The question of when Greg Oden would make his Miami Heat debut was answered on Wednesday. The Heat have been bringing him along, slowly understanding how delicate his injury situation is and knowing that they really need him in the postseason. With Roy Hibbert likely standing between the Heat and the NBA Finals, Oden will need to be healthy in May.
Oden has not appeared in an NBA game since 2009, and it was doubtful he would ever play again. The former No. 1 overall draft picks body has betrayed him and he has had to have numerous knee surgeries since the day he stepped into the league. At 7-feet, 273 pounds, he will always have value in the league if he can stay on the court.
He was drafted in 2007 and has played exactly 82 games, which is one NBA season. His career averages of 9.4 points and 7,3 rebounds per game isn’t indicative of the talent he possesses. Those numbers are more than 22 minutes per game, while he shot nearly 58 percent and was a presence in the paint with 1.4 blocks per game.
Miami signed him hoping that they could get him in basketball shape and be able to use him sparingly. On Wednesday night, he made his debut against Washington and showed everyone he still can be a contributing player in the league. He scored six points on 2-for-3 shooting from the field and 2-2 from the line in eight minutes. Oden also grabbed two rebounds, one on offense and one of defense, and was a +3.
His biggest contribution won’t show up on the stat sheets. Heat power forward Chris Bosh was able to slide back to his natural position instead of having to play center and looked more comfortable. He was able to attack the basket from the perimeter and shoot jump shots. If Oden can stay on the court and allow Bosh to play 10-15 minutes per game at power forward instead of center, it will increase his value.
It is unlikely that Oden will be a regular in the rotation, and this may have just been a way to get him back on the court and getting used to basketball speed again. If Miami can continue to bring him along and get him back to full strength, he could deliver more than they imagined when they signed him last offseason.