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More Bill Simmons on Greg Oden

Not trying to pick on Simmons here, but he did a little explaining of his feelings on Oden in today’s mailbag (good read as always). I’m just going to quote the entire section on Oden before I respond:

Q: Your willingness to write off Greg Oden (birth date: 1988) goes against everything I like about your columns. We get it Simmons — Portland should have taken Durant over Oden. Why does this have to mean that he’s a bust? It’s too early to tell and you know it.
–Mike B., Vancouver

SG: I have to apply The Darko Corollary here. You can trot out every tired excuse you want to explain why a “can’t miss” prospect is missing — and remember, Oden was a “can’t miss” 22 months ago — but at some point, we have to see something. Remember when Detroit fans kept making excuses for Darko as he toiled away on their bench and looked spazzy and overwhelmed during games, and the months kept passing, and he wasn’t showing anything, and, eventually, all those games added up and we realized, “Wait, Darko doesn’t have it”?

We’re getting there with Oden. Look how well Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah played in the 2009 postseason. Look how much Rajon Rondo grew from Season 1 to Season 3. Look at some of the beauties Durant had this season; same for Kevin Love or Brook Lopez, or even Russell Westbrook. If you’re headed toward greatness, or even goodness, you’re going to show us flashes of your ultimate destiny in your embryonic years. That’s just the law. You can’t go from “I am doing nothing” to “I’m an All-Star!” unless you’re Jamaal Magloire (who immediately went back to nothing). It’s a series of baby steps. And through two seasons, Oden has shown nothing other than a remarkable ability to suffer bad luck with injuries and draw empathy from his fans. I don’t know what else to say. If he’s good, let’s see it. We could always use more blue-chippers. But he hasn’t even shown hints of flashes. It’s been a full-fledged blackout for two seasons. When you’re clumsy, you’re clumsy. We should have seen something by now. Just remember the lessons of the Darko era. After a while, it stops being an accident.

First of all, even calling his career two seasons doesn’t make sense. Sure, you can say the first-year injury is part of his body of work, but it has nothing to do with him being on court. That said, before I get into the stats, I would like to submit this to you ladies and gentlemen of the jury. You want a flash, Mr. Simmons, here you go:

We could show more, but there’s no point in beating the point to death. He’s shown flashes, and he’s shown more than that. This point really can’t be debated. Argue about the quality of what he’s done if you want (as I’m about to) but don’t say he hasn’t done anything.

Now, if we’re comparing Greg to Darko Milicic (really?), let’s look at Darko’s best season — which I believe was his contract year with Orlando.

2006-2007, Darko: 23.0 mpg, 8 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 1.8 bpg, 1.55 turnovers, 2.7 fouls, 45% fg, 61% ft.
Advanced Stats (Basketball-Reference.com): 49.2 True Shooting Percentage, 13.8 Player Efficiency Rating, 14.1 Total Rebounding Percentage, 0.0 Offensive Win Shares and 3.2 Defensive Win Shares (his next highest is 1.7, then 1.1).

So there’s Darko’s best season as a pro, by far. At the risk of this post getting too clunky, I won’t detail the complicated stats, just know that in all of them, the higher the number the better (and win shares means how many wins that player added to the team with his offense or defense, Dwight Howard, for example, added 7.6 wins with his defense this year in winning Defensive MVP).

Now let’s look at Greg Oden in his ROOKIE year AFTER microfracture surgery:

2008-2009, Oden: 21.5 mpg, 8.9 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 1.1 bpg, 1.42 turnovers, 3.90 fouls, 56.4% fg, 63.7% ft.
Advanced Stats: 59.9 TS%, 18.1 PER, 20 TRB%, 2.4 OWS, 1.9 DWS

We could even argue that the largest factor limiting Oden’s defense was his fouls, and I, nor anyone else, can say he’s not going to get the foul situation figured out next season.

Just for fun, let’s look at the rookie years of Amare Stoudemire and Dwight Howard, using just the advanced stats since the total minutes played offer a bad comparison for the basic numbers.

