The so talented center whose talent, skills and athleticism get him comparisons from such all time greats like Russell, Shaq and Robinson to busts like the Candy Man (not Odom), Greg Oden is a guy who’s stopped in show casing his abilities largely duo to the injuries. All of them are freak injuries, and his bones heal quick and are stronger as well. He’s also a young guy who’s barely 23 (even though he looks like 55) and has the needed time to have healthy seasons.

Just how good is Greg Oden when healthy?That’s a very good question. The answer is he’s really good. When the Portland Trail Blazers drafted him, he was taken simply because of his so obvious dominance on the defensive end, size, skill set, athleticism, mobility and explosiveness. That are all promising hidden attributes of the young fella, who showed us for briefly what kind of a player he is when he’s injury free.

In the short but important 2009-2010 season, he was a terrific center. In just 24 minutes of action, he poured in 11.7 points, grabbed 8.7 boards and blocked 2.3 shots. He ranked 2nd in blocking, while managing to lead shortly. He was first in field goal percent and among the top 25 in rebounding. His PER statistics were even more impressive:16 points, 13 rebounds and more than 3 swat shots. Yes, those are excellent numbers. He was in fact the most productive center for that season.

In his last full game, he had 13/20 and 4 in just 29 minutes. So, the production from him is more than obvious. When healthy, he’s arguably the top defender and presence in the interior as well. He’s capable to bottle his man, while still be out there challenging the attempts and stopping them. He translates his athleticism, figure and has natural instincts that any coach would like. They all made him a world class stopper. Again, his wing span is huge as well and he can bother shots. Sometimes, players didn’t even take a good attempt because he did a nice job to interrupt that. His footwork is nice too, and his one on one defense is more than brilliant. He stopped a hell lots of top big men, like holding Timmy to only 15 points on 5-15 from field and so on.

His work on that side of the court was fantastic. He was also cleaning the glass on a nice rate, as he had strong games with like 15,20,12,11 boards etc. He ranked first in PER minute stats on rebounds, another factor of how good he was on this aspect. He ranked among the league leaders in offensive boards, who collected 3.0 a game and was top 10 in both average and total. Blocking shots was another part of the game in which he excels when he’s out there. He was leading through the most of the time until he went down, had the higher PER minute stat for denying attempts and was one of the rare to keep the ball inbound.

Nate McMilan asked him to do all of those things, and the results were brilliant. Portland as a result was among the team leaders in those categories and they went on a sweet 8-0 while Oden was showing franchise center quality, a one he truly possesses. He showed case many other skills, such as offense. He worked hard with his mentor Lucas who was known as the Enforcer in his days (R.I.P), his post game improved. He showed nice moves, had great hooks with either hand, could finish with a powerful slam and rock the rim. The thing that was little surprising was the fact that he shot 77% from the charity. It’s an amazing achievement for real.

He went on a little streak with 15 buckets before he went down. However, with new improved offense, Oden showed that he could even pass. He often created double teams that left out an open man, and he knew how to lead him for the easy bucket. He even showed that he can handle the rock, when on one possession against the Timberwolves, he led a fast brake and finished a slam from a pass from team mate Aldridge.

His dominance as a center showed off the entire time, thanks to his advantages. He was the real MVP of the Blazers throughout all of those games, simply because he dominated on both sides of the court, attracted attention inside, opened the game for the team and they had a profit of his ability to control the paint. Statistically from a standpoint, he’s good. From a view of is his valuable?Definitely.

Where does he rank when healthy? He defends better than anyone in the league and blocks shots as well? Check. He’s a presence on the glass? Check. He can score inside? Check. He’s a dominant presence? Check, especially in his own interior. I think he ranks among the 5 best centers, possibly top 3. However, if we’re ranking the finest post and overall defenders, he’s right there at the top.

When he will return, he should have a decent start but will explode and proof his dominance in a longer course. He’ll average a double-double despite playing 25-29 minutes overall, a thing it will likely increase. 15 points, 11 rebounds and 2.5 blocks for a season sounds reasonable. He’ll be among the leaders in the categories where he’s capable to lead, and i guess he will win the blocking title the next season.

So, he’s really needed in Portland. Hopefully, he’ll stay healthy and start dominating in long, very long time in the entire seasons!

By Darko Mihajlovski

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