If the former No. 1 overall pick begins his NBA comeback on, say, the Charlotte Bobcats and carries them to the playoffs, that’d be an inspirational story—if not a future feature-length film. But while a successful return from one of the most tragic, injury-plagued starts to a career would be a tear-jerker, most of those tears would be coming from Heat opponents.
Brian Windhorst and Marc Stein of ESPN reported on Thursday evening that Oden plans on returning to the league next season and wants to takes his talents to South Beach.
With Oden’s knees literally having years to heal, a return to health wouldn’t be jaw-dropping shocking. After all, medical marvels are starting to pile up in professional sports and miraculous comebacks are starting to seem less miraculous.
And if Oden is healthy, Miami will be absolutely disgusting. He doesn’t need to come close to becoming the next Hakeem Olajuwon. Simply being healthy will make Miami unfair, which is quite ironic because nothing about Oden's career has been "fair."
His strengths are the Heat’s weakness—rebounding and a rim-protector. Oden would offer them both at a low price and with an offensive game that wouldn’t be detrimental to their chemistry.
In the 21 games he played in his final season in the league, Oden averaged 11.1 points, 8.5 boards and 2.3 blocks per game while shooting 60.5 percent from the field. That was all in just 23.9 minutes of action too.
Now, it wouldn’t be realistic to expect Oden to produce the same stat line in Miami that he did with the Portland Trail Blazers, at least from Day 1. But if his efficiency even resembles his Blazer days, the rest of the league should be horrified.
According to 82games.com, in the 21 games Oden played in his last NBA action, he averaged a player efficiency rating of 25.9 and held opposing centers to 13.2 PER (the league average is 15.0). Dwight Howard’s PER is 20.01 this season.
If Oden only averaged half the points, rebounds and blocks he did in Portland, he’d still be an asset for the Heat. They’re ranked 29th in rebounding this season and don’t have a respectable true center on their roster.
Advice for the rest of the league: outbid Miami for Oden’s services. Windhorst and Stein wrote that “Oden potentially would be a costly gamble even on a minimum-level contract" because of the Heat's luxury-tax situation.
If teams allow the Heat to get their hands on the center and he’s healthy, they’ll regret it. Oden's return wouldn't a Cinderella story. But instead, one of oppression as LeBron James and company impose their will on the NBA.
David Daniels is a featured columnist at Bleacher Report and a syndicated writer.