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Greg Oden
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For centers taken No. 1, nothing wrong with 'average' debuts

By John Hareas, NBA.com
Posted Oct 27 2008 2:38PM

What kind of splash will Greg Oden make in his NBA regular-season debut Tuesday night in Los Angeles? If history is any indication, Oden should hope for an "average" performance, which translates to 17 points, 10.7 rebounds in 30.9 minutes of action. Those are the cumulative averages of past big men selected No. 1 overall in the NBA Draft.

RELATED LINKS

• VIDEO: NBA TV's Roundtable with Greg Oden
• VIDEO: NBA TV's Trail Blazers season preview

Oden joins an exclusive group. Out of the 22 centers taken with the top spot, eight are in the Hall of Fame while others are sure-fire first ballot guys (i.e. David Robinson, Shaquille O'Neal, Tim Duncan).

The most dominating big man rookie performance belongs to Chamberlain, the 1959 territorial pick of the Philadelphia Warriors. At 23, he toyed with the New York Knicks to the tune of 43 points, 28 rebounds while playing in all 48 minutes (the only other rookie big man to do that -- Lew Alcindor aka Kareem Abdul-Jabbar). The Warriors defeated the Knicks in the Garden, 118-109, and Chamberlain's virtuoso special that night served as a springboard to the most dominating rookie season in NBA history.

Chamberlain led the league in scoring (37.6 ppg), rebounding (27 rpg) and a slew of other categories while becoming the first player to win both Rookie of the Year and MVP honors in the same season.

The player who gets the nod for the most underrated dominating rookie debut has to be Walt Bellamy of the Chicago Packers. "Bells" scored 29 points, grabbed 17 rebounds in 39 minutes in a 120-103 loss to the Knicks. It was a performance that led to one of the greatest NBA Rookie-of-the-Year seasons -- 31.9 ppg and 19.0 rpg -- in 1961-62.

The tough-luck big man rookie debut honor goes to Kent Benson of the Milwaukee Bucks, who had his lights turned out courtesy of an Abdul-Jabbar roundhouse only two minutes into his first NBA game.

Some underwhelming big man opening night scoring performances include Shaquille O'Neal, the top pick of the 1992 draft, who recorded only 12 points (13 under his career average) against the Miami Heat, but O'Neal did have 18 rebounds. The Rockets' Yao Ming, the top prize in 2002, but went scoreless in 11 minutes of action against the Indiana Pacers.

Regardless of his stat line against the Lakers Tuesday night, Oden will hope his career starts more like Hall of Famer Bill Walton's (18 points, 24 rebounds, 5 assists, 46 minutes) than LaRue Martin's (2 points, 2 rebounds in six minutes), the other Blazer big men who went first overall in the draft (1974 and 1972, respectively). While Walton did miss his share of games due to injuries, Martin averaged a mere 5.3 ppg in his four NBA seasons (271 games).

Big Men Opening Night Debuts

Most Minutes
48 -- Wilt Chamberlain, Philadelphia Warriors (Warriors 118, New York Knicks, 109, 10/24/59)
48 -- Lew Alcindor, Milwaukee Bucks (Bucks 119, Detroit Pistons 110, 10/18/69)
46 -- Bill Walton, Portland Trail Blazers (Trail Blazers 131, Cleveland Cavaliers, 129, 10/18/74)

Fewest Minutes
2 -- Kent Benson, Milwaukee Bucks (Bucks 117, L.A. Lakers 112, 10/18/77)
6 -- LaRue Martin, Portland Trail Blazers (Seattle SuperSonics 92, Trail Blazers 84, 10/13/72)
11 -- Yao Ming, Houston Rockets (Indiana Pacers 91, Rockets 82, 10/30/02)

Most Points
43 -- Wilt Chamberlain, Philadelphia Warriors (Warriors 118, New York Knicks, 109, 10/24/59)
29 -- Lew Alcindor, Milwaukee Bucks (Bucks 119, Detroit Pistons 110, 10/18/69)
29 -- Walt Bellamy, Chicago Packers (New York Knicks 120, Packers 103, 10/19/61)

Fewest Points
0 -- Yao Ming, Houston Rockets (Indiana Pacers 91, Rockets 82, 10/30/02)
2 -- LaRue Martin, Portland Trail Blazers (Seattle SuperSonics 92, Trail Blazers 84, 10/13/72)
2 -- Kent Benson, Milwaukee Bucks (Bucks 117, L.A. Lakers 112, 10/18/77)

Most Rebounds
28 -- Wilt Chamberlain, Philadelphia Warriors (Warriors 118, New York Knicks, 109, 10/24/59)
24 -- Bill Walton, Portland Trail Blazers (Trail Blazers 131, Cleveland Cavaliers, 129, 10/18/74)
18 -- Shaquille O'Neal, Orlando Magic (Magic 110, Miami Heat 100, 11/6/92)

Most Assists
6 -- Lew Alcindor, Milwaukee Bucks (Bucks 119, Detroit Pistons 110, 10/18/69)
6 -- Brad Daugherty, Cleveland Cavaliers (Cavaliers 113, Washington Bullets 106, 11/1/86)
5 -- Bill Walton, Portland Trail Blazers (Trail Blazers 131, Cleveland Cavaliers, 129, 10/18/74)

Most Field Goals Made
17 -- Wilt Chamberlain, Philadelphia Warriors (Warriors 118, New York Knicks, 109, 10/24/59)
12 -- Lew Alcindor, Milwaukee Bucks (Bucks 119, Detroit Pistons 110, 10/18/69)
11 -- Elvin Hayes, San Diego Rockets (Rockets 128, Seattle SuperSonics 110, 10/17/68)
11 -- Akeem Olajuwon, Houston Rockets (Rockets 121, Dallas Mavericks 111, 10/27/84)

Most Field Goals Attempted
27 -- Wilt Chamberlain, Philadelphia Warriors (Warriors 118, New York Knicks, 109, 10/24/59)
27 -- Lew Alcindor, Milwaukee Bucks (Bucks 119, Detroit Pistons 110, 10/18/69)
21 -- Ralph Sampson, Houston Rockets (Rockets 106, San Antonio Spurs 100, 10/29/83)
21 -- Patrick Ewing, New York Knicks (Philadelphia 76ers 99, Knicks 89, 10/26/85)

Most Free Throws Made
15 -- Walt Bellamy, Chicago Packers (New York Knicks 120, Packers 103, 10/19/61)
11 -- David Robinson, San Antonio Spurs (Spurs 106, L.A. Lakers 98, 11/4/89)
11 -- Wilt Chamberlain, Philadephia Warriors (Warriors 118, New York Knicks, 109, 10/24/59)

Most Free Throws Attempted
18 -- Walt Bellamy, Chicago Packers (New York Knicks 120, Packers 103, 10/19/61)
15 -- Wilt Chamberlain, Philadelphia Warriors (Warriors 118, New York Knicks, 109, 10/24/59)
14 -- David Robinson, San Antonio Spurs (Spurs 106, L.A. Lakers 98, 11/4/89)

Note: Two centers -- George Wilson (No. 1, 1964) and Pervis Ellison (No. 1, 1989) -- missed the season opener due to injuries.

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