The riveting Greg Oden chase is nearing an anticlimactic end.
According to Yahoo! Sports' Marc Spears, Oden will reportedly sign a new deal next week with either the Miami Heat, San Antonio Spurs, New Orleans Pelicans, Dallas Mavericks, Sacramento Kings or Atlanta Hawks. The Spurs and Heat are the top contenders, though any deal is contingent on Oden passing a physical.
Oden, 25, was drafted with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2007 NBA Draft, one spot ahead of three-time scoring champion Kevin Durant. He played in 82 games during his first two seasons, but the seven-foot center was mired with several debilitating injuries, including a fractured knee cap that cut his sophomore year short. He's underwent multiple career-threatening microfracture surgeries on his knees, and investing huge gobs of money in Oden is considerably risky.
But Oden was still productive in limited minutes, averaging 9.4 points and 7.3 rebounds in 22.1 minutes per game — though he did struggle mightily with NBA athleticism, and excessive foul trouble (6.4 personal fouls per 36 minutes) gradually whittled his role in the Blazers rotation. Still, he rejected 5.1 percent of opponents shots during his career according to Basketball Reference, a mark that would've placed him in the top 10 last season, and he devoured rebounds at an elite clip. There isn't many centers that can replicate his raw production on the defensive end.
Oden impressed a few observers in his Indianapolis workout yesterday, so perhaps the extended four-year lay off will rejuvenate his body. It's a risk well worth taking, and Oden could develop into a low-leverage difference maker on the right team. It just isn't quite the role Portland envisioned him fulfilling six years ago.