Greg Oden Would Have Best Chance at Reviving Career with Miami Heat

Matt Fitzgerald@@MattFitz_geraldCorrespondent IIIJuly 24, 2013

Greg Oden has a decision to make, but he should wind up with the Miami Heat.
Greg Oden has a decision to make, but he should wind up with the Miami Heat.Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Former No. 1 overall pick Greg Oden worked out for three teams this week, where the center looked to prove he could still compete in the NBA despite being sidelined by injury since December 2009.

Among the prospective suitors on hand were the two-time reigning champion Miami Heat, which would be the best possible destination for Oden to get his injury-plagued career back on track.

Jeff Goodman and Marc Stein of ESPN reported on the workout on Tuesday that representatives from the Heat, the New Orleans Pelicans and the Sacramento Kings would watch Oden.

But by taking his talents to South Beach and playing alongside the world's best player in LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, there would hardly be any pressure on Oden to succeed or to be pushed into significant minutes.

Although there would undoubtedly be intrigue around Oden, his status and how much action he'd see, there are three other superstars on the team to deflect attention.

The report also indicates that the Atlanta Hawks, San Antonio Spurs and Dallas Mavericks are interested, while a source said that the Heat and Spurs are the co-favorites to land him.

But Miami offers Oden the best combination of title contention, minutes and future prospects.

Oden is still only 25 years old, and at 7'0" he is an imposing presence on defense when healthy. While his offensive game is still a bit raw, there is no need for him to put up points in bunches as a member of the Heat.

Three microfracture surgeries on Oden's knees have kept him out of action for years, with the last procedure occurring in February 2012, per Goodman and Stein.

In 82 career games—which effectively amounts to one full NBA season—Oden has averages of 9.4 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per contest, but in an average of just 23 minutes.

When Oden last played in 2009, he started all 21 of his games and put up averages of 11.1, 8.5 and 2.3 in the same respective categories, while improving his free-throw percentage from 63.7 to 76.6 percent.

The great news is that if Oden is healthy and capable of logging significant minutes, the sky seems to be the limit in terms of his NBA ceiling. However, modern medical technology can only do so much, and he might not be able to perform like the player he once was without risking another setback.

James, Wade and Bosh all have early termination options on their contracts following the impending season, but it's difficult to envision them splitting if they make another serious push for the Larry O'Brien Trophy.

The foundation of the defending champions is mostly intact, save for the amnestying of Mike Miller's contract, which takes $6.2 million off the books and saves the Heat $16 million in luxury tax dues.

Instead of just signing Oden to the veteran minimum, the Heat could use the mid-level exception of $3.183 million they still have (h/t

That's slightly more than the Pelicans are reportedly willing to offer, per Yahoo! insider Marc J. Spears:

Perhaps Oden will demand more since this could be his final contract, but he's not in an ideal position to.

Whatever the cost with Miami, though, Oden should take the deal. The Heat frequently deploy a small lineup and survive with athletic, energetic big men coming off the bench and splitting minutes.

Chris Andersen has his role down, which is why he was re-signed. Oden, at the very least, can do that for coach Erik Spoelstra—and possibly so much more, given his talent level.

Back in 2007, it seemed Oden would be the foundation of a franchise with the Portland Trail Blazers. While he would be relegated to a smaller role in Miami, it would be a great starting point to ease his way back into the league, and if he does finally capitalize on his potential, he can always go elsewhere.

For now, though, championship contention and a perpetually patient approach in his individual contribution to the cause will serve Oden best.

The Heat have the proper present structure to foster Oden as he attempts to pull off what could be a historic career revival.