Last night, free agent big man Greg Oden agreed to a two-year $2.6 million dollar contract with the Miami Heat. The former No. 1 overall pick will attempt to resurrect his career in Miami after an injury plagued 82-game career with the Portland Trail Blazers where he averaged 9.4 points in 7.3 rebounds. The move is by no means a bad signing by the Heat, because Oden is signed to a minimum deal and will at worst sit injured on the bench all year. However, I don’t see the signing have very much of an impact at all, certainly not as much as those who are suggesting it guarantees the Heat win a third straight championship next season. Here are some of the reasons why.
Oden does not fit in very well with the personnel already in Miami. The Heat have won two straight titles playing “small ball”, and Oden embodies the antithesis of this play style. Offensively the Heat (particularly LeBron James and Dwyane Wade) look to get out in transition and score easy fastbreak baskets. Oden is by no means a mobile big man, and will not be able to contribute at all in this way. Instead he will clog the lane when James and Wade try to do what they do best, which is attack the basket.
Defensively, the Heat rely on their athleticism to rotate quickly, trap and pressure teams into turnovers that lead to those fastbreak opportunities. Again, does a lumbering, 285-pound Oden fit schematically into this type of a defensive game plan? Not at all. He is a potential rim protector and post presence, but the Heat’s defensive schemes don’t really leave a place for one. So unless the Heat entirely change their offensive and defensive game plan, I struggle to see how they can maximize Oden’s strengths.
When Oden is on the floor he will certainly improve the Heat’s offensive and defensive rebounding, areas in which they struggle. But so would someone like Reggie Evans, so that’s not really saying much. In all honesty, Chris Andersen fits with what the Heat do much better than Greg Oden does on both ends of the floor. Therefore, it would be unwise if Miami plans to give Oden Andersen’s minutes. However if they don’t take Andersen’s minutes, whose minutes will he take? He certainly isn’t capable of starting, Andersen is better served as the first big off the bench, so…Joel Anthony? Ok, I guess the Heat got a player to give Joel Anthony’s minutes to.
It’s also important to take into account a couple of facts about Oden. One is that he has not played an NBA game since 2009. To give you some context as to how long ago that was, Devin Harris and Allen Iverson were All-Stars that year. No player could have very much impact after being out of the league for so long, especially one that had only played 82 career games up to that point. Second, due to Oden’s injury riddled past, he’ll likely never be able to play more than 15 minutes per game and will unfortunately struggle with health issues for the remainder of his career.
So again, Heat fans need to temper their expectations for what Oden will provide because at best he will be a backup that they can use for 10-15 minutes per game against Roy Hibbert or Brook Lopez. But given Oden’s injury history and the fact that his skill set conflicts with Miami’s game plans, even this type of role seems unlikely. You can’t blame Oden for wanting to live in South Beach for a few years and have a shot at a title, but due to his limitations he won’t contribute to the Heat’s cause in any significant way.