No pun intended. Greg Oden broke his left patella 4 minutes into Portland's game against Houston. This is absolutely devastating news for the Blazers who are already without so many other players. It is equally devastating for Oden who is one of the league's greatest personalities and hardest workers, but will have totaled 82 games across his first three pro seasons. It's tough to believe next season will be Oden's contract year already!
The Blazers were already shorthanded before this major loss. Nicolas Batum and Travis Outlaw are out until March or April, if not the entire season. Rookies Jeff Pendergraph and Patrick Mills are also hurt. Pendergraph will be back sooner than Mills, who won't return until January at the earliest. LaMarcus Aldridge and Rudy Fernandez have also been in and out of the lineup with various injuries that they are soon going to have to suck up and play through.
It's worth noting that Mills forced the Blazers to tender him a contract, which led to the Blazers not being able to keep training camp Ime Udoka or Jarron Collins. Both of them would be very welcome additions at this point, but they were quickly snatched up by the Kings and Suns.
Here's what's left of the Blazers Depth Chart...
PG: Andre Miller, Steve Blake, Jerryd Bayless
SG: Brandon Roy, Rudy Fernandez
SF: Martell Webster
PF: LaMarcus Aldridge, Dante Cunningham
C: Joel Przybilla, Juwan Howard
Previously, the Blazers used a Miller/Blake/Roy lineup and it seems the team may have to go back to that in order to get the most balance out of what little they have left. They will need a total team effort from all 10 players in order to keep winning games. They will not be able to afford foul trouble from their big men, which is a problem, because Przybilla was just as foul prone as Oden was.
Fouls Per 36 Minutes
Without Oden's prsence the rest of the Blazers will get in even more foul trouble, and we are probably about to see some Martell Webster at PF in the near future if things don't change. Blazer fans at this point are anxiously awaiting the return of Jeff Pendergraph, and that's a sentence I never thought I'd ever type.
It's probable that the league will grant the Blazers an injury exception, and allow them to go over the 15-man roster limit. Aside from D-League options like Robert Swift, they could sign an older vet like Jake Voskuhl. Neither option would offer much in the way of quality rotation minutes, so it looks like a trade would be the best way if Portland wants to make the playoffs. Their biggest trade chip is easily Andre Miller.
Miller hasn't worked out as a free agent signing, and isn't allowed to be traded until December 15th. With Bayless waiting in the wings, they can afford to lose him for a big man. I'd like to nominate the Knicks as trading partners, as they have more than a few suitable trade chips.
Andre Miller: 2 years, 14 million
Travis Outlaw: 1 year, 3.6 million
Patrick Mlls: 1 year, league minimum
Eddy Curry: 2 years, 21.8 million
Jared Jeffries: 2 years, 13.4 million
Darko Milicic: 1 year, 7.5 million
Chris Duhon: 1 year, 6 million
Nate Robinson: 1 year, 4 million
The Knicks value their cap space so they would need to shed a multi-year deal in exchange for Miller's two years. Curry's contract is too rich to be a real consideration (and he isn't exactly healthy himself). Darko would be a good fit for Portland, but the Knicks would be losing 7 million in cap space. Jeffries is the best fit as he could be traded for Miller straight up. He is a very versatile defender and would fit very well in Nate McMillian's system. He can guard all five positions, and has worked on his jumper a little bit. You still would rather have Miller than Jeffries though, so to even out the trade I would recommend adding the injured Outlaw (who wasn't going to be re-signed anyway) and getting the Knicks to add Nate Robinson. Robinson lit up the Blazers for a career high 45 points in 2008, so they know what he's capable of. Robinson isn't likely to return to the Knicks since he is recording DNP-CDs as coach D'Antoni favors the defensive minded Toney Douglas. He would fit the 6th man role much better than Miller. The Blazers may not want Nate, who is a bit of a headcase, so perhaps substitute the much maligned Duhon, who is much more suited to the bench, and is the classy, pass first, defensive minded player that Portland would want. Toss in Patrick Mills to get salaries to work, and you've got yourself a deal.
Miller, Outlaw, Mills for Jeffries and Duhon. Essentially a one for two when you take the injuries into account.
In any event, it will be very interesting to see what Portland does from here. If Kevin Pritchard would like to take my idea, I'd be more than happy to let him take the credit for it :)