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In what seemed like a panic-stricken move at this past season’s trade deadline, Danny Ainge pulled the trigger in a surprising move with the Oklahoma City Thunder, sending away Kendrick Perkins and breaking up the bond between the Celtics’ starting five. The Celtics were left with uncertainty at the center position with Shaquille O’Neal, Jermaine O’Neal, and Nenad Krstic. After seeing the Celtics collapse against the Heat in only five games in the playoffs, one has to wonder if the Perkins deal was the biggest mistake Ainge has ever made for this team. With Shaq retired, Jermaine another year older, and Nenad playing for Russia, one has to wonder: what can the Celtics do to fill the center spot?
The answer, surprisingly, may lie in a player who has played exactly 82 games in the past four years. A player who has battled multiple knee injuries, just like Jermaine O’Neal, and a player with a lot of question marks to say the least. If you haven’t guessed it by now, it’s Portland Trailblazers’ center Greg Oden.
Yes, Oden has had an injury-plagued career to say the least, but the number one pick from the 2007 draft has tremendous upside, and has shown dominant performances when healthy. The best part is that his defensive force matches that of Perkins, and he is only 23 years old. He has the potential to be a walking double-double. In 21 games last year, he averaged over 11 points and over 8 rebounds, and has the potential to build on those numbers if he can remain healthy.
A high-risk deal like this could be a gamble that doesn’t pay off. There is much to worry about by adding an injury-prone player to a team loaded with aging veterans. But the Celtics gambled on Shaq, and still managed to clinch the third seed for this past season’s playoffs. With so much uncertainty surrounding the center position in Boston, it may be time for the Celtics to roll the dice one more time, and hop aboard the Greg Oden bandwagon.