Whenever Miami Heat executive Pat Riley sees a free agent he wants, he always seems to get him. We all remember a few years ago when he lured LeBron James away from the Cleveland Cavaliers and into a Heat uniform. He also lured Chris Bosh away from the Toronto Raptors. Last year, he was able to add former Boston Celtics shooting guard Ray Allen to the roster, and he signed Chris Andersen during the middle of the season, which proved to be a season-changing transaction.
This year, Riley again got his man in former Portland Trail Blazers No. 1 overall pick Greg Oden. If all you watch is NBA basketball and not much of college, you wouldn’t know what to think about Oden besides he can’t seem to stay healthy, which is true, but Oden can play, as we saw in college in his only season with Ohio State. In that season, Oden averaged 15 points, nine rebounds and three blocks per game. For a freshman in college, those are great numbers, but they were a long seven years ago, which in professional sports is a long time.
Thus far in Oden’s NBA career since 2007, he has only played in 82 regular season games, the exact length of just one season. We know Oden can play when he is on the court, but the problem is him just being on the court.
What if Oden can stay healthy? That if might have just been the biggest “if” in the history of ifs. If you are hoping for Oden to make it through a season without having any major injuries, I’m sorry to break it to you, but it isn’t happening. It’s like Andrew Bynum or the 2013 New York Yankees: they just can’t stay healthy.
Signing Oden to a big contract would be a huge mistake, regardless of what team you are. But Miami’s contract with Oden has zero risk, zero; with a two-year deal worth around $2 million, there’s no risk being taken here.
Miami has signed free agents like Oden in the past: Eddy Curry, Rashard Lewis and Andersen; the latter worked out, the first two didn’t. Lewis is still on the team, so he has some time to prove himself, but Curry, on the other hand, was a bust. He saw very few minutes of action, and when he actually did play, it was in a meaningless situation.
We saw how well Birdman worked out in the playoffs this past season. He played a critical role off the Heat bench and was the enforcer of the team. Will Oden have a big role for the Heat this season? Or will he not be able to stay healthy and become Curry 2.0? If Oden can stay healthy, (a big if) but if he does, he will be the missing piece the Heat have been searching for, a big man down low. Bosh has been playing out of position and isn’t a true center.
Wait, what? The team that has won back to back NBA championships has a need? Yes, and if Oden can stay healthy, he fills that need.
You can follow Reece Helms on Twitter at: @Reece_Helms