Quick Thoughts

1. Oden Ouch: The Blazers have recently gotten the tough news that Greg Oden, their number one pick and the ballyhooed number one overall pick, will miss the entire season with micro facture knee surgery.  The immediate reaction was to talk about how the Blazers are in serious trouble and that Oden may carry the curse of previous high picked Blazer centers Bill Walton and Sam Bowie, whose careers were both seriously curtailed by chronic problems.  The injury to Oden, while certainly not ideal, doesn’t matter too much to the 2007-08 Blazers as they really weren’t a contender anyway.  Hell, a couple of teams have used the absence of potential stars to amass a couple of high picks.  Notably, the Spurs had to wait two years for David Robinson to fulfill his Navy duties and were able to accrue two pretty good players in Willie Anderson and Sean Elliott and were ready to do some damage when Robinson did show up.  The Blazers are in a similar situation and one more bad year could land an O.J. Mayo or a Derrick Rose, which would could really round out the bakcourt.

The real issue is whether Oden will be able to comeback healthy and have a nice career.  I honestly have no clue on that one.  After Chris Webber and Jason Kidd had the same surgery a few years ago, we took a look at the procedure and found that their wasn’t really enough data to figure out the results.  Of the four players we examined, the results weren’t great.  Karl Malone never played again (this seemed to be of his own accord) and Allan Houston’s career was essentially over too.  Chris Webber came back but was never the same player (though he wasn’t terrible).  Other players offer more hope.  Jason Kidd certainly didn’t miss a beat.  More recently, Zach Randolph and Amare Stoudemire (two younger players) have returned to form.  Every case is different but Oden’s youth has to give Portland fans some hope.

2.  Top Pick Games: It has been pretty much assured that Oden will miss the entire 2007-08.  That got me wondering how often the top overall pick missed most of his rookie season.  We went through the list to see how many top picks missed more than 20 games their rookie year.  I thought it’d be interesting to take a look at these top picks and to see (a) how they followed up that rookie and (b) how many career games they ultimately played.  Here’s the list:

Year Pick Rookie Year 2 Career
1952 G. Melchiorre 0 0 0
1956 S. Green 13 0 504
1965 F. Hetzel 56 77 416
1971 A. Carr 43 82 682
1973 D. Collins 25 81 415
1974 B. Walton 35 51 468
1981 M. Aguirre 51 81 923
1985 P. Ewing 50 63 1,183
1988 D. Manning 26 71 883
1989 P. Ellison 34 76 474
2001 K. Brown 57 80 366

It’s a pretty short list but here are some the notes:

-Gene Melchiorre was a star guard out of Bradley who got caught up in the college gambling scandals, admitting taking money to to shave points.  He was kind of like the original Connie Hawkins, except Melchiorre never got the chance to ever play in the NBA.  I suggest you catch up on this great 2001 article about Melchiorre, who stayed in Illinois and made a pretty nice life for himself outside of the world of sports.

-Sihugo Green is somewhat well known for being drafted by the Hawks ahead of Bill Russell.  Green was a 6’3 leaper who played forward in college for Duquesne and led the team to the NIT title in 1955.  Green was so athletic that at 6’3 he even guarded seven-footers in college.  As a pro, Green missed most of his rookie season and all of his second season with knee problems.  He eventually went on to have a decent nine season career but was never a featured player.

-Austin Carr and Patrick Ewing both had knee surgery shorten their rookies but would be relatively healthy the rest of their long careers.

-We all remember Bill Walton’s foot problems that dogged him his whole career but Doug Collins also was plagued by injuries (knee issues).  Collins score 18 ppg for his career but was only truly healthy for three of his eight seasons and was out of the NBA by 1981.

-Mark Aguirre had a fluke broken foot his rookie year but came back strong.  Fred Hetzel also stayed healthy after his rookie season.

-It might be hard to remember now but Danny Manning came into the pros as the closest thing in hype and skill-set to Magic Johnson–a big point guard with the knack to win.  He blew his knee out shortly into his rookie season but came back as essentially the same player the next year.  He would have several other injuries through his career but Manning was still an All-Star when healthy, if not Magic Johnson.

-Pervis Ellison was also a well-known college player, leading Louisville to a title as a freshman in 1985-86.  He was not a consensus number one pick when the Kings took him in 1989 (Glen Rice and Danny Ferry were the hotter properties at the time).  It got even wackier when Ellison showed up to his first training camp with a previously undisclosed heel injury.  This brought out word that Sacramento’s GM Bill Russell never actually brought Ellison in for a workout prior to drafting him.  He missed most of that first season and wasn’t so good when played.  Ellison’s injuries concerned the team enough to trade him after one season for a relatively weak package of journeyman Bobby Hansen, Eric Leckner (fring big man), a later first-round pick (ended up being Anthony Bonner), and two second-rounders that never made the team.  Ellison was actually okay for a few years for Washington ( put up 19 ppg and 10 rpg from 1991 through 1993) but could never stay healthy and ended up as a bit player.

-Finally, Kwame Brown was probably the healthiest guy on the list.  His problem was that he was a raw rookie and was not loved by Michael Jordan and the coaching staff.  Brown sat a lot and felt so nervous that at one point was put on the injured list with stress-related acne.

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