Amazingly, Greg Oden is playing Meaningful NBA Minutes Again

greg-oden-returnsIt’s safe to say that Greg Oden’s professional basketball career hasn’t gotten off to a very good start. In fact, some people already consider Oden to be a major draft bust since injuries have prevented him from seeing much of the court.

After averaging 15.7 PPG, 9.6 RPG and 3.3 BPG in his lone season at Ohio State, the 7-footer was drafted number one overall by the Portland Trailblazers. Unfortunately, he didn’t play a single game in his first year after undergoing microfracture surgery before the preseason even started.

Oden finally got to debut as a rookie in the 2008-2009 season. He still missed 21 games and played through injuries, but managed to post numbers of 8.9 PPG, 7.0 RPG and 1.1 BPG. Oden started out the 2009-10  season with even better numbers, averaging 11.1 PPG, 8.5 RPG and 2.3 BPG. But his career was derailed again when he was carried off the court on a stretcher. He suffered a season-ending injury and underwent surgery for a fractured left patella.

Following more setbacks, Oden missed two more seasons for the Trailblazers, and the team officially cut ties with him in 2012 so they could create more roster space. Given the fact that he played just 82 games for them over a six-year span, the Trailblazers will always consider him a bust. But that doesn’t mean the former number one overall pick has given up…

greg-oden-returns-1He recently returned to the court for the Miami Heat. He signed a one-year minimum contract worth $884,293 in an attempt to revive his career. Seeing as how the Heat don’t exactly need a lot of help at center with Chris Bosh starting and Chris Anderson backing him up, they decided to bring Oden along slowly. And now, it appears as if he’s finally in shape and over previous injuries.

In four games so far, he’s averaging 3.5 PPG, 2.0 RPG and 0.5 BPG. Oden fills an important role for the Heat because of his size (7’0″, 270 pounds), and he’s a true center who could match up well with Indiana’s Roy Hibbert. Contrast this to Bosh and Anderson, who are also centers, but not exactly low-post bruisers.

We can only count on Oden’s role expanding as he gets better and more used to real game minutes. “I still got a ways to go,” he said. “I’m still not as quick as I want to be out there. There are still things I can get better at.”

At 25 years old and with multiple injuries throughout his career, Greg Oden may never live up to the demands of a number-one draft pick. However, he’s getting meaningful minutes once again, and with a two-time defending NBA champion nonetheless. It’ll be quite interesting to see if he can help the Heat win their third title in a row this season.

Miami currently boasts the Eastern Conference’s second best record (31-12), trailing Indiana and their league-leading 31-8 mark. The Pacers took them to seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals last year. And the Pacers are looking even better thanks to Paul George, Hibbert and the emergence of second-round pick Lance Stephenson. If the Heat are to make the NBA Finals again, the’ll need Oden to help neutralize Hibbert’s impact since there’s hardly anybody in the league who can match up with the 7’2″ center.

5 NBA Benchwarmers who are getting paid Big Bucks

Andris-biedrins-benchwarmerThe NBA’s minimum salary for rookies is almost $500,000, so every player in the league is making some nice money, regardless of whether they’re an 8-time All-Star or twelfth man. In regard to the latter, you normally expect the last man on the roster to be the lowest-paid player on the team. After all, the most energy that they normally exert during games is leaping off the bench to waive their towels when a teammate hits a big shot.

But the truth is that some twelfth men actually make some surprisingly high salaries. These benchwarmers can thank years of collective bargaining for this, with minimum contracts going over the $1 million mark for players who’ve been in the league at least five years. Old contracts that were made at a point when players were much better than their twelfth-man status also weigh heavily into this as well. Taking everything into account, let’s look at five NBA players who rarely see the court, yet make more money than some starters.

1. Andris Biedrins, Utah Jazz – $9 million

In the 2009 NBA season, Andris Biedrins had a career year where he scored 11.9 PPG, grabbed 11.2 RPG and had 1.5 BPG. Based on his numbers, the Latvian wonder seemed to be worth every penny of the 6-year, $54 million deal that he signed the previous summer. But then the injuries started… Biedrins’ 2010 season was derailed by groin and back problems along with criticisms by then-coach Don Nelson. Now on the Utah Jazz after several more injury-plagued seasons, he’s averaging 0.5 PPG and 2.8 RPG in the last year of his lucrative deal.

2. Charlie Villanueva, Detroit Pistons – $8 million

charlie-villanueva-benchwarmerFor the first six years of his NBA career, Charlie Villanueva was a solid power foward who had a pretty good outside touch for a 6’11” guy. It was after his fourth year that Villanueva signed a $35 million deal, thanks in large part to the 16.2 PPG, 6.7 RPG and 34.5% three-point shooting that he averaged in 2009. Now in his ninth season, Villanueva’s production has declined considerably. He’s played in just 13 games so far, and in those games, he’s averaging 9.1 minutes. If there’s any silver lining here, it’s that the Connecticut product can still score, putting up 4.8 PPG in these limited minutes.

keith-bogans-benchwarmer3. Keith Bogans, Boston Celtics – $5 million

For a guy who was drafted late in the second round of the 2003 NBA Draft, it’s impressive that Keith Bogans has managed to stretch his marginal talent into an 11-year career. But that career seems to be coming to a close since he’s averaging just 2.0 PPG and 0.5 APG in six games for the Celtics this season. However, Bogans is still making some decent money from the deal he signed with the Brooklyn Nets a year ago.

