Each year, after the passing of the trade deadline, NBA teams cut players that are close to expiring but didn't have traction on the trade market. For those players, NBA free agency comes a few months early. Playoff teams can shore up their rosters for a title push, while lottery teams can take calculated gambles on young but misunderstood free agents. This season, there are two players in particular that Detroit should at least have a conversation with: Greg Oden and Terrence Williams.
Oden and Williams were cut by their respective teams this week, and both could potentially find offers here in the NBA, if not in Europe. Oden is quite famously dealing with yet another surgery on his knee, and it could take until next calendar year for him to be healthy enough to practice, let alone play. Williams has never seemed to work out in the NBA, having played poorly in his four year career while bringing little more than attitude baggage to the table.
Greg Oden | Center | 24 Years Old
Sadly, Greg Oden is probably done in the NBA. He's had more knee surgery than most athletes would have in their life time, yet he's only contributed a total of 82 games across four NBA seasons. A lesser talent would have been cut from the NBA years ago, but Greg Oden's problem has never been talent. In his last season in the NBA, Oden averaged 11 points, 9 rebounds and 2 blocks in 24 minutes. Spread that average to 36, and he'd have registered 17 points, 13 rebounds and 3 blocks. Given this production as well as his college numbers, it's easy to see why Portland kept him around for as long as they did.
Naturally, Portland included Greg Oden with the roster/staff purge they underwent before the trade deadline. It's easy to understand that the Blazers were disappointed that Oden's health never really worked out. It's possible, however, that they may have severed the relationship prematurely during the purge. There's an off-chance, as low as 1%, that Oden might even have a chance to run back-up minutes for an NBA team. Given his production, and the fact that he could be had for the vet minimum, many teams are likely to end up calling. Detroit should be amongst those.
Detroit's history with end-of-the-line injury cases should be welcoming to Greg Oden. Team trainer Arnie Kander is widely hailed as the best in the business, and he might be capable of giving Oden an outside shot at filler minutes in the NBA. This, more than money or acclaim, is probably all that Oden is hoping for. If he can put in a few decent years in limited minutes, he can at least have a taste of the life he spent his youth working toward. It's a sad affair for Oden, and Detroit might be in the best position to offer him a shot at playing in the world's best basketball league. A minimum contract for multiple years, unguaranteed, should be on the table for Greg Oden in Detroit.
Terrence Williams | Forward | 24 Years Old
Terrence Williams isn't the type of guy that GMs want to give a free shot. If he wants to play in the NBA again, he's going to have to earn his way back. He's had a bad attitude and worse numbers since being drafted, and when he doesn't get playing time it's everyone else's fault. He was once sent down to the D League, playing 3 games for the Springfield Rockets before quickly being recalled. In those three games, Williams averaged 28 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists. Then he returned to mediocrity with the Nets before being traded to the Rockets, who just released him this week.
What is the best case scenario for Williams? He'll likely never break 43% from the field-- and that will inspire confidence from very few statheads, if any. But the value in Williams is what he does beyond shooting the basketball. He rebounds well, he's an apt passer and he's got the size to do so from the shooting guard position. If he could work out the issues in his head, he could be a great sixth man for his versatility. Returning to the best case, Terrence Williams could be a guard forward, capable of playing the 2 or the 3 off the bench, in the style of a Ben Gordon or Brandon Knight but with a nice upgrade in size. Unlike the two I just compared him to, Williams at 6'6" is tall enough to defend shooting guards if he can buy into Larry Frank's system.
Worst case? He comes to Detroit on a pro-rated minimum deal and whines about playing time. I would like to think that now that his rookie deal is over and he's been cut from a team that's not even hunting for the playoffs, he'd get a healthy dose of reality. He needs a franchise that will lay it all out on the table, show him that he has the keys to his own destiny and that he's either in the NBA or he's his own worst enemy. If he wants to stick around, he needs to buy his role and swallow his pride, or else his view of the NBA will be from behind a language barrier in Europe, thousands of miles away.
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For Detroit, this is a good time to start taking risks. There's no sense in playing a guy like Damien Wilkins when options like Terrence Williams are now available for a pro-rated minimum deal. There's no reason not to try to retain Greg Oden given Detroit's athletic medicine department. The chances of either option paying off is slim to none. If there's even a little bit of hope from either player or both, Detroit is in position to offer a few mutually-beneficial contracts. If both would agree to signing in Detroit, the Pistons would need to cut one player to make this happen. Wilkins and Walker Russel Jr. would be on the hot seat in this scenario. Sayonara.
What's your take? Are there other recently-cut players that Detroit should consider? I'm willing to wager that there is talent out there that is worthy of a very cheap, very calculated risk.