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Monday, November 1, 2010
Contract extension deadline passing with one big question

By Zach Harper

There are two members of the 2007 draft class who will certainly not have to worry about the dregs of restricted free agency this summer.

Everyone who isn’t named Kevin Durant or Joakim Noah, will.

The deadline for contract extensions for the 2007 draft class is today and the list of talent who won’t be finalizing a contract extension to stay with their current team is pretty deep. Players like Al Horford (UPDATE: Horford extension finalized), Jeff Green and Mike Conley will join the majority of their classmates without a guarantee of job security heading into next summer’s Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations offseason.

The biggest name and player who won’t work out a deal until this summer is Greg Oden.

You know Greg, right?

He’s the punch line to many jokes about drafting Kevin Durant second, or Sam Bowie 2.0, or whatever remark you want to make in order to kick a man when he’s down. He’s also an abundance of defensive prowess when he is actually on the court and able to stay out of foul trouble.

A little over three years ago, it would have seemed insane to think Greg Oden wouldn’t be signing a lucrative contract extension by today. At the time you could have argued whether or not he should be picked over Kevin Durant  -- and let’s not pretend the majority of you thought Portland made a bad decision at the time – but the idea he wouldn’t be performing at a high level seemed pretty far-fetched.

Fast-forward to present day and it seems insane to think the Portland Trail Blazers might even consider giving him a contract extension. He’s played one full season’s worth of games in three years and never more than 45 in a row. There is literally no single amount of value you can put on him over the next three to five years.

Some could say he’s worth nothing, a total bust and will never play a full season. Some could say to ride it out, give him a mid-level exception type of deal and hope you have a steal on your hands when he becomes healthy. Some could also say to offer up a deal that is slightly above what you think he could be on the open market just because you don’t want him to find another team, get healthy and make you rue this off-season for the rest of this franchise’s existence.

If he was slated to be playing right now and had a good showing in the preseason, it would be much easier to consider a deal. You could potentially see progress being made. Unfortunately, we are all still waiting for him to find his way back to the court.

This past week, Henry Abbott had a piece on the state of Greg Oden, and in it the contract he is now officially playing for was brought up.
Now, more than ever, he needs to produce. There's a contract on the line.

"I haven't thought about it at all," he says, without a ton of conviction.

In a way, I believe him that he hasn’t thought about the contract extension. How can he possibly think of the future, especially in terms of monetary goals, when he can’t seem to get on the court? His focus should be completely on the task at hand, which is getting healthy enough to help his team realize the potential we’ve all been boasting about for years.

Greg Oden could be starring in dominating summer league performances in a couple years, trying to fight for a roster spot with the likes of D-League stars and Adam Morrison. He could also be back to full health and anchoring one of the best defensive units of the past decade in a Dwight Howard-esque role. It’s just impossible to know exactly what can become or even what he is right now.

Guys can come back to be All-Stars. We’ve seen it with Zyndrunas Ilgauskas when everybody thought he was simply too fragile to be in this league. We’re seeing a pretty decent reclamation project of Yao Ming in the early stages of his actual comeback. And there’s no real reason to think Greg Oden can’t get past the freak injuries and become the freak of nature on the court the majority of us hoped he’d be.

For now though, he’s not in the Kevin Durant-Joakim Noah camp of guys their teams just couldn’t live without. His name will get placed with guys like Rodney Stuckey, Spencer Hawes and Brandan Wright. He’s one of the guys that are probably wanted by their current teams as long as the price is right and nobody better returns their phone calls.

He can still be a valuable asset to the Portland Trail Blazers. He just doesn’t have any decipherable value at the moment.