Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Blazers Improvement '10: Greg Oden

Throughout the first month of the season, Greg Oden was playing like an All-Star, leading the team in rebounding (8.2 per game), shot blocking (2.3) and played with a PER (Player Efficiency Rating) of 23.1, good enough for 8th in the entire league. Finally, the stars seemed like they were aligning in Greg’s favor to help him live up to the hype of being the #1 pick. But it wasn’t meant to be in 2010. While going up for a loose ball against Houston on December 5th, Greg’s kneecap broke in half. The injury would be Greg’s fifth since exiting high school and has put a stranglehold on his professional career with the Trail Blazers, only allowing him to participate in 82 games over the span of three years. With the heart of champion and mentality of a fighter, there is no doubt Oden will once again bring the Rose Garden faithful to life with rim rattling jams and game-changing swats into the third row, but what can he work on this summer to ensure his presence is felt?
  1. Defensive Timing
  2. Although Oden was extremely effective during his time on the court, his time was limited due countless, avoidable fouls. Throughout his two years playing with Portland, Greg has averaged 3.9 fouls per game in only 22.1 minutes of action, resulting in being whistled for a foul every 5.7 minutes. Not only do quick fouls take him out of the game, but it disallows any sort of rhythm to set in. What’s the cause of such foul trouble? Smaller guards would get by their perimeter defender and would take the ball right into his body. No one expects Oden to be able to keep up with the Tony Parker’s and Aaron Brooks’ of the world, but instead of challenging them at the point of attack, which draws the first contact, Greg could let them drive by and alter the shot from behind with his length. All of this sounds easy enough, but unfortunately, another setback of being sporadically out of action is a loss of timing.

  3. Post Moves
  4. The art of the center is a dying breed in today's NBA. Gone are the days of Hakeem Olajuwon's 'Dream Shake', an array of ball fakes and quick footwork used to score at will on his opponents down low; instead replaced with centers who are viewed as offensive liabilities whose only job is to rebound and defend the paint. Currently, only Yao Ming breaks the mold of today's seven footer, capable of putting the team on his shoulders offensively in the post. With a lack of skilled centers floating around NBA rosters, the importance of possessing someone of that size and stature to do be a force on both ends of the court is invaluable to a franchise.

    While Greg is already at an elite level defensively (3rd in blocks per game, 9th in defensive rebounding rate), outside of put back slams or occasional jump hook across the middle, his offensive arsenal is still a work in progress. Like LaMarcus, adding a go-to move in the post would do wonders for both Greg personally and his teammates, as they would reap the rewards of an unstoppable low post move from the big fella. In the middle of the 90’s, Houston essentially won back-to-back championships with this strategy of putting Hakeem on the blocks and daring the defense to decide how they wanted to test fate. Does a team leave Oden alone in the paint, ready to operate on-on-one or do they throw the double team at him and leave shooters open on the perimeter ready to dial in from long distance?
Don’t expect a barrage of jaw-dropping post moves out of Oden right away, but if he’s able to work on his timing on defense and stay on the court for 30+ minutes a night next year, the Trail Blazers should be the favorite to dethrone L.A. out in the Wild West. Given his physical attributes, Greg is a player unmatched by few in this league, on par with Yao and LeBron when it comes to most difficult to game plan for. If healthy, his presence alone will bolster the Trail Blazers from middle of the pack in the NBA to the upper echelon.


  1. Love Oden on D. Love his offensive rebounding, too. Hate his jump hook. Fugly. Same with his footwork. No balance. Team should hire Clifford Ray to work with him.

  2. I think a lot of it has to be with a lack of rhythm. The fouls just always jerked him in and out of the game.