Former No. 1 overall NBA draft pick Greg Oden is reportedly deciding where he will try to revive his career on Friday, and the best free-agent destination available for the talented center is the Miami Heat.
Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! tweeted a list of teams on Thursday that the 25-year-old former Ohio State star is considering, with the Heat as the headliner:
Whether Miami is at the forefront by default as the two-time reigning champions is unclear. However, Spears did report earlier in the week that Oden is apparently most intrigued with the Heat and the New Orleans Pelicans:
Oden is a disruptive defensive presence who could be brought along slowly, since many of the members from Miami's recent championship squad are returning.
That's especially critical, considering the fact that Oden has such a significant history of injuries and repeated setbacks.
The last of three microfracture surgeries occurred in February of last year, and the last time Oden played in an NBA game was in December 2009.
However, in his 82 games with the Portland Trail Blazers, there were signs of tangible improvement that justified his top selection status back in 2007.
In the final 21 starts Oden had for Portland, he amassed an average of 11.1 points, 8.5 rebounds and 2.3 blocks in just 23.9 minutes per contest. Along with his free-throw percentage going well up to 76.6 percent, Oden flashed a more polished post game.
Now that Chris Andersen is returning, there is even less pressure for Oden to come off the bench and be an instant impact type of player.
Since head coach Erik Spoelstra frequently deploys a smaller lineup anyway to get superstars LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh on the floor at the same time, it won't be critical for Oden to be such a prominent contributor so early on.
The level of talent that trio brings to the table will also ease Oden's transition back into the intensity of NBA competition. No matter how healthy he is and confident he feels in his legs, nothing can really substitute actual game action.
Thus, it's difficult to figure out precisely how Oden will react initially.
One alarming trend is that Oden has tended to foul quite a bit, averaging approximately four fouls in 23.9 minutes in his brief career.
Playing smarter basketball and learning to defend better without hacking the opponent will be key in Oden's evolution, in addition to whatever medical hurdles he needs to clear. Players like James, Wade and Bosh and a coach like Spoelstra are the perfect mentors to foster that development.
The stability that Miami offers in terms of a current winning tradition, supporting talent and the opportunity to rewrite a career while possibly grasping a Larry O'Brien Trophy makes this a relative no-brainer.
It's hard to fathom Oden passing up the chance to take his talents to South Beach—no matter what type of money the Heat can offer in their constricted salary-cap situation.
The intangible, winning qualities of the organization and the presence of other big-time players to occupy the spotlight should give Oden plenty of incentive to agree with the Heat.