The Miami Heat have been forced to remain fiscally responsible with the tight restrictions on the salary cap and the luxury tax, and that means taking educated gambles by investing in high risk/reward players.
Greg Oden will host three teams this week as the former No. 1 overall pick nears a decision on where he'll launch his NBA comeback, according to sources with knowledge of the free-agent center's plans. Sources told ESPN.com on Monday that the Miami Heat, New Orleans Pelicans and Sacramento Kings will all send representatives this week to watch Oden work out in person.
If the Heat attend the workout and Oden shows a glimpse of the player most NBA scouts felt he could become if knee injuries hadn’t derailed his career, there is no doubt that this is a risk worth taking for the franchise.
The former No. 1 overall pick has only played in 82 games in his career and has averaged 9.4 points, 7.3 rebounds and a .666 free-throw percentage thus far. With plenty of upside around the net in both the offensive and defensive ends of the court, Oden would be an educated risk that could blossom into a star with the right help.
Oden hasn’t played in the NBA since 2010, and his demands for a contract won’t be astronomical. Even when he was playing, the young center was still adjusting to the pace of the game at the NBA level.
So if Oden is healthy enough to get on the court, the player and interested teams know it won’t be an easy transition back into live-game action.
Add in the fact that there will be no pressure from other teams trying to sign the center in terms of the length of the proposed deals—no NBA franchise will offer an injury risk like Oden a long-term contract proposal—and the prestige of winning with Miami may be exactly what the free agent wants from the next franchise he works for.
Oden will have to pull his weight if he signs with the Heat, though.
Every role player must fill a void successfully and consistently.
While Oden’s history of injuries makes signing the center a serious risk, if he can return to elite form and stay healthy, he could become the difference in the Heat’s championship run in 2014.