2002-2003, Amare Stoudemire: 53.0 TS%, 16.2 PER, 15.9 tRB%, 2.6 OWS, 3.6 DWS
2004-2005, Dwight Howard: 57.1 TS%, 17.2 PER, 14.3 tRB%, 3.9 OWS, 3.7 DWS

The win shares are skewed a little by Amare and Howard playing more minutes and thus, accumulating more stats and affecting the game more (again, Greg just needs to figure out the fouls). Even with that problem cropping up, we could toss out the Per-36 Minutes played numbers, where Oden tops both Amare and Howard in their rookie years. All that said, there’s no question Oden’s rookie year wasn’t at least on par, if not statistically better than Amare and Dwight at the same stage of their careers (again, after the microsurgery for Greg) and Oden was also far better than Darko’s BEST year in the NBA (his fourth year).

There’s rational arguments you can make against Oden right now — most of them theoretical — but the evidence is heavily against what Mr. Simmons is saying, even if he’s just trying to do his job and entertain. As I said a couple days ago, the only reason I take issue with what Simmons says is that so many people, especially in Boston (where I am right now) take his word as gospel. And too many people think gospel is fact in the first place.

This being a Blazers blog, we’ll admit to being quasi-Oden apologists, but it’s an easy thing to be with all the evidence at our fingertips. Oden can’t control his injuries, should easily reduce his fouls and, if he improves on his rookie year statistically while coming into camp in better shape, healthier and ready to fight, we’ll have a lot of writers forced into a 180.

Topics: Amare Stoudemire, Bill Simmons, Darko Milicic, Dwight Howard

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  • Jeff Cole

    Bill Simmons is an East Coast guy. Specifically, a Boston guy. He still has not forgiven us for the Brandon Roy for Sebastian Telfair thing. Speaking of stats, I think it would be interesting to see how Garnett’s rookie year numbers stack up against Oden’s. Being on a bad team, I’m sure Garnett played much bigger minutes as well.

    Let’s not give too much credibility to Simmons. The next time he gives Portland anything but a “backhanded” compliment will be the first time.

  • jordandemarco

    I think there is more truth in what Simmons is saying than you let on. I’m a NY guy so I have every reason to disagree with Simmons, but he’s right about Oden. He’s suffered a serious injury for 3 straight years now. I know he’s young but at what point does that become a trend? And why are you so sure he will stop fouling and start playing at a high level? Sure he was good in college, but he was a head taller than everyone else, a man amongst boys. Now, he’s a gangly, awkward man among athletic, powerful men. He’s no Darko, but he’s not the player you thought you were getting.

  • http://ripcityproject.com Coup

    It’s hard to explain to a non-Portland fan why Oden will stop fouling, because only they saw the silly ticky-tack fouls he picked up over the course of the season. An offseason of coaching will help that, maturation will help that and the refs letting him play his game will help that. I’m not saying the refs were the sole reason for his fouls, but there was definitely a stigma following him around. Once the refs get used to him, Greg will stop getting fouls just for being bigger than any Floppy McFlopperson undersized center.

    If you look at the stats, Oden WAS playing at a high level this season. The advanced statistics and per-minute stats attest to that.

    As for injuries, if Oden becomes a “bust” because he can’t stay on the court, that has nothing to do with his performance. If Durant suffered a Shaun Livingston-like career threatening injury next year, would he be called a bust? No, because people already accept that he’s good.

    Making a broad statement like saying he’s gangly and awkward just doesn’t make much sense. Just watch that clip of him posting up Bynum, did that look awkward? Name 5 centers in the league more “powerful” than Greg.

  • SJ

    I’m just going to throw this out there to dispel any of the ‘Oden didn’t show any flashes of brilliance’ thing right out of the window. I’ll be the first to say he’s not there yet and has work to do, but I’m happy where he’s at. He needs to improve and if he’s doing the same things next year I will more than likely go off on him at some point. He’s earned the benefit of the doubt though, half because of these flashes of brillance and the other half for my sanity. And yes that was a joke.

    Back to my point, Oden had 16 double-doubles in 61 games. That’s only two less than Brook Lopez and one less than Marc Gasol and Jason Thompson. All who played 79+ games and got significant minutes. He also had just as many double doubles as Amare and Andrew Bynum this season. He can play, give him time because when he turns the corner, watch out.

  • http://myteamrivals.typepad.com/trailblazers Don

    Name 5 centers more “powerful” than Oden? I’d say, name 2. I can name 1 and he’s old and slow and done.