Miami Heat Players Fighting for Their Basketball Lives This Season

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Miami Heat Players Fighting for Their Basketball Lives This Season
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Just how much does Greg Oden have riding on this upcoming season?

If your name is LeBron James, Dwyane Wade or Chris Bosh, job security is essentially guaranteed, but for some members of the Miami Heat, they don't have the same luxury.

The aforementioned trio has its sight set on earning another championship, but a couple guys just want to earn a long-term roster spot.

Yes, believe it or not, just because you're playing in the top-tier league on the planet, it doesn't mean you can take it easy—especially on a team like this; the standards of success are much higher.

Whether you're an aging vet, an injury-prone prospect or a no-name D-Leaguer trying to get noticed, this upcoming season is without question do or die as far as being a member of the Heat is concerned.

These aren't just hypotheticals, either; let's name names and examine which three guys need to treat this upcoming season like their lives depend on it.

 

Greg Oden

David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Bar none, no one else on this team has as big a question mark looming over his head as Mr. Oden unfortunately does.

Oden's situation is a classic case of "no risk, high reward" from the perspective of the Heat's front office.

If he pans out?

Miami finally evens the arms race in the Eastern Conference as far as having a legit 7-footer who can man up with the likes of a Roy Hibbert or Brook Lopez.

He also provides a true defensive presence the Heat have lacked for the past couple of seasons at the 5. 

If he gets injured again?

No big deal, you bite the bullet and when his one-year deal is up, you wish him well and move on.

Let's call it what it is: A one-year deal is a fail-safe in case the Oden experiment blows up in Miami's face, and that very well could happen if a mistimed jump leads to him blowing his knee out.

Oden's worst enemy isn't opposing players; it's never been a question that when healthy, he's as capable as anyone else in the league is at his position.

Some might recall back in the 2009-10 season, Oden actually averaged nearly a double-double for a Portland Trail Blazers team that finally had what it needed to contend in the Western Conference.

His dominant presence in the paint on both ends of the floor made Portland look a little intimidating, but the prospect of him having the same production for Miami would be downright frightening for other teams in the NBA.

His worst enemy is his health, and hopefully for his sake, he does whatever he can to stave off another horrific injury if he wishes to stay in this league, let alone on the Miami Heat's roster. 

 

Jarvis Varnado and Joel Anthony

Chris Trotman/Getty Images
Do recent moves portend the end of Joel Anthony's days in a Miami Heat uniform?

While some have a reputation they wish to extinguish, others have yet to build any semblance of a reputation at the next level at all—well, at least in the minds of most fans.

Some Heat fans probably know Joel Anthony, but unless you've kept an eye on the D-League, even fewer know of his possible successor, Jarvis Varnado

Joel Anthony still has a job on the Heat because he sets solid screens, blocks shots and brings energy off the bench, but if Varnado has any say, Anthony will be out of a job.

OK, so why would Joel have to worry about Jarvis?

Here's why: Joel's skill set is about as as rare as salt in seawater.

If Miami wanted, it could go out tomorrow and find someone to do the same things Anthony brings to the table, and here's where the Varnado variable comes into play (no pun intended).

Statistically, neither Varnado nor Anthony is impressive, but both are statistically similar for a reason.

Varnado and Anthony's per-36-minute numbers, courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com, are nearly identical as far as points are concerned as well as blocks, but Jarvis averages about an extra block. Honestly, though, the differences are so marginal they're not even worth noting.

In reality, the only numbers the Miami Heat are looking at when deciding which of the two to keep are the following: 25 and 31, the ages of Varnado and Anthony respectively.

There's no question: If you're general manager, you're aiming to hang on to the best value and the best investment down the road.

Chris Trotman/Getty Images
If Miami opts to go younger, Jarvis Varnado has no problem with it.

Considering their similarity in output as well as their age gap, you have to side with Varnado over Anthony at this point since he does have some upside.

At 31 years of age, Joel Anthony hit his ceiling a long time ago. He's not going to magically start hitting 15 footers consistently, and he's still going to be much better at smacking the ball with a lot of force rather than finessing it into the rim with a finger roll.

Offensively, he's extremely raw, and he always will be—this is a fact of life.

Age and upside aren't the only numbers Miami will be taking a look at, however.

Take a look at these salary numbers, via HoopsHype.com, for Miami as well to further illustrate while although Varnado might be groomed to replace Anthony, he still can't let up.

Joel is making nearly $4 million per year, but Varnado is making barely $800,000, a huge bargain in comparison.

Aside from the nitty-gritty, there are other little factors that will come into play as far as contracts are concerned.

Varnado, if he makes the opening-night roster, is playing this season on a partially guaranteed contract that becomes a locked contract after December 15 of this year, per Brett Pollakoff of ProBasketballTalk.com.

In other words, if Varnado survives the next couple of months and remains on the roster, he can enjoy the luxury of security for however brief it may be until his contract is up again.

If Varnado is still locked in on the team after that December deadline, it's safe to say he will likely replace Joel Anthony, assuming he doesn't pick up his player option after the end of the 2014-15 season.

In all honesty, we're likely blowing up this position battle into something it isn't.

Considering the Heat still have Chris Bosh, Chris Andersen, Udonis Haslem and Rashard Lewis, it's unlikely either Anthony or Varnado will see a ton of minutes, barring injuries in the rotation.

They aren't useless players by any means, but neither is going to be critical to a Miami three-peat.

How many games will Greg Oden play this season?

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Regardless, that sliver of playing time could mean the world for either of them, and while one is trying to resist the effects of Father Time, another is doing whatever he can to maximize what little time he may have left to prove himself as a legitimate player in the NBA.

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