The second game of the NBA’s Tip-Off Tuesday features the reigning Western Conference champs pitted against the most promising young team in the NBA. We’re talking about the Lakers of Los Angeles and the Trailblazers of Portland of course. Kobe Bryant versus Brandon Roy. Pau Gasol versus LaMarcus Aldridge. Sasha Vujacic versus Rudy Fernandez. Nicolas Batum versus Vladimir Radmanovic… Anyways, it’s the matchup in the middle we’ll be watching closely – man-child Andrew Bynum versus old-man-child Greg Oden. It figures to be one of the, if not the, marquee matchup in the middle for the next decade.
Greg Oden, C, Portland Trailblazers
In the black corner we have Gregory Wayne Oden, Jr., standing at an even 7′ tall and weighing in at (a conservative) 285 lbs. At 20 years and 9 months old, the Portland Trailblazers’ “rookie” center is the most highly touted big man of the last decade. Earlier this month he was described by the esteemed Kelly Dwyer thusly, “He’s just too big and too long and his hands are too perfect. Think about someone with Patrick Ewing’s length, Chris Webber’s hands, and Dwight Howard’s explosiveness, and you have Oden. The package is truly there.”
So yeah, expectations are pretty high for the first-overall pick from th 2007 NBA Draft. At his age we don’t expect to see much offensive wizardry, that will take some time and polish. There’s no reason he can’t be a high-level defensive presence and rebounder this season though, particularly once he gets comfortable on that reconstructed knee. In fact, guys are already putting a bounty out to anyone who can dunk on the big fella and he’s up to the challenge.
Andrew Bynum, C, Los Angeles Lakers
In the gold corner we have Lee Andrew Bynum, also standing 7′ tall and weighing in at 285 lbs. And although Bynum is just a day older than 21 years, this will be his fourth season of professional basketball. The 10th overall pick in the 2005 draft started slow, averaging a meager 1.6 points and 1.5 boards per game as a rookie, but he emerged as the best young center in basketball last season – and perhaps the best offensive center period. His 2007-08 season ended prematurely this January when Bynum landed awkwardly and suffered a partially dislocated kneecap.
It was a crying shame because the young man was on fire.
How hot was he? Over the previous two weeks Bynum had been averaging 17.3 points on a blazing 70% shooting from the field, 12.2 boards, 2.3 blocks and 2.7 assists with just 1.5 turnovers a game. Yowzers. Oh, and he was just starting to hit his free-throws too, you know, for good measure. When you factor in the ridiculous efficiency, the fact that he was the third option on offense, and that he was barely 20 years old – well, you see why we think the kid will be alright.
So which of these colossus phenoms of the hardwood will reign supreme for 2009 and beyond? Well we won’t exactly find out tonight, but it should be a hell of a lot of fun to watch.