Sunday, April 01, 2007

A Part-Time Savior is Not Much Help

Should he leave Ohio State, Greg Oden almost surely will be the first player selected in the NBA draft. He almost surely become a very pro basketball player, too. The team that selects him, however, should not expect Oden to create a miracle turnaround in its fortunes. He's just not going to get play enough for that.

In every game I've watched Oden play, he starts, then goes about five minutes before leaving the court with foul trouble. Yesterday against Georgetown, Oden got two fouls in the first two minutes. Granted, the three refs in that game were egomaniacal jerks who thought people came to the Georgia Dome to watch them. Other more passive officials have whistled Oden with regularity, too.

If one of the biggest stars in the college game is as foul-prone as that, his rookie year in pro ball will be a nightmare. In the minds of the majority of NBA refs, rookies got no civil rights. They're driving with probationary licences. In the two-car collisions that are NBA fouls, the new kid is the party at fault.

Oden makes silly fouls on backcourt men who'll never make the pros. He'll have more than his share of difficulty coping with likes of Steve Nash, AI, Kobe, and Paul Pierce when they head for the hoop. And while Oden will be better than many (but not all) of the centers he'll face in the NBA, every team has someone out there as big as he is, an experience he's seldom encountered in college.

In short, were I Oden's basketball as opposed to financial advisor, I'd tell him to stay in school and learn all he can about how to be a dominant pivot man. One of the most important skills of that trade is learning how to stay on the court instead of the bench.

Does this mean I thnk the Celtics should draft Kevin Durant instead of Oden should both freshman stars come out and Boston win the first spot in the draft lottery (lot of ifs there)? By no means. Oden's potential is obvious. So is Durant's, but picking him would only make sense if accompanied by a trade of Pierce, since the two essentially fill the same role, top scorer. Otherwise, the chance to grab a player who can become a quality center is too rare not to used.

Check the dictionary. "Quality" and "dominant" have very different definitions. To date I've seen more Marcus Camby than Shaquille O'Neal in Oden's game, and that's no knock. Camby's become a solid pro who does for the Nuggets than most think on those occasions he's not hurt.

Fans are optimists by trade. For going on two decades, optimism is about all Celtics' fans have had going for them. Without malice and as gently as possible, I must remind them of the following truth. "The best available player in the draft" and "the guy who's going to turn our miserable franchise around" are phrases which also have very different definitions.


At 11:20 AM, Blogger Suldog said...

Yeah, I've seen nothing during the NCAA's to convince me that Oden is any kind of savior at all. Oden is two or three years away from being a solid NBA center.

As I've been pointing out to the Celtic's fans who are creaming their jeans in anticipation, if you were to put Al Jefferson on just about any one of the final 8 teams this year, that team would have rolled to the NCAA championship. Two years ago? Not so much.

Personally, I'd rather have Hibbert from Georgetown, but I'm sure that's a minority opinion.


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