The Miami Heat are shopping with a coupon while everyone else is forced to pay full price.
Greg Oden’s decision to sign with the Heat marks another steal for Pat Riley during the big three era. Every offseason since LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh came together, the Heat have signed a veteran player for less than market price.
The first year, the same summer the big three signed, the team also got Mike Miller and Udonis Haslem to sign for cheaper than market price.
The summer after the Heat lost in the NBA Finals to the Dallas Mavericks, the Heat strengthened its core by adding Shane Battier for, again, a relative discount.
Last summer, the Heat made its biggest steal by taking Ray Allen away from the rival Boston Celtics.
Now, the Heat get Oden, who likely received offers for more guaranteed money from other teams such as the New Orleans Pelicans and Sacramento Kings to sign. But the Heat got him for a two-year deal for minimum money.
He’s coming off of multiple knee injuries and his potential remains uncertain, but the former first-overall pick signs for little risk and potentially offers a substantial reward.
Unlike Battier and Allen, Oden comes with potential to get better. Maybe even a lot better. Dominant in college, Oden was drafted with the potential to be dominant in the NBA. A dominant center is a rarity. So rare the Trail Blazers passed up on scorer Kevin Durant.
Think what you will about the pick, but everyone knew who Durant was going to be. But you can’t pass up on dominant size. Not then, anyway.
Oden’s potential alone won’t be enough to keep LeBron in Miami. But having someone on board who can get better, unlike Wade, could help in any case.
For the short term anyway, Oden offers a potential antidote to size in the playoffs. Roy Hibbert? Joakim Noah? Maybe by playoff time, Oden will be well enough to make a significant difference against those two.
Either way, just the potential is a steal for Miami. And even though Oden signing might not be enough to keep LeBron in Miami, the reason Oden signed might be.