Heat News: Greg Oden Could Be Sleeper of the Year in Miami

Josh BenjaminCorrespondent IFebruary 20, 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 need help in the interior defense department, and general manager Pat Riley may have found a potential gold mine in Greg Oden. That's right, the same Greg Oden who was drafted first overall in 2007, only to become an injury-prone draft bust.

Back on Jan. 30, ESPN's Chris Broussard reported that Miami was one of many teams interested in the former Ohio State Buckeye's services. Then, the circus began.

On Feb. 11, amid news that the Cleveland Cavaliers and Charlotte Bobcats were ready to present offers after the trade deadline, Sam Amico of Fox Sports Ohio reported that the Heat were out of the running for Oden's services.

However, that may not be the case anymore. On Tuesday, Oden's agent, Mike Conley, spoke to Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports and stated that his client was unlikely to sign a new contract until the offseason. If that's the case, then the Heat's chances of winning the Greg Oden race just got a lot better.

Look at it this way. If the Heat were to sign Oden today, they would only be able to offer him the veteran's minimum. Now that they have the possible luxury of waiting until the summer, Riley will be able to offer Oden at least $3 million thanks to the mini mid-level exception that will be available in July.

At first blush, that does seem like a lot of money for Oden. After all, he did miss all of the 2007-08 season after being drafted first overall, and he only has 82 career games under his belt due to a multitude of injuries that have plagued him. Oden also has not appeared in an NBA game since December 5, 2009, when he fractured his patella against the Houston Rockets.

These are all legitimate red flags, but the Heat should still roll the dice and sign Oden. The fact that he's working so hard and is determined to make a comeback after such a long layoff is admirable, and he could be the team's answer to defensive shortcomings if he is able to come back and play regularly while staying healthy.

Currently, Miami has Chris Bosh starting at the 5. He has the size for the position at 6'11", 235 pounds, but plays more like a scoring power forward. Rather than stay in the paint and work the low post and the boards, he prefers to utilize his jumper and only go after rebounds as they come to him.

Oden would be the exact opposite type of center, and his being on the roster would allow Bosh to go back to his more natural position at power forward. Despite his career shortcomings, Oden actually did a fairly decent job at center in his limited NBA action.

Not only does he have the size for the position at 7'0", 285 pounds, but he has averaged 9.4 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.4 blocks over his 82 career games. Per 36 minutes, those numbers rise to 15.3, 11.9 and 2.3.

The fact of the matter is that a healthy Oden could finally give the Miami Heat the strong defense they have lacked so badly this season, and the 2013-14 campaign would look a lot brighter if someone other than Bosh were handling the duties at center. If everything worked out, Oden would easily be the front-runner for Most Improved Player.

He doesn't even need to put up astounding numbers. All in all, in Miami's fast-paced offense, Oden really only needs to post 10 points per game, 12 at the most. Defensively, seven rebounds and a block per contest would be ideal.

This is all speculation, but the stats say it all. Oden is a solid interior defender and if he's fully healthy, he could become the "Sleeper of the Year" playing for the Miami Heat.

It's just a matter of Pat Riley sitting down with both Oden and his agent, and it could only be a matter of time until the Heat's defense becomes stronger.