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Greg Oden’s future hinges on questions with no answers

Extending anything less than a franchise player type can be a tricky proposition: all of the evidence for the extension is very circumstantial, and the money guaranteed to the player through an extension hinges on an assumption of continued development. Needless to say, not all players continue to make strides in their game after their first big payday, and whether their complacency comes from losing that dangling carrot overhead or simply hitting a wall in production is player-specific.

The Portland Trailblazers have all of the usual hurdles in negotiating an extension with Greg Oden, but the situation is far more complicated than it should be. From Ben Golliver of Blazer’s Edge:

In both of those negotiations [with Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge], players, management and owner could reasonably agree on most, if not all, of the critical questions. How important is this player to the franchise on the court? How reliable is he off the court and in the community? How do his statistics through three seasons stack up against others around the league? Has his manner of play demonstrated potential for future earnings that exceed his raw statistical output to date?

Agreeing in principle on these issues makes for a significantly easier negotiation process. In Oden’s case, virtually all of these questions lack definitive answers. That could make for -- to co-opt a phrase -- uncalm waters.

That’s troublesome, and there are likely dozens of other difficult questions that will factor into the Blazer’s negotiations with Greg. How can anyone accurately gauge his worth when he’s essentially lost two seasons to injury? Are his injuries indicative of a real trend, or were they flukes? How much is a center worth in a league evolving away from traditional pivots? And what does all of this mean in the context of the new CBA?

Kevin Pritchard, assuming he’s still managing the Blazers by this summer, has a tough road ahead.