Thursday, January 25, 2007

Greg Oden Analysis

When you get the chance to see Greg Oden in person, you don’t pass up that opportunity.

Fortunately for me, I had that chance Wednesday night in Evanston for the Ohio State/Northwestern game.

Now, let me preface this by saying that I’m not a big college basketball guy. I don’t care for the style of play of most teams around the country, and like the majority of the nation, I don’t pay much attention until right before I need to fill out my bracket.

But seeing the much hyped potential #1 pick up close and personal outweighed the horror of having to do so at Welsh-Ryan Arena, a gym that truly made me long for my day’s attending high school games. Come on Northwestern, you’re in the Big Ten.

I didn’t care about the game’s outcome. I was zoned in on Oden and how he would fare against someone named Vince Scott.

Surprisingly, Northwestern’s zone defense actually shut Oden down for most of the night on offense. They doubled the big man constantly, theoretically cutting off passing lanes for the Ohio State guards. I say theoretically because I could have sworn I saw passing lanes that Buckeye guards chose not to take for some reason. Regardless, it may not have mattered as they struggled throwing over-the-top lob passes to Oden when much smaller defenders fronted him. Oden’s teammates also didn’t help matters by missing a ton of shots from the perimeter, which allowed Northwestern to sag their defenders even more onto Oden.

The Buckeyes sloshed their way through an ugly first half, and in my opinion it was largely due to Oden being a complete non-factor on both ends. He had seven first half points that came on a dunk, a nice face up 10-footer and three left handed free throws. The aspect of Oden’s game that seems to be lacking most at this stage is his assertiveness in demanding the basketball from his teammates. Since I don’t follow Ohio State closely, for all I know this is by head coach Thad Motta’s design. For my money, if I’m playing Northwestern, a team that features absolutely no one close in size or talent to my dominant big man, my game plan is to work it inside and establish the paint early and often. But what do I know?

One thing that stood out clearly in the first half, and really for the whole game, was Northwestern’s fear of bringing the ball anywhere near Oden when they had the ball on offense. The Wildcats did a good job of making their 3-pointers early, which forced Ohio State out of a zone and into a man-to-man defense. Because Northwestern has big men who can shoot (don’t ask me their names, I don’t know), Oden was forced to wander out to the three-point line and he struggled defending the long-range shot. That being said, as soon as Northwestern went cold from the outside, they had no options offensively since they were determined to stay away from Oden rejecting their shots inside. He only had one block in the basketball game, but his presence on the defensive end of the floor was obvious from the opening tip. He was also a monster on the glass in the first half, pulling down seven rebounds with ease.

In the second half, in the midst of surprisingly close game, Oden did what I was waiting for him to do. He completely took over the basketball game.

With 6:07 to go, he made a stunningly beautiful spin move off of a double team and sank a nice touch lay-up with the left hand. His ambidextrous ability makes him so much more frightening.

Two minutes later, with Ohio State clinging to a four-point advantage, Oden pulled down a big offensive rebound following a Ron Lewis missed free throw. He was hammered trying to put it back, and he only converted one of two free throws. It was clear he was determined to get any missed shot, and Northwestern had no answer.

With just over three minutes to go, the 7-footer grabbed another offensive rebound and finished to put the Buckeyes up five. On the ensuing trip down, Northwestern missed a shot, and Oden hauled in the rebound. Ivan Harris, who had a great game shooting, made a key shot at the other end, and the ball game was over.

Oden grabbed two more rebounds, finally blocked a shot, and finished with 17 points and 17 rebounds.

So, what can you take from a game like this? I’ve heard so much hype about Oden that I think I was actually disappointed he only went for 17 and 17 against Northwestern. But that’s not fair. He earned every one of his points, and I’m not sure any of them came off of a set play. In fact, most of his offense came off of rebounds. He owned the glass on both ends. He altered the game by standing in the paint on defense. On the negative side, he only made 5 of 10 free throws, but you can’t really fault him much for it because he’s still shooting them left handed due to his right wrist injury.

He was, without a shadow of a doubt, the difference maker in the game. He’s ready to go pro. I have no idea if he will. While watching him work for position constantly on offense and rarely get the ball, I began wondering what would happen if he played with a point guard who would find a way to get him the ball. This will sound strange, but I think he’s better equipped to play at the professional level right now. The college game seems all about perimeter shooting, and it turns Oden into an afterthought. That’s silly. The scary thing for the Big Ten is that if he stays, he’s only going to get better. I’m sure most of the league is rooting for him to make himself eligible for the draft.

