What Happens to Portland When Greg Oden is on the Court?

November, 25, 2008
11/25/08
4:21
PM ET

At least in a couple of notable games, the presence of Greg Oden on the court has led to some very poor play by the team -- even though Oden has played fairly well and has a PER that is among the best for all rookies or centers.

What's going on?

I don't really know. But thanks to Brett Hainline from Queen City Hoops, I have a very hot piece of information that at least gives us a composite sketch of the culprit.

When Oden is on the floor, the Blazers are slightly better at offensive rebounding, and slightly worse at defensive rebounding. They turn the ball over quite a bit more (14.9% of the time, instead of about 11.6%). Opponents shoot slightly better against the Blazers when Oden is off the floor.

But here's the amazing thing: When he is on the floor, even though he makes 51% of his shots, the whole team makes just 37.7% of its shots. When he's on the bench, the team makes 47.1% of its shots.

When he is on the court, Oden's teammates make a measly 34.9% of their shots!

Some of that is Joel Przybilla's ridiculous 43-52 shooting -- that's 82.7% -- that moves to the bench when Oden is playing. But that's not enough shots to account for the whole difference.

Put your detective hats on. Let's figure out how and why the Blazers shoot so poorly when their prized rookie is on the floor. For the Portland brass, figuring that out could be worth a lot of wins.

UPDATE: Another hugely important number is Greg Oden's combined +/- for the season. Portland is a winning team, but in Oden's 129 minutes they have been outscored by a whopping 196 points. (CORRECTION: That number is wrong, and it's my fault (not Brett's -- he didn't even give me that number. I believe the correct number is -25. More on this later today.) That's well over a point a minute. As in, if he played 48 minutes against a mythical typical opponent, they could be expected to lose by 50+ points.

Again, none of this means much of anything with such small sample sizes. But it is stark enough that I think it's at least worth poking around a bit. Some theories that I will check out on video:

  • Maybe Brandon Roy doesn't penetrate as much with big Oden under the hoop, and a lot of Portland's dunks, layups, and open jumpers emanate from his drives. 
  • Maybe the Blazers have a hard time getting Oden the ball in the post, which just wastes a lot of time and increases the likelihood of a rushed shot.

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