The pre-NBA draft combine and its medical evaluations, patterned after the NFL's elaborate production, are a fairly new thing. It did not exist in 2007 when the Portland Trail Blazers took Greg Oden and not Kevin Durant with the No. 1 overall pick.
Imagine how that might have played out had an NBA physician taken a look at Oden's knees, plugged all the data into his crystal ball, and cited the potential for injury. Instead, Oden was broken and a bust from the start, playing in just 82 games over five seasons. If he's able to come back from a third microfracture surgery, he'll be the first.
Another Ohio State basketball player, Jared Sullinger, maybe be about to pay a price, and we mean an actual wallet-whipping price, that Oden did not.
The league's doctors took a look at his back during the combine and red-flagged him, not necessarily because he has any significant current back injury but because the possibility exists that he someday might.
Considering the financial commitment teams make to elite talent with the hopes that those players will enjoy long, healthy, productive careers, a lot of teams are backpedaling from Sullinger as fast as they can.
The ex-Buckeye was projected as a top-5 pick after his freshman year -- he stuck around for a second season, remember -- and was considered in a similar mix before the combine. Now, Sullinger won't even be in Newark, N.J., Thursday night for the draft. The NBA has determined he is unlikely to be a lottery pick, one of the top 15.
There is no fair or unfair here, no right or wrong. It is what it is.
Some team, however, is going to get a bargain. A top-10 talent in a lot of regards, Sullinger should be a steal for a team picking in the late teens or 20s.
"I guess I got another ladder to climb," Sullinger tweeted. "Nothing new."
At 6-foot-9 he is on the small side for an NBA power forward. His speed could be an issue on defense. Teams have privately wondered about his conditioning.
As Sullinger said, nothing new. He has often given away a couple inches, but given away none of his game as a result. He uses his 268 pounds, that wide beam, and tremendous lower body strength to impose his will under the offensive glass. He has developed enough of a jump shot to survive facing the basket.
Granted, speed on defense, especially NBA speed, could be an issue. It should have been even more of an issue after his freshman year, before his weight loss, and nobody was questioning what would have been his high lottery status then.
If not for the doctors' suspicions of what might be, Sullinger would be in Newark and the lottery teams would line up expecting to get a two-time All-American who played in 74 of 76 games at OSU, averaging 17.3 points and 10 rebounds and altering innumerable shots. He's still a good bet, if not quite as safe a bet. There is the specter of Greg Oden, however, dangling like a dark cloud.
Perhaps an NBA team or two will remember the Cavaliers drafting Kyrie Irving No. 1 last year after he played just 11 college games at Duke because of a serious toe injury. All Irving did in 2011-12 was capture Rookie of the Year honors.
Yes, they are different players at different positions with styles that put different demands on the body. I'm just sayin'…
Jared Sullinger is going to turn into a steal for somebody.
Contact Blade sports columnist Dave Hackenberg at: email@example.com or 419-724-6398.