Much Ado About Oden

Greg Oden
Greg Oden (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Earlier this evening, Greg Oden answered the question most around NBA circles had been asking for months. The answer? The Miami Heat. Oden has chosen to take his talents, and creaky knees, to South Beach, spurning the likes of the Dallas Mavericks and San Antonio Spurs.

Once upon a time the number one draft pick (2007), the seven foot center hasn’t taken the court in almost four seasons because of knee problems. At his peak, Oden was a skilled rebounder and basket defender that would solve the weakness most pundits point to as Miami’s achilles heel. indiana Pacers center Roy Hibbert gave the Heat fits in the playoffs this past season, so a healthy Oden would go a long way to combating that disadvantage. But Oden hasn’t been at his peak for some time.

His agent, Mike Conley Sr., said Oden should be cleared to play by training camp, but the decision regarding his taking the court will rest solely with Heat head coach Erik Spolestra. Miami will more than likely tread lightly with Oden and his knees, as they have with other project big men like Dexter Pittman, Eddy Curry and, most recently, the Birdman Chris Andersen. Pittman was a bust, and Curry had nothing left, and while Andersen was a major catalyst toward this year’s championship, Oden could become the biggest difference maker from that project position.

Earlier in the offseason, Heat president Pat Riley discussed the then-possible addition of Greg Oden.  “If he’s healthy, obviously I think he would be able to help teams. He’s young enough to maybe be able to get by this, and only time will tell. Sometimes, you can go back to a half a dozen athletes that started their careers — Kurt Thomas with the broken feet, [Zydrunas] Ilgauskas. There have been a number of players that started their career missing two or three years with injuries and then all of a sudden they never had another problem again.”

Oden’s knee problems have robbed the once highly-touted prospect of too much time. The Portland Trailblazers bypassed Kevin Durant in 2007 to select Oden, not unlike bypassing Michael Jordan to select oft-injured center Sam Bowie in 1984. Oden’s career numbers are 8.4 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.4 blocks in 22.1 minutes per game in 82 total games.

For the Heat, this deal is low-risk, high-reward. The two-year deal nets Oden the veterans’ minimum, $1 million next season, and $1.1 million the following season. Oden holds a player option for the second season. The signing brings Miami’s roster to 13 guaranteed contracts for next season, as reserve center Jarvis Varnado’s deal isn’t guaranteed for next season.  The team might still look to bring in another veteran, such as Mo Williams or Lamar Odom, or bring in second round pick James Ennis.

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