How Good is Greg Oden?

How good is Greg Oden? We will all soon see as he enters the NBA this fall but if history is an indicator it would seem that Oden is an obvious first pick and a probable NBA title deliverer. Mark Adams a longtime basketball analyst who works on the ESPN family of networks takes a look.

Let's check the numbers from a list of men who I consider to be the best post players to enter the NBA draft over the last 50 years. First, let's look at all of them in their first seasons in NCAA competition. 


NCAA All-Time Great Collegiate Big Man Stats Comparison:

(Note: Chamberlain, Alcindor, Russell, Walton all were Sophs in 1st season of Eligibility)

·         Wilt Chamberlain as a Soph. @ Kansas: 29.6PPG, 46.7%FG, 18.9RPG

·         Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (Lew Alcindor at that time) as a Soph. @ UCLA:  29.0PPG, 66.7%FG, 15.5RPG.  He earned the first of three consecutive Player of the Year awards.

·         Bill Russell as a Soph. @ USF: 19.9PPG, 48.5%, 19.9RPG

·         Bill Walton as Soph. @UCLA: 21.1PPG, 63.9%FG, 15.5RPG

·         David Robinson as Frosh @ Navy: 7.6PPG, 62.3%FG, 4.0RPG

·         Shaquille O'Neal as a Frosh @ LSU: 13.9PPG, 57.3%FG, 12RPG

·         Patrick Ewing as a Frosh @ Georgetown: 12.7PPG, 63%FG, 7.5RPG

·         Hakeem Olajuwan as a Frosh @ U. of Houston: 8.2PPG, 60.6%FG, , 6.2RPG

·         Greg Oden as a Frosh @ Ohio State: 15.7PPG, 61.6%FG, 9.6RPG


Greg Oden passes this statistical test and is arguably the most productive NCAA freshman big man both offensively and defensively since Bill Walton's days at UCLA in the early 1970's. He also averaged 3.28 Blocks/gm which compares favorably with every modern player. (Note: Blocks/gm were not tracked as an NCAA stat until after Walton's era.) Ewing and Robinson averaged 3.2BPG and 1.32BPG at Georgetown and Navy as freshman respectively. After watching Oden in person on several occasions I can also attest to the fact that he changed far more shots than he blocked.


But how good will Greg Oden become as a pro?


Let's look at the rookie NBA seasons of the players listed above.


As rookies in the NBA

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (28.8PPG, 51.5%FG, 14.5RPG)

Wilt Chamberlain (37.6PPG, 46.1%FG, 27RPG)

Bill Russell (14.7PPG, 42.9%FG, 19.6RPG)

Bill Walton (12.8PPG, 51.5%, 12.6RPG)

David Robinson (24.3PPG, 52.8%FG, 12.0RPG)

Shaquille O'Neal (23.4PPG, 55.9%FG, 13.9RPG)

Patrick Ewing (20.0PPG, 47.2%FG, 9.0RPG)

Hakeem Olajuwan (20.6PPG, 54.2%FG, 11.9RPG)

All contributed mightily to their new NBA teams. In fact, they all became forces inside and eventually all but Ewing led their teams to multiple NBA titles.


If you are the Portland Trailblazers and you are even thinking of drafting Kevin Durant ahead of Greg Oden, I would have just one piece of advice…THINK BILL WALTON! Remember the big red-head as he splashed onto the Willamette River Valley scene in the Pacific Northwest and delivered an NBA title three seasons later in 1977! Or let's talk Milwaukee Bucks and how Kareem Abdul-Jabbar with Oscar Robertson and how they won the big one for the beer capital of the world in 1971! Or, possibly we should consider Bill Russell and the Celtics and their 1957 NBA title, the first of a dynasty led by Russell over the next two decades. Chamberlain, Olajuwan, O'Neal and Robinson all have multiple NBA titles as well.


Kevin Durant is a great collegiate player who will certainly have a fine professional career but I view him in the Garnett/McGrady mold. Both are great to good players in the NBA respectively but can they deliver titles without an Oden-like teammate? Oscar Robertson needed Kareem to finally win his title in Milwaukee. Jerry West needed Wilt to finally break the Lakers jinx. Bird had McHale and Parrish to score down low. Yes, I know that Michael Jordan was also in that same mold of an athletic perimeter player coming out of North Carolina. Jordan became a freak of nature because of his will to win combined with toughness, tenacity and talent like no other player before or since.


I just do not view Durant in that same light; Talent…maybe, toughness…not sure, tenacity…my gut says, ‘no way'. Possibly, we will look back on this draft and view Greg Oden much like we think of Sam Bowie out of the University of Kentucky who was drafted ahead of Michael Jordan back in 1984. I just don't think so.


If it was my money being thrown around in Portland, Oregon I would take Oden-PERIOD! My old history professor insisted that history does indeed repeat itself and I believe that we will be welcoming back to the future the 1977 NBA title ride for the Portland Trailblazer fans in the near future. Greg Oden will be the reason!


Mark Adams is a college basketball analyst on the ESPN family of networks.

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