Apr 3, 2013; Portland, OR, USA; Portland Trail Blazers former center Greg Oden smiles while watching the Trail Blazers play against the Memphis Grizzlies at the Rose Garden. Mandatory Credit: Craig Mitchelldyer-USA TODAY Sports

NBA Free Agency: How Greg Oden’s decision could affect the OKC Thunder

The guy who was picked before Kevin Durant in the 2007 NBA Draft is said to be making his decision of which team he will sign with tomorrow.

Greg Oden will be making his return to the NBA next season. He last played 21 games in the 2009-10 season. He only played 61 games the year before that, which makes up the rest of his NBA career.

Oden has worked out with Miami, New Orleans, Sacramento, San Antonio, Atlanta and Dallas this summer. Miami and San Antonio have been said to be the frontrunners to sign Oden but his ultimate destination is still much up in the air.

Oden has obviously had more trouble staying on the court and healthy than just about anyone in NBA history. It led to him contemplating giving up basketball forever at the age of 22. It’s also led to us forgetting just how talented Oden was.

There was a reason that Oden was picked before Durant. Sure, you could have made a case for Portland to draft KD but Oden was supposed to be as sure of a thing, too.

Oden’s production in the NBA may not have been as impressive as what KD has done, but it definitely was solid.

Oden had a PER of 18.1 his first season and then 23.1 the next. That second season, Oden shot 60.5 percent from the field and had per 36 minute averages of 16.7 points, 12.4 rebounds and 3.4 blocks.

If Oden is able to get close to what he did that second season on his new team, he will be a player in this league potentially helping to decide the next champion.

If the Heat get him, it could be just what they need to sustain their recent dominance of the Eastern Conference. While everyone on the Heat roster is aging and it feels increasingly unlikely that they will be able to replicate last year, they are in need of a spark. Oden has the potential to emerge as a starter for them and anchor what could be the best defense in the league.

The same is true for the Spurs if they could land him. Oden could help transform them and keep the more relevant than ever.

Oden’s talent is undeniable. When healthy, he could be one of the best big men in the NBA, especially given the current landscape of the league.

The Thunder should have a leg up on a lot of other contenders. Their duo of Durant and Russell Westbrook – and the rest of the supporting cast – are at ages that should lend to an advantage over other contenders. Now duo is better right now than KD and Russ. With the rest of the role players improving, it should start to look like it’s the Thunder’s turn to begin winning championships.

Fortune for other teams whose window is supposed to be closing could change that for OKC. Oden may represent just that.

Tomorrow, we may find out where Oden will be playing next year. Oden’s impact is the furthest thing from a guarantee there is but the potential of what he could do could be huge. How ironic would it be if somehow Oden is the next player to thwart the Thunder’s hopes of a title?

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