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.

Cleveland Cavaliers Gamble on Andrew Bynum

andrew-bynum-clevelandLast year, the Philadelphia 76ers paid $16.5 million to watch Andrew Bynum sit in street clothes throughout the entire NBA season. But knee problems and bone bruises don’t scare the Cleveland Cavaliers since they signed Bynum to a two-year, partially-guaranteed contract.

If Bynum performs and meets incentives during his two years in Cleveland, he’ll earn a maximum of $24.5 million. However, he’s only guaranteed $6 million of this amount during the first year. Assuming Bynum meets certain stipulations, he’ll earn up to $12 million in the first season. The second year is a $12.5 million team option that allows Cleveland to cut ties with the 25-year-old if they no longer want him.

Before signing with Philadelphia and sitting out an entire season, Bynum was one of the NBA’s best centers. He averaged 18.7 PPG, 11.8 RPG, 1.8 BPG and made the All-Star team during the 2011-12 season. Since jumping directly from high school to the NBA, Bynum has put up career averages of 11.7 PPG, 7.8 RPG and 1.6 BPG.

When the Sixers signed Bynum to a one-year, $16.5 million contract, they were hoping to get the same guy who was coming off an All-Star year for the Lakers. Philadelphia shipped Andre Iguodala to Denver, and Nikola Vucevic, Moe Harkless, and a first-round pick to Orlando in exchange for Bynum and Jason Richardson. After building a team around Bynum, the Sixers thought they could contend for a high playoff seed; what they got instead was a guy who never played and a 34-48 record.

andrew-bynum-76ersLucky for Cleveland, they don’t have to invest as much in the 7-footer since they aren’t banking on his production. The Cavaliers know that the future of their squad lies with 21-year-old’s Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters, 22-year-old Tristan Thompson, and newly-drafted 20-year-old Anthony Bennett.

If Bynum pans out, he could join this young core group and help form a playoff contender. What’s more is that the 25-year-old might provide incentive for LeBron James to return to Cleveland during the 2014 free agency period. But if Bynum doesn’t play much, or at all, the Cavs can simply pay him the $6 million and wash their hands of this deal after one season. For Quicken Loans and casino magnate Dan Gilbert, this is a small price to pay for a potential top-5 center.

The Cavs aren’t the only ones who stand to benefit from this arrangement. Andrew Bynum wasn’t exactly a coveted free agent after 31 other NBA teams saw Philadelphia flush $16.5 million down the drain. So the relatively young center was looking for another opportunity to showcase his skills and prove that his knees aren’t totally shot.

If the Cleveland thing works out, Bynum will earn as much as $24.5 million and lead a strong group of young players. He’ll also hit the free agent market in 2015 with a much loftier status than what he carried this season. And if he has another Philadelphia-type year, well, at least Bynum made an extra $6 million before he enters Greg Oden territory.