4. Joel Anthony, Miami Heat/Boston Celtics – $3.8 million

Coming off a 2010 season where he played in 80 games and tallied 1.4 BPG, undersized joel-anthony-benchwarnercenter Joel Anthony signed a 5-year, $18 million deal with the Heat. Anthony continued to be an important reserve for Miami, until the 2012-13 season, when they brought in Chris Bosh. Since that time, he’s been an overpaid benchwarmer who only sees minutes when the game has gotten out of hand. Perhaps he might start getting back onto the court a little more now that he’s been traded to the Celtics.

5. Jannero Pargo, Charlotte Bobcats – $1.4 million

jannero-pargo-benchwarmerAfter several years where he was an important reserve for the Chicago Bulls and New Orleans Hornets, Jannero Pargo has been warming benches for the past two seasons. Pargo played on three different teams before finally looking like he’d found a home in Charlotte, where he averaged 8.4 PPG in 16.2 minutes a game. No such luck this year, as he’s only appeared in 11 contests, playing 5.5 MPG while backing up Kemba Walker and Ramon Sessions. Of course, we shouldn’t be surprised that Pargo found a way to get paid since he once landed a fairly nice one-year, $3.8 million contract with a Russian team.

2013 NBA Finals Preview and Betting Line

heat-spurs-nba-finalsThe 2013 NBA Finals are set with the Miami Heat looking to defend their title against the San Antonio Spurs. Miami made their way to the Finals after winning an easy Game 7 against the Indiana Pacers, in an otherwise grueling series. The Spurs have been resting for well over a week after sweeping the Memphis Grizzlies.

Game 1 of the 2013 NBA Finals starts tonight, and most experts are picking Miami to top an aging San Antonio team. This is especially the case when you consider how the Heat are opening at home. Here’s a quick look at the betting line provided by GTBets.eu:

San Antonio   (-110)  Over 188.5  (-110)
Miami Heat -5  (-110)  Under 188.5  (-110)

tony-parkerAs you can see, Miami is being spotted 5 points in this line. Of course, San Antonio is an experienced bunch and should not only make Game 1 close, but also play well throughout the series. Seeing as how this figures to be such an interesting matchup, let’s take a quick look at what both teams need to do to emerge victorious.

San Antonio Spurs’ Keys to Victory

1. Overcome the Heat’s Athleticism with Perfect Execution – When it comes to the key players in the series, Miami has a definite advantage in youth and athleticism. However, the Spurs are masters of offensive execution and move the ball better than any team in the league. They’ll need to continue this against the Heat and force them to play defense.

2. Shake off the Rust from the Layoff – San Antonio hasn’t played a basketball game since May 27th. That said, it’s easy to see them opening Game 1 with plenty of rust, which will hamper the perfect execution we just discussed. So the Spurs will really need to be focused mentally in the early going to avoid ugly turnovers and bad shots.

3. Exploit the Obvious Mismatch Tony Parker offers – While Mario Chalmers is a solid point guard, he’s up against the league’s top PG in Tony Parker. San Antonio will rely heavily on the Frenchman to give them a huge boost in this series.

kawhi-leonard4. Kawhi Leonard must slow LeBron James down – Two years ago, the Spurs traded popular PG George Hill for a draft pick that they used on Kawhi Leonard. The idea was that the athletic Leonard could eventually guard superstars like LeBron. Now it’s time to see if perception meets reality as Leonard hopes to at least slow James down for a couple games.

5. Manu Ginobili needs to find Something Extra – For years, Manu Ginobili has provided the Spurs with lots of offensive firepower. However, he’s definitely slowed down this season, which has been evident from the first two playoff rounds. But if San Antonio is to seriously contend with the Heat, they’re going to need everything they can get out of the Argentinean.

Miami Heat’s Keys to Victory

Dwyane Wade JaVale McGee1. Overwhelm the Spurs with Athleticism – It’s no secret that Miami has the more athletic team from an all-around perspective. And they need to use this athleticism to create turnovers and force San Antonio into bad shots. Miami should definitely watch some footage from last year’s Western Conference Finals, when the youthful Oklahoma City Thunder dominated the Spurs.

2. Make This the Big 3 Again – LeBron James may be the best basketball player in the world; however, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh are supposed to be pretty good themselves. Unfortunately, Wade and Bosh were very inconsistent against the Pacers – something which nearly cost them the series. These two need to combine with James to get the Big 3 back on track.

3. Ray Allen has to hit Shots – Wade and Bosh weren’t the only ones struggling against Indiana. Ray Allen has also had a tough time draining shots and, at times, couldn’t hit anything during the Pacers series. Luckily, the Spurs don’t defend the corners quite as well as Indiana, which could free Allen up for some open 3’s.

chris-anderson4. Defend the Rim – Miami features solid shot blockers in Bosh (1.36 BPG) and Chris “Birdman” Anderson (1.27 BPG). However, this is about all the Heat have to defend the rim against a San Antonio squad that’ll feature Tim Duncan and Tiago Splitter inside. Plus Parker and Ginobili will be cutting into the lane frequently and scoring at the hoop. So the Heat are going to need a team effort to protect the rim.

5. Contain Tony Parker – Miami doesn’t really figure to shut down either Duncan or Parker. But they can’t allow Parker to get comfortable and control the game tempo. A huge battle here will be the Heat’s pressure defense against Parker’s incredible ability to split traps.

Both clubs have their strong points and will be looking to impose these during this year’s NBA Finals. Miami is more talented, but San Antonio is fresher and features two future Hall-of-Famers in Parker and Duncan. That said, this should definitely be an entertaining series!