The Potential — And Shortcomings — Of Greg Oden

Ben Golliver of recently had an insightful post about the potential of Greg Oden.

Ben talked with Kevin Pelton, stats guru of Basketball Prospectus, who provided some giddy projections for Oden. Things such as averaging 19 points and 12 rebounds per 40 minutes. Things that, at this age, would make him comparable to Dwight Howard, Hakeem Olajuwon, and Tim Duncan. Those comparisons come from Pelton’s projections for Wins Above Replacement Player.

As Pelton points out, “Oh yeah, by the way, these projections — especially the three-year WARP projections — don’t consider health.”

But there’s something else they don’t consider. Based on the two seasons he has actually played games, Oden averages 7.1 fouls per 40 minutes. That’s 7.1, as in more than the legal limit for a single game. As in, unless Darth Stern invokes The Oden Rule and allows eight fouls per game, Oden isn’t going to average 40 minutes.

I don’t know how much Pelton’s WARP projections take this into account, but thus far Oden has averaged six fouls every 33.8 minutes. Thus far, we have no reason to believe he can ever average 40 minutes per game.

Pelton’s not saying Oden will average that many minutes. He’s just sharing what his computer program projects, and the projections are based on 40 minutes. The problem is that, with Oden, 40 minutes equals nearly two whole games. Based on the 22 minutes he has averaged in his career, that 19 and 12 suddenly becomes 10.5 and 6.6.

Oden was very effective last year when he was healthy. But making any sort of per-minute projections for him is to ignore the elephant that’s sitting on your foot.