Why Greg Oden Is the Perfect Free-Agent Gamble for Miami Heat

Roy Burton@thebslineContributor IJuly 26, 2013

Greg Oden is an intriguing option for the defending champion Miami Heat.
Greg Oden is an intriguing option for the defending champion Miami Heat.Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

Free agent center Greg Oden hasn't played a minute of professional basketball in more than three calendar years.

Greg Oden also happens to be a 7-footer with enormous potential (even now), and that fact alone makes him an intriguing option for a number of franchises, especially the defending champion Miami Heat.

According to John Reid of the New Orleans Times-Picayune, Miami is one of five teams that have met with Oden in recent weeks to discuss a possible comeback. With back-to-back titles to their credit, the Heat shouldn't have to do too much of a hard sell on Oden.

Chris Tomasson of Fox Sports Florida recently wrote that Oden had a very productive two-day visit with Miami earlier this season, and if Oden's agent is to be believed, the former Ohio State star is keen on playing alongside LeBron James down in South Beach.

"The exposure [of playing for the Heat] would be good for Greg," said Oden's agent Mike Conley Sr. in an interview with Fox Sports Florida. "I think Miami is a good situation."

The last time the 25-year-old big man stepped on the court in an NBA game, he was taken off of it on a stretcher after fracturing his left patella on December 5, 2009. Since then, he's undergone several medical procedures, including two microfracture surgeries on his left knee alone.

And while Oden's per-36 minute averages for his career are impressive (15.3 points, 12.8 rebounds, 3.4 blocks), it's important to note that those numbers were compiled over a span of just 82 games. Since he was drafted No. 1 overall in 2007, Oden has missed 394 out of a possible 476 contests.

Even so, Oden is still worth the gamble for the Heat, who desperately need a solid presence in the low post. As dominant as Miami appeared at times, they were absolutely horrendous on the glass, averaging a league-worst 46.4 rebounds per game.

Chris Andersen's midseason arrival helped LeBron James and Co. get over the hump, but having a legitimate center to back up Chris Bosh is imperative for a team that figures to play 100-plus games for the fourth season in a row.

"We will explore [Oden] and see where it goes because of the possibilities," said Heat president Pat Riley in a recent interview with Fox Sports Florida. "I think he's such a young player and to be such a force, that you'd want to monitor him very closely."

The recent amnesty of Mike Miller relieves Miami's luxury tax burden quite a bit, and the team could use all or part of its mid-level exception (which starts at $3.18 million) to sign Oden.

Expectations won't be high: As long as Oden can manage 12 to 15 solid minutes per night, everything else will take care of itself. Not only is Oden a natural rim-protector, but he has enough touch around the basket that he'll be a instant boon on both ends of the floor...if he's able to regain his old form.

"He's young enough to maybe be able to get by this, and only time will tell," said Riley in an interview with Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. "But if he's healthy, obviously I think he would be able to help teams, yes."