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Who You Got? Greg Oden vs. Joakim Noah

March 25, 2010

Greg Oden

Greg Oden Photo Credit: Icon SMI

By Zachariah Blott

WhoYou Got? is a new original ETB series that looks at two players’ futures and aims to answer the following: if you had to select one of these players for the remainder of their career, independent of salary implications and their hypothetical future teammates, who would you take?

First up: Chicago Bulls C Joakim Noah vs. Portland Trail Blazers C Greg Oden

Their Connection

This pair of centers first met in the 2007 NCAA Championship Game, a game in which Oden demolished Florida’s vaulted frontline, but Florida’s depth and experience carried them to their second consecutive title. Oden registered 25 points, 12 rebounds, and 4 blocks in the loss, compared to Noah’s 8, 3, and 0 in the win.

Oden was the first pick in that summer’s draft, and Noah was 9th. Since then, Oden has been a strong interior presence for the Blazers, but he’s been riddled with injuries and missed huge chunks of time, including his entire “rookie season”. Noah has provided an energetic presence for Chicago, ADD-ing his way to 11 rebounds per this season.

The Case for Greg Oden

When he’s playing, his rates of production are very similar to Dwight Howard’s. In Oden’s 21 games this season, he shot 61% from the field, his true shooting percentage (TS%) was 65%, he grabbed 22% of all available rebounds, and he blocked 7.6% of opponents’ 2-point attempts. For comparision, Howard is shooting 61%, his TS% is 63%, he’s grabbed 22% of available rebounds, and he’s blocked 5.8% of opponents’ 2-point attempts. The numbers for Oden are all also improvements over his rookie season, so as a 45-year-old man he’s still getting better.

Oden’s pers are decent but can obviously increase significantly with more minutes (11 points, 8.5 rebounds, 2.3 blocks, in 24 minutes per). He’s also currently Portland’s fourth or fifth scoring option at this point in his young career. With more opportunities and experience, he could post some fantastic statistics while becoming one of the top-two defensive forces in the league.

Almost every non-Jordan team that’s won a championship has had a great big man, and Oden has the potential to be this type of cornerstone; Noah doesn’t. Noah will always be a nice compliment, but he’s had trouble starting over an aging Brad Miller and Ben Wallace for the past 3 years. Even if Oden only plays a few seasons at his achieved potential, it’s easy to imagine his interior dominance contributing heavily to a championship team, like Bill Walton was able to do during his tragically small window of greatness. That’s as good a reason as any to take a chance on Oden.

The case for Joakim Noah, and the final verdict, after the break…

Joakim Noah

Joakim Noah Photo Credit: Icon SMI

The Case for Joakim Noah

There is no question that Oden’s ceiling is higher, but will his body ever allow him to reach it? His numerous injuries have limited him to exactly one season’s worth of games, 82, over his first three seasons. Noah is dealing with heel problems right now, but he’s never had extended injuries that wiped away entire seasons. And it’s not like Noah’s been a slouch over his first three seasons with the Bulls.

With gradually increasing minutes each year, his scoring has risen, his rebounds are way up (near-NBA-best 11 per this season), his blocks are up, he’s getting to the free-throw line more, and he’s consistently been around a 50% shooter from the field. His high energy style of play is infectious, and he never takes plays off. You know you’re always getting 100% from Noah, which has made him one of the best interior defenders in the NBA.

Like Cleveland’s similarly-Sideshow-Bob-haired Anderson Varejao, he seemingly pesters everyone on the opposition who comes within 15 feet of the hoop, and his quickness makes him versatile enough to guard whomever he ends up with in the paint. He’s currently blocking 1.5 shots per, and he forces opponents to rethink a lot of passes and shots they’d normally attempt simply because he’s all over the place. A great defender and rebounder is someone you want on your team for the long haul, and Noah fits that role to a T.

The Verdict

This is a tough decision because one guy provides a shot at extreme dominance for what’s bound to be a short amount of time versus a consistently good performer who will never be the chief reason a team is winning an NBA title. If my GM job was on the line, though, I’d have to take Joakim Noah simply because Oden is starting to look like damaged goods. If it’s not one thing, it’s another. He’s had multiple, long-term issues with his knees, and his temperament has swung back-and-forth each time. Noah is a known commodity who you can safely pencil in as your team’s best defender, rebounder, and hustle guy for years to come.

Zachariah Blott cannot recommend Rick Telander’s “Heaven Is A Playground” enough.

