If you’ve watched college basketball in the last decade, or at least just the NCAA tournament every March when it rolls around, you probably remember Greg Oden’s days at Ohio State.
With Mike Conley, Daquan Cook, and Oden himself on the squad, the team rolled through the regular season and came into the NCAA tournament as a No. 1 seed. After cruising through nearly all the tourney, Ohio State met Florida for the NCAA Championship during the 2006-2007 season.
With players like Al Horford, Joakim Noah, and Corey Brewer, Florida won the game, but that didn’t diminish from Oden’s potential. He went number one overall to the Portland Trailblazers in June… ahead of the Texas star Kevin Durant. Next time you’re complaining about your team’s drafting woes, count your blessing you aren’t a fan of Portland… unless you are, which in that case you have every right.
After going number one, Oden’s career has been mostly a disaster, battling injuries until 2012 when he was finally waived by Portland to create room on the roster. But he still has averaged 9.4 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks per game in the 82 games he’s played in his career.
Now, he’s looking to sign with a new team, a contender. If he can’t be better than Durant, at least maybe he could win a championship before him.
According to a report by ESPN, Oden has interest in the Heat and a few other teams and still looks like he has some games in him.
After hosting several teams — which included the two that met in June’s NBA Finals, the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs, and other possible playoff teams such as the restructured and renamed New Orleans Pelicans — for workouts in Indianapolis last week, Oden, now 25 years old, is close a decision.
“Whenever you see somebody that big move well you can’t help but get excited about what he could be,” said one team official who has been tracking Oden.
“He needs to get in better shape but that will come,” said a coach who attended a recent workout. “He does look pretty good.”
“He’s not that far off microfracture [surgery],” a team executive said in regard to Oden, who last had the procedure in Februrary 2012. “He still has a way to go to getting his knee where it needs to be, but there are possibilities.”
Oden’s potential that lured the Trailblazers into picking him over Durant in 2007 again has a strong pull for teams looking to add a backup center.
The Heat obviously have some issues financially, but when you have James, Wade, and Bosh, it’s hard not too. They still have their mid-level exception left for about $3.2 million. However, due to the tax penalties, they probably won’t offer it to Oden.
The hope here is that Oden will take the bait on a veteran’s minimum contract worth about $1 million. While other teams could offer him more, the Heat have the best chance of anyone to win an NBA championship.
So what if Oden says he would need more money, should the Heat take the luxury tax penalties to sign a player who’s only played 82 games in his 6 year career? Maybe surprisingly, I’d say yes, and here’s why.
First of all, for still a reasonable price, the Heat could be landing an above-average starting center for the future as crazy as it may sound. While Oden has been injured for most of his career, he’s still only 25 years old. Some rookies are sitting on that number.
If he figures things out this season, Oden could be a replacement for a member of the big three if the Heat can’t manage to get them all to return come next season.
Even though the mid-level exception isn’t just a couple bucks to be thrown around, the Heat can always pray someone will take him off their hands come mid-season. But if things pan out, this could be the biggest steal in the free agent market.
Along with the upside, even if he’s not a “great” big man he is a shot blocker and can defend as long as he stays healthy.
As we saw in the NBA playoffs last season, the Heat were pushed around by the likes of the Indiana Pacers and Chicago Bulls. This year, the Nets are stronger and even the Detroit Pistons and New York Knicks could be a challenge with their size. Adding Oden gives the Heat a legitimate “big man”. While the small ball is great, bringing in a guy like Oden off of the bench instead of a smaller player like Joel Anthony could greatly diminish the advantage that Chicago, Indiana, and other teams have against to the Heat in the paint.
I remember as I watched in exasperation as Roy Hibbert and David West scored bucket after bucket during the 7-game showdown in the Eastern Conference Finals. With Oden, big men like Hibbert wouldn’t be able to man-handle Miami’s defense.
All in all, if the Heat can’t get Oden to sign, we can always go the route we went last season. However, the East is better with Rose, Rondo, and a new Brooklyn team. The Heat went to 7 games twice in the post-season last year. Having Oden could make it a much easier ride to a three-peat.