Greg Oden out for the year…again

Griffin O'Brien,14, of Denver waits behind the Portland Trailblazers bench with a friend showing his support for Trailblazers center Greg Oden at the Pepsi Center in Denver on December 22, 2008. (UPI Photo/Gary C. Caskey) Photo via Newscom Photo via Newscom

The kid can’t catch a break…

A ligament in Oden’s left knee is damaged, to the point where it will require season-ending microfracture surgery.

Friday’s microfracture procedure in Colorado will be the third season-ending surgery Oden has experienced in his four years in Portland. In September of 2007, before he had even played an NBA game, Oden had microfracture on his right knee.

When healthy, Oden has shown tremendous potential. In the seven games leading up to his injury last season, he averaged 15.6 points, 9.1 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game, which would be borderline All-Star numbers if the Trail Blazers were a contender.

But he has only managed to play 82 games in four seasons, and appears to have chronic problems with his knees. Now that Brandon Roy is dealing with his own knee issues (he apparently has no cartilage left), one wonders what could have been had the Blazers drafted Kevin Durant instead of Oden back in 2007.

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2010 NBA Preview: #11 to #15

New York Knicks forward Amar'e Stoudemire adjusts his glasses during an NBA preseason game against the Minnesota Timberwolves in Paris on October 6, 2010. The Timberwolves won the contest, part of the annual NBA Europe Live tour, by the score of 106-100.  UPI/David Silpa Photo via Newscom

This year, I’m going to preview the NBA season by starting with the lowest of the low and working my way up to my Finals picks. If a franchise is a legitimate championship contender, I’ll focus on what stars have to line up for a title run. If a team is a playoff also-ran, I’ll identify the weaknesses that have to be shored up via trade, free agency or draft over the next couple of seasons to make it a contender. If a team is likely to miss the playoffs, I’ll take a look at the salary cap, and provide a blueprint for how the team should proceed in the near future to get back in the postseason.

#15: New York Knicks
The Knicks missed out on LeBron, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh this summer, but they did land Amare Stoudemire, and also acquired Raymond Felton to run the point. David Lee is gone, but New York did get a good young player in Anthony Randolph to take his place. In other words, this Knicks team is going to look a lot different than last year’s club, and probably for the better. Newcomers Ronny Turiaf, Kelenna Azubuike, Roger Mason, (promising) Russian center Timofey Mozgov along with Wilson Chandler and Toney Douglas will round out Mike D’Antoni’s rotation. Cap-wise, the Knicks are still in good shape. Eddy Curry’s $11 M expiring deal can be used as trade bait or the franchise can just let it come off the books, creating around $18 million in cap space next summer, which they could use to sign Carmelo Anthony if he hits free agency. The only big contract on the payroll is Stoudemire’s deal, and the Knicks really need him to stay healthy in order to get their money’s worth. This looks like a franchise on the rise, but they need to land one more star to threaten the upper echelon of the East.

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Does Rudy Fernandez deserve to start?

Mar. 28, 2010 - Oklahoma City, OKLAHOMA, UNITED STATES - epa02097227 Portland Trail Blazers player Rudy Fernandez from Spain during the game against the Oklahoma City Thunder in the second half of the game at the Ford Center in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA, 28 March 2010.

I keep hearing that Rudy Fernandez is unhappy with the amount of playing time he has been getting in Portland, and that he’s angling for a trade to a team where he’ll have an opportunity to play more minutes.

Fine. But does he deserve to play more minutes?

In 2008-09, he averaged 25.5 minutes per game. In 2009-10, that number fell to 23.2. In order to determine if Fernandez should get starter’s minutes (which I define as around 28 min per game), I parsed out those games where he played 28+ minutes to see if he played any better with that much run. Here’s what I found:

Obviously, his numbers are going to go up the more minutes he plays, so the key numbers to look at are his shooting percentages and his Efficiency Per Minute (EPM), which provides a good overview of what Fernandez brings to the table statistically on a per minute basis. He does play about 8% better (in terms of per minute stats) when he gets 28+ minutes per game. But that’s to be expected, assuming a player is in good physical shape and can play extra minutes. The more minutes you play the more comfortable you are, and the more comfortable you are, the better you’ll play.

However, his EPM of .400 in starter’s minutes is not particularly good. There are 53 shooting guards and small forwards that averaged 28+ minutes per game this season, and the group’s average EPM was .458. Fernandez would rank #38 (or in the 30th percentile) if he were included in this group, just ahead of guys like O.J. Mayo, Richard Jefferson, Rip Hamilton, Marvin Williams, Ryan Gomes and Eric Gordon.

