So the Miami Heat came to terms with Greg Oden in a deal that means nothing or everything. The thing is Greg Oden has been in the league for five seasons, but he’s played in a grand total of 82 [one season’s worth] of games with the most recent ones coming three seasons ago.
On top of the limited play, he averaged just 22 minutes over those 82 games.
There’s some fear around the Heat signing Oden. For draftniks like me, the name alone adds a little bit of ‘oh crap’, because Oden was the can’t miss superstar center prospect. There’s still this lingering ‘star player’ association with him even though he’s never become a star and likely never will at this point.
The thing is, Greg Oden’s had microfracture surgery three times already in his NBA career. Microfracture surgery is typically more difficult to return from than an ACL and typically has a worse long term prognosis. He’s had it three times in five years. He’s not coming back with the same athleticism he once had. Just isn’t happening.
When you put it that way, it’s no surprise the Bulls didn’t chase him. Beyond the thought that there’s no way he’ll stay healthy, the odds of healthy him being particularly special aren’t so hot. Besides, Chicago had no chance to lure him over Miami. Ignore the shot of chasing a ring, Miami has the one thing Oden really wants. A big gaping hole at the center position and a team that desperately needs his skillset.
See if Oden is healthy, then he’s exactly what Miami needs. He never blossomed into an offensive force. Even at Ohio State he was fairly limited as an offensive weapon relying more on size and athleticism than skill. He wasn’t Omer Asik out there, but he wasn’t Dwight Howard on offense either.
However, he was similar to Dwight Howard on defense and throw a big, athletic defensive center on the Heat and this thing is over. In his limited NBA playing time, Oden averaged 15.3/11.9 with 2.3 blocks per 36 minutes with a PER of 19.5. Those might not be superstar type numbers, but they’re certainly star numbers even if they came in limited doses.
Can Oden recapture that after two additional microfracture surgeries on his left knee, an arthroscopic procedure on his right knee, and another surgery to fix a fractured patella on his left? That’s four knee surgeries since he last played with two of them being serious, potentially career altering ones.
The lingering ‘what if’ surrounding Greg Oden gives him an appeal that is unlikely to match what he’ll ever be able to do on a basketball court. The guy has played 82 games across five years, and the Miami Heat likely have a 105+ game schedule coming up. Maybe it all works out for Oden, if he were going to any other team, I’d even root for him.
However, it’s not terribly likely. The most likely scenario is that he gives the Heat as much impact as Eddy Curry did. The downside for the rest of the league is that with Curry, even if he returned to form, the Heat didn’t need a black hole center who couldn’t defend, rebound, or pass. If Oden returns to form, we should be scared to death.
The Heat come back as significant favorites to win again, but if they plug the defensive center hole? It goes from mission improbable to mission impossible. In that sense, it was a great risk for them to take however unlikely it was to work. Odds are that Oden won’t pan out. The rest of the NBA better hope those odds play out.