Can Greg Oden Make a Successful Return to the NBA?

Craig Mitchelldyer-USA TODAY Sports

Former top overall NBA draft pick Greg Oden has endured a career full of frustrating knee injuries that eventually led to his release from the Portland Trail Blazers in March of 2012. With reports that Oden is planning to make his NBA return for the 2013-14 season, the immediate question is will Oden regain some of the potential that prompted the Trail Blazers to select him over Kevin Durant, or is his he a lost cause?

Despite his chronic knee injuries and his older-than-his-birth-certificate says appearance, Oden was a legitimate quality NBA-level center, when healthy. Oden was an excellent shot blocker with great timing and quickness as well as an above-average rebounder. Oden’s offensive game still needed work, but he was good enough around the basket to average 11.1 points per game in 23.9 minutes his second year (although it was only a 21 game sample size).

In 82 career games (the equivalent of one full NBA season) Oden has averages of 9.4 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game. Those aren’t bad numbers for a backup big man.

Even Oden will be a risk for any team to sign for more than the league minimum due to him undergoing three (3!) microfracture surgeries in a four-year span. Not to mention that Oden hasn’t played in an NBA game in over three years. None of these factors are encouraging for a team looking to take a risk on signing Greg Oden to any type of NBA contract.

The Miami Heat are rumored to have been monitoring Oden throughout his rehab and have flirted with the idea of signing Oden to a multi-year deal while he rehabs his knees. While the move would be risky, adding a a true seven-footer capable of blocking shots to that Heat roster may be too tempting of a move to pass up.

Oden won’t be 25 until January 22, so he may be worth the risk. What do they Heat have to lose? Nothing at all. If the Philadelphia 76ers were willing to take a risk on Andrew Bynum‘s creaky knees at $16 million this season, then the Heat should wisely roll the dice and hope for the best with Greg Oden.

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