Looking only at shooting guards, Fernandez’s performance in 28+ minutes would trail John Salmons (.401), Ray Allen (.426), Jason Terry (.431) and Anthony Morrow (.432).

Moreover, he ranks ahead of several players — Ronnie Brewer, Courtney Lee, Ron Artest and Thabo Sefolosha — who are known more for their defense than anything they produce offensively or statistically. Fernandez’s defense is considered to be mediocre at best.

So to answer the question posed in the title of this post — no, he does not deserve to start, at least not for a playoff team. Virtually everyone who ranks below him in EPM plays for a lottery team or is known more for their defense than their offense.

He may very well get his wish and find a new home, but the chances of him finding a situation where he’s going to get starter’s minutes on a playoff-caliber team certainly seem slim.

His coach, Nate McMillan, sums it up pretty well:

“The thing about it, anybody in the league can use him,” McMillan said. “He’s a good player. He’s a rotational player. For some teams, he’s going to be able to start. For some teams, he’s going to have to come off the bench. If he goes to Boston, he’s probably coming off the bench behind one of those guys, Ray Allen or Paul Pierce. So it just depends on where he goes as far as his role and how he would play. But his talent, there are a lot of teams that can use him and take advantage of what he does. But we’ll see what happens.”

Two more trade ideas for Chris Paul

Feb. 28, 2010: New Orleans Hornets guard Chris Paul did not play due to an injured knee during an NBA game between the New Orleans Hornets and the Dallas Mavericks at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, TX Dallas defeated New Orleans 108-100.

Earlier today, I suggested a few trades that the teams — Lakers, Knicks and Magic — reportedly on Chris Paul’s short list could offer the Hornets.

Chris Broussard is now reporting that L.A. is not one of Paul’s preferred destinations, while Portland and Dallas are. Here’s a look at each team and the kind of deals they can offer.


Would both teams agree to a straight up Chris Paul/Brandon Roy swap? Since Roy is a base year compensation player, other assets would need to be included. Roy’s knees are a concern, but he’d give the Hornets a great backcourt (with Darren Collison) to build around. If the Blazers are unwilling to part with Roy, they could send LaMarcus Aldridge and Andre Miller to the Hornets for Paul. If the Hornets require that any deal include Emeka Okafor’s massive contract, the Blazers could include Joel Przybilla, Dante Cunningham and Jeff Pendergraph to even things out.

I doubt the Hornets would go for a deal that didn’t include Roy or Aldridge, but you never know. How about this deal that would include Przybilla and Miller along with Nicolas Batum, Rudy Fernandez and Greg Oden?


You know Mark Cuban started salivating when he heard that the Mavs were on Paul’s short list, but what can Dallas offer? They have plenty of talent, but they don’t have the kind of young talent that the Hornets would be interested in. Their best young player, Roddy Beaubois, is a guard, and the Hornets don’t really need guards with Collison and Marcus Thornton on the roster. Still, he’s a valuable asset, so he would probably be included.

How about Paul and Okafor for Beaubois, Caron Butler and Tyson Chandler? Chandler can’t be traded with another player, so it would have to be executed as two separate trades (Paul for Chandler and Okafor for Beaubois and Butler). The Mavs would get their guy, but I don’t know how a Chris Paul/Jason Kidd backcourt would work. Still, Dallas shouldn’t turn down a chance at Paul because they still have Kidd.

For the Hornets, they’d get a good young asset in Beaubois and immediate salary cap relief in Butler (who is a good player in his own right) and Chandler. The Mavs could always throw in a couple of first round picks to sweeten the deal. In the short term, New Orleans could start Collison, Thornton, Butler, West and Chandler, and they’d have loads of cap space to reload next summer.

There’s no doubt that the phone lines in New Orleans are burning up with this latest news. Just when you thought the NBA offseason was winding down, this happens.

Portland the only road team to win Game 1

Late last year, there was some question as to how Andre Miller was fitting in with the Blazers, but in January, he started settling in and had a nice second half of the season. With Brandon Roy out for the foreseeable future, Miller had his best game of the season, posting 31-5-8 along with three steals in a 105-100 win in Phoenix.

The game was pretty nip-and-tuck the whole way, but a 9-3 Blazer run late in the fourth quarter gave Portland a seven-point lead with 1:29 to play. The Suns kept fighting and a pair of missed free throws by Jerryd Bayless with 0:12 to play opened the door for a game-tying three-point attempt by Steve Nash which only hit the front of the rim.

Game 2 is Tuesday night.

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