Although the Miami Heat have been relatively quiet this offseason, their only major move being they decided to amnesty Mike Miller, they have found a way to once again make the headlines this offseason by signing embattled center Greg Oden to a two-year deal, the second year being a player option.
Oden, who has been sidelined for over 3 years while recovering from microfracture knee surgery, his latest being in February 2012, has only played 82 games since being drafted as the #1 pick in the 2007 NBA Draft. What many believed would be the next great center to enter the league, Oden has had trouble staying out of harm’s way and now has the chance to prove, if healthy, that he can still be a formidable player who can help a team win a championship.
Other teams believed to have been in the sweepstakes for Oden’s services were the San Antonio Spurs and Dallas Mavericks, with New Orleans, Sacramento and Atlanta being other possible known suitors. Even though the Heat were considered the favorites, Oden chose to sign with the Heat because they made it clear from the start of negotiations that he “wouldn’t be needed early in the season” as he slowly confirms his ability to produce at the level he is expected to compete at.
While which team Oden chose to sign with did not concern me, I now want to look at the future of the Miami Heat as a team with Oden now as a potential key player heading into next year’s title run.
Let’s first start with the expectations of Oden’s tenure and how he fits into a Heat’s rotation who has established themselves as one of the league’s most fluent and efficient small ball teams, with Chris Bosh usually playing the center position and establishing LeBron James mostly at the power forward position. It is no secret that what the Miami Heat have lacked over the last 3 seasons is a strong, tough rugged center who could defend the paint and clear out defensive boards on the regular. Utility players such as Udonis Haslem, Joel Anthony and the ever popular Chris Anderson have been the Heat’s inside presence over the course of these 3 seasons and could point to why the Heat have been one of the league’s worst rebounding teams. It is hard to knock a team who has won back-to-back championships, but the Heat surely need a way to solidify the core of their defense, maintaining the painted area, and could possibly have found the answer in Oden. Although he is not back to being 100% health wise, if Oden can maintain his body over the course of the season I don’t see why he could not be anything but beneficial to a team resounded to the fact that they have trouble stopping opposing teams’ big men.
Before going down to injury in the 2009 season, Oden was putting up resounding numbers for the limited minutes he was playing. Oden only averaged 28 minutes per game that season, but was averaging 8.5 rebounds per game while also contributing strongly under the basket and putting up 2.3 blocks per game. Looking at these numbers, the Heat would be thrilled to even receive 75% of this production throughout next season and much like the Cavs can warrant throwing a player with this kind of “mystery potential”, a short term deal that could wind up potentially being a long term solution.
But that is what you establish when you take a flyer on a player like Oden, that mystery potential of a player whose career hasn’t gone the way most experts believed it would when he first came into the NBA. What would need to happen this year for anyone to step back and say, “Well I didn’t see that coming when the Heat signed Greg Oden.” If Oden shows some promise during practices and then finds a way to produce a few flashes of brilliance, both offensively and defensively, will people point to his contributions of signs of what could have been a great career barring major setbacks and that that Greg Oden is the player we expected him to be all along? What happens if two games into playing limited minutes Oden falls to the ground grimacing in pain once again, something nobody hopes to see. Would we be surprised if Oden suffers another season ending injury? This is what makes players such as Oden’s “mystery potential” so mesmerizing and makes me see flashes of all the things Oden could possibly do this upcoming season. As a fan of the NBA and great basketball in general, I hope those flashes of insane shot blocking, established low post moves that leave defenders in his shadow and becoming a defensive anchor in the middle of the paint the Heat have sorely lacked are the ones that appear this upcoming season. You always hope to see players like Oden who love the game so much find a way to make it back out onto the floor but come away with leaving nothing out there as well.
Sidenote: Hello to all you sports fans. My name is Wes Burden and I am happy to have been chosen as one of the newest contributors to tjrsports.com. I will be contributing to the NBA side of the news, and although the summer is generally a quiet time for the league, I am sure I will be able to find a way to cover the world’s best basketball until the season starts back up once again. I am 24 years old and getting ready to re-enroll at Ohio State University to earn a second Bachelor’s Degree, this time in Journalism. I have been a life-long NBA fan and now that I have decided writing is my future I can’t see any better way to gain experience than by writing for John and all the readers who visit this site. Sports are at their best when those things that happen can create a thoughtful, creative and fun dialogue between people who have differing opinions. I think this website is a great medium for all sports fans to communicate with each other and would love to have a conversation with anyone who reads my articles. You can post a comment below, message me on Twitter, @wab1989, or if you prefer email you can find me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I hope everyone can find a take away from all my writings and look forward to creating exciting conversations about the NBA!