Greg Oden: Miami Heat Wise to Bow out of Contention for Free-Agent Center

Joseph ZuckerFeatured ColumnistFebruary 11, 2013

CHICAGO - NOVEMBER 01: Greg Oden #52 of the Portland Trail Blazers watches from the bench as his teammates take on the Chicago Bulls at the United Center on November 1, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bulls defeated the Trail Blazers 110-98. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The Miami Heat would be very smart to avoid signing Greg Oden this season.

The Heat were one of the teams in contention for the free-agent center's signature, but they have reportedly taken themselves out of the running. Sam Amico of Fox Sports Ohio tweeted:

Bringing in the seldom-seen big man might have been a smart move for Miami after this season was over, or if it was able to lock him up to a one-year deal. However, that doesn't look possible considering the situation.

Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon Journal reported that the Cleveland Cavaliers might offer Oden a deal after the Feb. 21 trade deadline. Lloyd wrote:

The Cavs are expected to offer free agent center Greg Oden a two-year contract with a team option for a third year after the Feb. 21 trade deadline passes, a league source said.

The Cavs have about $4 million in cap space, which they are preserving now for potential trades. Teams around the league don't want to sign Oden until after the trade deadline.

It's clear the Heat need some help inside. They're dead last in the league in rebounding. Chris Bosh has done very well considering he's not built like a center (nor does he have the game that qualifies him as one).

The team has tried to bring in some help, but Jarvis Varnado and Chris Andersen aren't exactly the kind of players who can help to turn around Miami's issues in the paint. Sure, they are solid contributors, but Oden was the kind of wild card who could have been a real difference-maker.

He's a pure center and at Ohio State was a dominating defensive player. It was that skill that made him the No. 1 overall pick in 2007.

Even if his knees are an issue and Oden can't elevate off the floor at all, he'll still be able to use his massive height and long arms to disrupt shooters in the paint and bring down some key boards. Oden would have been a perfect fit for the Heat at the right price.

If the Cavs are going to offer him a two-year deal, though, that throws the option out the window. He has only played 82 games in his two-year career up to this point and last stepped onto an NBA court in 2009-10. Now, Cleveland wants to sign him to a multi-year deal.

Sure the money probably won't be all that much, but for the Heat, a contract like that would be too much.

Miami already has the fourth-highest payroll in the league, and it rises by a couple million dollars next year. The organization can't afford to pay millions to Oden when there's no guarantee how long he'll be on the court.

At the very least, you know what you're getting with Andersen and Varnado. Their contracts are also financially friendly for the Heat. Together, they are paid less money than Oden alone.

There is that chance that Oden could stay healthy and follow through on the potential he's shown. That's an awfully optimistic viewpoint, though, and one that doesn't hold a lot of promise at this time.

While others might be willing to bet that Oden's knees will finally hold up, it's a gamble the Heat can't afford to take.