COACH: Nate McMillan | 2007-08: 41-41
Portland Trail Blazers

How large will Oden loom for the Trail Blazers this season?
Sam Forencich/NBAE/Getty Images
He blogs! He's funny! He sings!

But can Greg Oden play?

Last year, we were supposed to see just what the Next Great Big Man™ would bring to the court. Scouts noted he could bring the noise at both ends of the floor, that he has an Einstein-sized basketball IQ. To top it off, he's is big, athletic and agile -- three things you can't teach.

Yet, thanks (or no thanks) to microfracture surgery on his right knee just before the start of last season, the Next Great Big Man™ era needed rehab before it even began.

So how does a 7-foot, 250-pound center spend what is essentially a redshirt season in the NBA? One, by doing what we described in the opening paragraph and, two, by working out. A lot, and he's looked good doing so.

Where does adding a bigger, stronger, healthy Oden put the Blazers, who shocked the NBA by reeling off a 13-game winning streak in December and played tough until they faded to a 41-41 record? Dare I say a top five team in the West? I did. And John Schuhmann took that dare in NBA.com's The Court Reporters and said, "No, not top five. Top seven."

Considering the Utah Jazz won the Northwest Division with a 54-28 record, the Blazers may be able to sneak away with the Northwest with 55 wins. That's 14 more wins than last season. Can Oden, with additions such as rookies Rudy Fernandez and Jerryd Bayless, when added to a solid core of All-Star Brandon Roy and emerging frontcourt star LaMarcus Aldridge, help this team to 14 more wins? And in the rugged West, no less?

Whether it's adding a KG, a Tim Duncan, a David Robinson or a Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (ne Lew Alcindor), when breaking down the greatest turnarounds in NBA history, four of the top six single-season turnarounds in NBA history included adding a center who could command a double-team on offense and block and alter shots on defense.

Then again, KG came to the Celtics after 11 seasons with the Timberwolves, Duncan and Robinson to the Spurs each after four years of college and the same goes for Kareem who won three consecutive national titles at UCLA before turning the Bucks franchise around in 1970. They entered their respective situations like basketball Athenas -- fully formed.

Oden is far from polished. He spent one year at Ohio State before being selected as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2007 NBA Draft. He hasn't played at full speed against NBA-level competition since the 2007 Vegas Summer League. He's bigger and stronger, but will he physically be able to survive the grind that is an 82-game season? And, how will he hold up mentally, especially if he hits the rookie wall?

Those questions may only be answered one way: by playing. For a year, Oden has been interviewed about his desire to get back on the court. For a year, Blazers fans have been waiting to see if progress has been made. Oden and Blazers fans have been patient. They've had no other choice.

But soon the talk will stop, the action will start and we'll be able to see if Oden was worth the wait.

-- Rob Peterson

Season tickets are going fast. Head to the Trail Blazers ticket center.
You mean besides Mr. Big Stuff in the overview? Oden's fellow rookie Rudy Fernandez would be a good choice. Via Jason Quick of The Oregonian, let's let Trail Blazers brass handle why this would be so:
" Blazers management treated his arrival with excitement and reverence similar to that given 2007 No. 1 draft pick Greg Oden. General manager Kevin Pritchard said, 'We expect big things out of him. . . . We feel like he is immediate help,' and coach Nate McMillan said the 6-foot-5 shooting guard is 'a special player.'"

With a team as deep as the Trail Blazers, you may think that such immediacy would be imprudent, but it seems Fernandez's special skill -- great passer, exceptional shooter and gritty defender (How come no one is a smooth defender? Anyway...) -- set should get him plenty of burn in Portland.

Fernandez will need to pick up some of the slack left by James Jones' departure. Jones proved to be one of the proverbial unrated talents in the NBA, because surprisingly, as Jones went, so did the Blazers. That's not to say Portland's fortunes rest on the skinny shoulders of their Spanish import, but it will be important for Fernandez to stretch defenses as Jones did and spell Brandon Roy at two.

Which is exactly what Pritchard, who began scouting Fernandez five years ago, expects. "“He’s exactly what we want in a player,” Pritchard said. “He’s a team player, a great kid, and I think he will raise the level of everybody else, and that’s probably what we are excited about more than anything.”

THE STAT
4 Number of overall No. 1 Draft picks in Blazers history: LaRue Martin, Bill Walton, Mychal Thompson and Greg Oden
Portland may be the surprise team in the West.
Last year they were very solid under Nate McMillan and should only get better with the addition of Greg Oden back from his season-ending surgery.
The one area that still may hold them back is the point guard spot. Fernandez is okay but is best as a backup. And the same can be said about Steve Blake. So if they fail this year it will probably be due to this position.
But any time you can put LaMarcus Aldridge, Brandon Roy, Joel Przybilla and Oden on the floor you know you will be solid on both ends of the floor.
-- NBA Scout
Greg Oden will start from day one and should be among the leading rebounders and shot blockers in the NBA this season. A legit seven-foot center with a huge frame (he'll likely play around 275 pounds this year), Oden has a surprising skill set.

Need more? Order Rotowire's Draft Kit on NBA.com
NBA.com Fantasy Index

Record: 33-49, 10th in Western Conf.
Playoffs: No postseason
Scoring Leader: B. Roy, 18.2 PPG
Rebounding Leader: G. Oden, 9.4 RPG
Assist Leader: S. Blake, 6.1 APG

Simulated Season Details
PLAYER/2007-08 STATS PPG RPG APG
PG Steve Blake 8.5 2.4 5.1
SG Brandon Roy 19.1 4.7 5.8
SF Travis Outlaw 13.3 4.6 1.3
PF LaMarcus Aldridge 17.8 7.6 1.6
C Greg Oden -- -- --

G Jerryd Bayless -- -- --
G Rudy Fernandez -- -- --
F Martell Webster 10.7 3.9 1.2
F Ike Diogu 5.6 2.8 0.3
G Rudy Fernandez Draft
G Brandon Rush Draft
F Nicolas Batum Draft
G Luke Jackson Free agent
G Jerryd Bayless Trade
F Shavlik Randolph Free agent
F Ike Diogu Trade
G Jarrett Jack Trade
G James Jones Free agent
G Von Wafer Free agent
F Josh McRoberts Trade
PPG Brandon Roy 19.1
RPG Joel Przybilla 8.4
APG Brandon Roy 5.8
SPG Brandon Roy 1.1
BPG Joel Przybilla 1.2
Points Scored 95.36 (27th)
Points Allowed 96.34 (8th)
Field-Goal Percentage .448 (21st)
Opponents' FG% .451 (8th)
Rebounding Diff. -1.01 (20th)
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Local Coverage: The Oregonian