Greg Oden was the No. 1 pick in the 2007 NBA draft.
Portland had a 5.3-percent chance to win the draft lottery that year, and the Blazers improbably pulled a rabbit out of a hat and won the top pick.
Hopes and expectations were soaring in Portland at that point. Brandon Roy had just won the Rookie of the Year award, and now the Blazers were set to add a second franchise player in Oden or Kevin Durant.
Many draft analysts at the time said Portland couldn’t go wrong with either player.
With Oden set to miss an entire NBA season for the second time in his first four years in the league, it appears Portland DID go wrong, if only because of some bad luck in the knee department.
Here’s a look at Oden’s unlucky run early in his career:
Oden Sits 2007-08 Season
Before you claim Portland didn’t do its homework prior to selecting Oden in the 2007 draft, know that the 7-footer had MRIs done on both knees before draft day, and neither showed even an inkling of a potential problem.
Yet, in September of that year, between the draft and the start of Oden’s inaugural season in the NBA, Oden experienced swelling in his right knee, and an MRI revealed damage that would require microfracture surgery, the rehabilitation for which forced him to sit the entire season.
Oden Makes NBA Debut in 2008-09 Season
Oden hit the court for the first time as a Trail Blazer on October 28, 2008. He played 12 minutes, 51 seconds, went 0-for-4 from the field, 0-for-2 from the free-throw line and finished with five rebounds. He also left the game with a foot injury, and sat out the next two weeks.
Oden returned to action on November 12 against Miami, scoring his first NBA points and finishing with three points and two rebounds in a little over 16 minutes of play. Two nights later, he turned in 11 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks in 24 minutes. Blazers fans and coaches were FINALLY seeing their hopes in action.
Oden was solid over the next two and a half months, but he chipped a bone in his left knee after bumping it against the knee of Golden State’s Corey Maggette, and sat out the next three weeks.
In total, Oden played in 61 games that season, averaging 8.9 points, 7.0 rebounds, 1.1 blocks and 21:30 minutes per game. He appeared well on his way toward earning that No. 1 draft pick.
Oden Shows Improvement Before Freak Injury in 2009-10
By December of the 2009-10 season, Oden had become a regular contributor for the Trail Blazers, and was improving tremendously.
He had 24 points and 12 rebounds in a November 23, 2009 victory over the Chicago Bulls, and followed that up two days later with 18 points, eight rebounds and four blocks. He snagged a career-high 20 rebounds in a December 1, 2009 loss to Miami, to go with 13 points and four blocks.
Everything changed four days later, in the fourth quarter of Portland’s home game against Houston.
Oden came down wrong on his left knee and broke the kneecap, a gruesome-looking injury that left the Portland center in tears and apologizing to his teammates for getting injured yet again. He missed the remainder of the season.
Oden Sits Entire 2010-11 Season
Oden worked to rehabilitate from the broken kneecap, but before he’d ever taken the court, an MRI in November of 2010 revealed more damaged cartilage in his left knee, requiring yet another microfracture surgery, the rehabilitation for which generally takes six to 12 months.
The season-ending procedure meant Oden saw action in just 82 games during his first four seasons as an NBA pro.
The only other No. 1 draft pick to see so little action in his first four seasons was David Robinson, but the comparisons end with the statistic; Robinson didn’t join the NBA until three years after he was drafted, first honoring his commitment to serve in the Navy. Once Robinson did join the San Antonio Spurs, for the 1989-90 season, he played in 82 games that season, earning the Rookie of the Year award that year.
More on the Portland Trail Blazers
Oden Comparisons to Bowie Unfair
Rick Adelman’s Run as Trail Blazers Coach
Portland Headed for Playoffs Again in 2010-11
Greg Oden, Yahoo! Sports
Oden’s recovery from surgery likely in range of 6-12 months, ESPN.com