where he will sign.
The Miami Heat, San Antonio Spurs, Cleveland Cavaliers, and even the floundering Charlotte Bobcats were reportedly on Oden’s radar, but now according to ESPN’s Marc Stein, the Dallas Mavericks are also showing interest. In January, Boston Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge confirmed that he was monitoring Oden, as well.
Oden is an unrestricted free agent, and hasn’t appeared in a game since 2010 when he re-injured his knee. The 25-year-old has undergone several micro-fracture surgeries and while his risk of injury is high, his seven-foot frame still makes Oden a worthwhile gamble for teams in need of more size.
Miami and San Antonio would be Oden’s best chance to win a championship, and would provide less pressure for him to perform right away. The most recent NBA Finals foes can win in the regular season without Oden, and can thus allow him to slowly work his way back into playing shape.
The Heat have managed to win two consecutive titles without a big man, but they were last in the NBA in rebounding last season and could certainly use some extra size. San Antonio’s Tim Duncan is also aging, and Oden could eat up some minutes for the Spurs to rest their future Hall of Famer for the playoffs.
Several reports over the last few months have suggested Oden is already in solid shape, and coupled with his obvious talents he could be a steal for any team. Oden was working out with fellow former Buckeye Deshaun Thomas before this year’s draft, and Thomas said Oden looked “unbelievable,” according to the Oregonian.
If Oden feels like he could start right away, then Dallas, Cleveland, and Charlotte would be ideal destinations. Each team needs a center to hold down the middle, especially the vastly undersized Bobcats who started 6-foot-9 Bismack Biyombo at center for 65 games last year.
Dallas and Cleveland were the last two teams in the chase for another injured but prized big man in Andrew Bynum. The Cavaliers reportedly won out, and now the Mavericks could be in the market for Oden in consolation. Strangely, even with the signing of Bynum, the Cavs are still in the mix for Oden.
Still, both teams are in the midst of rebuilding, and Oden may instead want to help a contending team right away.
Oden has battled knee injuries ever since the Portland Trail Blazers selected him out of Ohio State just ahead of superstar Kevin Durant. Since 2007, he has appeared in 82 of a possible 492 games, but when he did play, Oden flashed his immense talents on the glass and on defense.
Before his latest injury in 2010, Oden played in 21 games that season, averaging 11.1 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 2.3 blocks.