Let the recruiting begin.
Before the champagne dried, the Miami Heat have already received inquiries from free agents who potentially want to join the squad for another championship run in 2013-’14.
Samuel Dalembert and Chauncey Billups have both admitted to having interest in the Heat. However, with a roster chock full of veterans who are nearing their final years, the Heat could be on the lookout for a player who would have some redeeming qualities in terms of youth.
Look no further than the oft-injured Greg Oden.
The former number-one pick of the Portland Trail Blazers in 2007 has had what was supposed to be a brilliant and prolific career derailed due to a slew of knee injuries that have limited to a total of 82 games played in five years.
He hasn’t played the past two seasons as he continues to recover from knee injury after knee injury and setback after setback. But the past two years have been looked at as a recovery period for Oden, who hasn’t played since a fateful meeting with the Houston Rockets on December 5th, 2009.
The Heat acquired LeBron James and Chris Bosh, won two championships and have been to three NBA Finals since Oden last played a game.
Now he’s interested in possibly riding along with the Heat in his comeback to the league next season. From the mouth of his agent, Mike Conley:
“The Heat need some size, that’s not a secret,” Conley said. “Whether it’s in a backup role or whatever, he could help them. I know they’re interested in him and he’s interested in them.”
There’s no doubt about that. Even with Chris Andersen and Bosh in tow, the Heat suffered mightily at times to limit the post-games of Roy Hibbert and Tim Duncan. Although they are bonafide All-Stars, those are two players who the Heat may see again in the future, as well as two players they would prefer to have a more consistent answer to.
The Heat dealt with their fair share of problems under the rim when dealing with the 7’2″ Hibbert, as well as the 6’10” David West. Indiana is a team that’s only going to get better, because of the development of guys like George Hill, Lance Stephenson and Paul George, and the Heat will need a stronger presence inside to force possibly their greatest Eastern Conference challenge into taking outside shots.
In the short time he played, Oden showcased that he could be a problem on the defensive end. He was averaging over two blocks per game as a 22-year-old, as well as nearly nine rebounds per, before having to sit out the rest of the season after playing only 21 games in the 2009-’10 season.
While his offensive repertoire was limited and he fouled at a rate of nearly six per 36 minutes, Oden still proved that he could be as capable a defensive force as any center currently in the league. Unfortunately, it’s tough to prove that with such a small sample size of a career.
But if Oden’s willing to take the money, no more than a mid-level exception at $3 million per year, he’ll have a spot on the Heat bench. It wouldn’t be too tremendous a risk, and the reward is incredibly high if a a 25-year-old former number-one pick can stay on the court without hurting himself.
With the possibility of less minutes given to him than his days in Portland, averaging nearly 24 per in his final season with the Blazers, Oden’s chance of succumbing to another significant knee injury is lessened.
Oden in the starting lineup would only seem to disrupt the Heat’s small-ball lineup that has worked so well over the past two years. However, like Birdman has done in his role, Oden would serve nicely as a post presence and rebounder on both ends of the floor with the second unit.
Don’t get too excited, though. The Cleveland Cavaliers are also interested and would be willing to throw more money at Oden, who is working out not too far away from the city.
Call me crazy, but I’d believe that there are teams out there willing to pay Oden just so he doesn’t end up in a Heat uniform. The prospect of a healthy, 25-year-old Greg Oden filling in one of the Heat’s lone weaknesses would be a terrifying thought to any opponent.