According to CBS Sports’ Jeff Goodman, the Miami Heat and Cleveland Cavaliers have both expressed interest in bringing in the former No. 1-overall pick.
Oden and his representatives are apparently hoping to meet with Heat team president Pat Riley at an unspecified date within the next week, and the franchise is likely exploring a deal worth the veteran’s minimum salary.
However, there’s a chance Oden could score a bigger payday with the Cavs. Goodman’s source noted that the Cleveland brass is willing to dole out up to $4 million for the center’s services.
Regardless of where he winds up, it would be a surprise just to see Oden back in uniform and actually playing on the hardwood. Due to a multitude of knee injuries and surgeries, the Ohio State product hasn’t appeared in a game since December of 2009.
The Portland Trail Blazers infamously selected Oden over Kevin Durant in the 2007 draft, a terrible decision considering the top pick only contributed in 82 games over the course of his five seasons with the team.
At 25 years old, Oden’s knees have suffered more ailments and surgeries than most people experience in a lifetime. However, he’s a tantalizing talent when healthy, having averaged 11.1 points, 8.5 rebounds and 2.3 blocks in just 23.9 minutes during an extended stretch in the 2009 campaign.
With the Heat starved for cap space and having had no luck so far in developing high-risk, high-reward centers like Eddy Curry, they might be willing to roll the dice on someone with Oden’s upside.
Cleveland could use a young center as a cornerstone for its youth movement, as Anderson Varejao is on the north side of 30 and recovering from a blood clot.
Unfortunately, Goodman noted in his report that Oden will likely not be ready to contribute for the tail end of the 2012-13 campaign, but should be ready in time for next season’s tip.
As long as Oden shows he can stay on the court and looks promising enough in workouts, there is going to be a market for the 7'0", 285-pound big.
Don’t be surprised to see him sign a contract in the near future if he is truly almost ready to return to the NBA.