NBA Rumors: What Greg Oden Would Provide in His Return to the NBA

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NBA Rumors: What Greg Oden Would Provide in His Return to the NBA
Craig Mitchelldyer-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Heat and the Cleveland Cavaliers are the favorites to land center Greg Oden next season, according to Jeff Goodman of CBSSports.com.

The defending champions would likely offer the minimum salary to the injury-prone big man, while the Cavaliers could fork over close to $4 million, per the report.

But what can the NBA expect from the 7-footer next season?

Well, for one, if you are expecting him to be the nightly double-double threat he was coming out of Ohio State in 2007, you are going to be disappointed. Oden hasn't played since December 2009, and he was waived by the Portland Trail Blazers in March 2012 after undergoing his third career microfracture knee surgery and fifth knee surgery overall (via ESPN). He's played in 82 total games since being drafted.

But if Oden can stay healthy (and that's a big "if" at this point), he's not a bad bench player to have around who can help on the boards and defend against bigger opponents. For his defense and rebounding alone, he can be an asset, especially if an opposing team has a true center on the post. He's not the kind of guy you should be pushing for 25-plus minutes per contest, but in a limited role he's a big body with a natural feel for the game.

Don't forget, Oden has a career PER of 19.5 (via Basketball-Reference.com). That wasn't just due to his physical ability when he was healthy. He's the kind of player who makes the team around him better because he simply knows how to play the game.

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Oden isn't going to have the same impact as prior years, but he has the potential to not only be a serviceable player, but also a difference-maker for a club.

How does an injury-riddled big man make a difference for a club? Well, you only have to look at the Heat to understand.

The Heat play small ball these days, starting a natural power forward in Chris Bosh at center. That has obviously worked out OK for them given they won the NBA title last season.

But Oden can strengthen their second team. A big reason the Heat rank 22nd in the NBA in rebounding differential is because one of their true big men, Joel Anthony, isn't much of a rebounder at all. If you add someone like Oden, you get a guy who can not only crash the glass, but you have a guy who can also help slow down opposing offenses when several starters are off the floor for Miami.

In that respect, Oden is an upgrade over Anthony off the bench in every conceivable way, as long as he's healthy. He can help narrow that rebounding gap. And with a team like Miami that is already very strong in other areas, that could be the difference between another title and going home without a ring.

 

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