Why I think Dallas has to sign Greg Oden, or, "I know why the caged fan cries"

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Dallas is firmly in the mix for free agent center Greg Oden. Should the Mavericks take a chance on the big man who hasn't played in three years?

As reported, Dallas is interested in former Portland Trailblazer Greg Oden.

This news will undoubtedly produce a wildly diverse set of reactions.

To some, Oden is not worth the time. A near-constant presence in the trainer's room or on the surgery table, Oden's journey from prodigal to pitiable has been well documented. His chances of every playing again, let alone at a high level, are not outstanding.

To others, Oden is the last young, high-upside center talent still on the market(not counting Nikola Pekovic, who is two years older and likely to be retained by Minnesota as a restricted free agent). Dallas has courted, flirted, and rejected/been rejected by two of these already, in Dwight Howard and Andrew Bynum. Each came with some of the same risks Oden presents.

I made my case a month ago for Oden, who I have long viewed as an ideal project for a team like Dallas. If anything, the circumstances have only become more desperate.

Listen: if you're Dallas, you can go and sign a Samuel Dalembert. You can do that, and maybe Dalembert can be your starting center.

But Dalembert is 32, an age centers usually start to lose their athleticisim, and Sam I am showed serious decline at the defensive end, shockingly allowing an opposing center's PER of 19.8. This would have been a fine player to bring in post-Chandler, but now he is purely a stopgap; a slight upgrade over Kaman at best.

Samuel Dalembert helps you win 43-45 games, provided he stays on the court(where he likely doesn't play more than 20-25 mintues), but he has little trade value and will only get worse. He is not a part of any future contender in Dallas, and may not even be all that functional much longer.

Assuming a Dalembert signing, your starting lineup becomes him(32), Dirk(35), Marion(35), Harris(30), Calderon(soon to be 32). Consider that for a minute. Do you remember when Donnie talked about wanting the team to get younger?

Greg Oden(who Dallas could very possibly clear the requisite space to sign in addition to Dalembert) is the risk Dallas has to take. Now that they've blown up their team, sat around for two years trudging in mediocrity, and have failed to land any of the so called "big fish", it's time for the SnP: the Sign and Pray.

Andrew Bynum could have also been this move, but if you believe the Mavs and their spin-merchants, Bynum had simply too many red flags. My response to that would be: too many red flags for what? What exactly is Dallas losing out on with Bynum or Oden not working? But let's not dwell on Bynum. Oden is, by most accounts, not the headcase Bynum is(unless you're worried about Oden's musical preferences), and his injured parts come with what is likely a less significant price tag.

Continuing to play it safe and signing solid but unspectacular 30 year old veterans might produce more watchable basketball than what we saw last year, but it's stagnant development for a franchise with perennially little young talent or tradable assets. It's a slow death for Dirk. It's a treadmill of mediocrity. And it sets Dallas up for years of bad, horrible, horrible, awful ball when Dirk retires.

The seeds of a post-Dirk team need to be planted now. As in, now now. And that may not be Oden(I'm not quite crazy enough to expect him to play for a decade injury-free), but I'm speaking more of the idea Oden represents. A buy-low, high-upside chance that smart teams take all the time because every once in a while something you throw against the wall sticks.

Just look at the other teams reported to be in on Oden: the San Antonio Spurs and Miami Heat. The title teams! Teams who know good value when they see it and understand that building a team is a process, not a catchphrase.

Sign Greg Oden. Zydrunas Ilgauskas proved that bad wheels aren't necessarily the end of your career if you're big and skilled. A productive Oden next to Dirk is part one of a multi-part plan that gives Dallas a snowball's chance at getting back to serious contender status. The alternative is oblivion. Cap space can't defend the post, afterall.

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