I’ve watched Andrew Bynum play every game for the Lakers this year. He’s been a major surprise, and he looks like he’ll be a dominant big man for years to come. Oden’s game right now strikes me as much more polished than Bynum’s. If he played nastier, he would be the next coming of Dwight Howard. He could even surpass him. Oden needs more time to develop, and he needs a healthy right wrist, but if this is how he plays coming back from injury, he’s going to be someone I’m writing about for many, many years to come.

I can say I saw him when…

4 comments:

Mark Pane said...

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Also, how did you do that with your archives?

Thanks alot!

Lekun said...

Wow, we watched the same game in person and we saw two totally different things. I agree Oden was a non-factor in the first half, and pretty much a non-factor in the second. I mean, he is a half a foot taller than any other defender on NU's team and has more athletic ability in his pinkie, but continued not to get looks or make strong moves with the looks he did get.

Nearly every time the ball did make it down low to Oden he fumbled it, and that gave NU time to swarm all their guys down on him. Can Oden pass out of a double (or triple) team? Apparently not. And isn't Ohio State supposed to love the three ball? How come they don't work a better inside out game?

I know NU was running a zone which negates a little bit of the dribble penetration that was (obviously!) so easy for Ohio state to get, but OS really played down to NU's level - not a good thing when they get in the tourney with a high seed and are faced with some mid-major who is all amped up.

And what was with that weak press Ohio was using? It was half-assed and all it did was slow the game down. That's NU's game plan, frigtards! When you are grossly outmatched by your opponent you want to take seconds off the clock and keep the score low. NU should send a thank you note over to Ohio's coaching staff. And Ohio never tried to run with the ball despite fielding five players who all have more athletic ability than any NU player.

Oden's defense was lame. His man kept NU in the game and that block shot came in the final minute when NU was heaving up desperation. That shouldn't go on his state line. Oden's feet are SLOOOOOWWWW. NBA game? Whatever. He needs to add another 20 lbs before he'll have an NBA with those slow feet.

He has a soft touch, and making left-handed free throws - I'll admit - is impressive. But I was expecting to see a man play among boys and I was dissapointed.

Is this really the top pick this year?

jb said...

lekun, a 17-17 dub-dub in a 53-possession NU slowdown game isn't impressive? He averaged almost 2.5 points for every shot attempt! That's not impressive? All while being double and triple teamed all night long!

Yes, it took him a while to get started, but he owned the last 10 minutes. It probably took him that long to realize there was an actual game going on in that high school gym.

Lekun said...

JB,

First, let me cop out and say I don't have a lot of experience watching future NBA superstars in college (mostly because it is a retrospective ordeal). I didn't follow Dwayne Wade at Marquette, and really only intently watched Carmelo in the finals game where he was injured - not to mention people weren't salivating over Carmelo like they are Oden. So, it is a little hard for me to judge what a great NBA player looks like in college as so often once they are great in the NBA all you see is their college highlights not their grind-them-out games with the bottom-of-their-conference opponents.

However...

Take last night's Utah v. SA game. Tim Duncan (who, as an aside, I despise because the 'Big Funamental' is so f-ing boring and emotionless) was virtually unstoppable. Utah, a good team, played him to the left, and he spun right. They played him up close, and he drove by. The double teamed him and hit wide open players. Timmy is a superstar (so I hear) but then again, Utah isn't Northwestern.

Even though I was fighting the urge to fall asleep every time Timmy touched the ball, none of what he did was apparent to me in Oden.

Oden was getting doubled and tripled team because he was often fumbling the ball and trying to pick it up off the hard wood which gave NU time to collapse. Not once did he pass effectively out of a double team which was all the more scary considering OS is supposed to love the three ball. Not once did I really see a quick catch and a quick move before a double/triple team arrived. Yes his wrist is hurt, and that possibly could be hampering him quite a bit. I dunno – I'm not the team doctor; I'm just calling what I see.

And really, how daunting is an NU triple team for a guy that everyone says is going to be a superstar, anyway?

17 - 17 is quality, but not dominance. And maybe he was mailing it in. Maybe the gym did confuse him (a lot of high schools have nicer and/or bigger gyms... it is really kinda odd). But that game was tight down the stretch. And maybe OS really knew they could pull it out and didn't really care. Fine.

But not once did I see a drop step followed by an authoritative dunk by the man people want Memphis to take a dive for against a team that some high schools could beat.

And in the end I was just dissapointed because I had hoped for some dominance.

Choice quote sums up my position:
"I thought Vince (Scott) played him as well as he could have," Doyle said. "Oden's going to be a pro, and Vince is going to be an investment banker." - Tim Doyle, player for Northwestern

I don't see any future investment bankers playing Ewing well by any one's estimation (even if it is the I-banker's teamate and friend).

I guess we'll all know in a year or two, but I for one am registering the "FreeOden.com" domain today! :-)