13 Comments »Posted by ETB Contributor on Mar. 25, 2010 at 3:01 pm in ETB Articles, NBA

13 Responses

Yea, taking shots at a guys physical appearance, ’45 year old man getting better…’ just never gets old, does it? I mean, it’s not like that joke hasn’t been used by everyone who watches basketball by now, right? And you must be some kind of supermodel, without a physical flaw at all? I’ll never read another one of your p.o.s. columns here. Good work.

Posted by: -CE- on March 25th, 2010 at 5:46 pm

he took shots at both players, so i don’t know you are only defending Oden. unfortunately, i don’t see the same potential in Oden as the writer does but do hope he can get healthy and play.

Posted by: -CE- lol on March 25th, 2010 at 6:11 pm

I’ve got Noah. Definitely. Looks like he’ll last in this league and even make an All-star game or two in his career. Oden? Not so sure on his destiny…

Looking at how Noah started his career with disappointment and being out of shape, and later becoming a top performer in a stat category in the league (rebounds) and using the offseason to bulk up and come into the season in shape and ready to work… this shows he has a learning curve many young NBA’ers don’t have. He realized he can’t just cash checks, he needs to earn them. He is a hard worker on and off the court.
He’s also becoming a team leader – even stands up to LBJ.

Posted by: BC on March 25th, 2010 at 6:26 pm

If anyone deserves shots at his physical appearance, its Noah.

Posted by: Dino on March 25th, 2010 at 6:28 pm

Have you ever heard of sarcasm, CE? Plus, if you’re going to stop reading somebody’s work because they made a joke about Greg Oden’s physical appearance then there is nothing left in the world for you to read.

Posted by: Mark on March 25th, 2010 at 6:55 pm

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Posted by: Sports news » Blog Archive » The 10-man rotation, starring the best in-game dunkers on March 26th, 2010 at 2:20 am

Dude the 45 year old comment wasnt bad cuz it was hurtful, it was bad cuz it wasnt funny. It was informative up to that point and that was a weak geeky stab. ANYWAY…Noahs the shit for any team, everyone needs rebounding and energy, but theres only 5 guys in the L who can bring that. I dont blame the Blazers, they had to take Oden but man…

Posted by: Double R_ah on March 26th, 2010 at 7:36 am

So, how much of this was Zach’s and how much is yours, Brian?

I’m a Gator fan, but I’d still have to take a healthy Oden over Noah. I love Noah, but like the article says Oden has NBA championship material, Noah has NBA role player material.

Besides anyone who watched Oden’s last eight games, before he went down this season, could see that x-factor of greatness and dominance starting to come out. He was becoming reliable and a focal point on offense and defense. That’s something Joakim most likely won’t be.

Posted by: Inquisitor on March 26th, 2010 at 12:04 pm

This is 100% Zach. I only added the extremely light, well-used jab at Oden which, again, wasn’t meant to be the hysterical zinger some thought we/I was aiming for.

I think health is the deciding factor here; there’s no question that all things equal Oden is the better player with more long-term potential for greatness. But can he stay healthy? Zach and I both (along with millions of others) have serious doubts. I think the Blazers can only afford to go one more season with Oden pegged as “their guy” in the middle; if he suffers another semi-major injury next season, or misses huge chunks of time, they’re going to have to reconsider their plans. I really like the idea of signing Camby to a 2-3 year deal because of Oden’s uncertainty.

Posted by: Brian Spencer on March 26th, 2010 at 12:13 pm

It would definitely be in the Blazers’ best interest to sign Camby this summer, but he said at one point he wants to play in New York, LA, or Portland. One of these is not like the others.

Posted by: Zachariah Blott on March 26th, 2010 at 2:33 pm

anyone who cites Odens recent play is foolish. Nothing has been recent, hes never on the floor, thats why this is even a debate. Hes a phenominal talent but the point is who is on the floor. And Noah isnt a slouch. Close to 12 boards a gam,e for a major stretch this year earns much respect.

Posted by: Double R_ah on March 27th, 2010 at 2:09 am

Noah has played in 7 of Chicago’s last 24 games, and only once for over 12 minutes, so it’s hard to cite Noah’s recent play as well.

Posted by: Zachariah Blott on March 27th, 2010 at 8:16 pm

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Posted by: The 10-man rotation, starring the best in-game dunkers | Movies l Television l Commercials l on April 4th, 2010 at 3:41 pm

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