The Las Vegas Miami Heat have definitely taken their fair share of gambles during the 2013 offseason, and now it's time to see if any of them will pan out.
First, the team signed Greg Oden to a one-year minimum contract, knowing full well that the big man hadn't played an NBA game in a handful of seasons. Now, they've inked Michael Beasley—fresh off his arrest and subsequent release from the Phoenix Suns—to a non-guaranteed deal, according to Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski.
Both moves are gambles. There's no doubt about that.
However, they're low-risk ones. Oden's deal won't harm the team financially in any way, and the Beasley acquisition doesn't even mean he's going to make the 12-man roster. They're both great examples of risk management.
So, which gamble is more likely to reward the Heat for the chance they took?
The Case for Oden
There's one massive positive and one overwhelming negative when trying to argue that Oden is the move most likely to pan out for the defending champions.
On one hand, he's put up utterly fantastic numbers whenever he's been able to set foot onto the basketball court. Take a look at these two graphs and then tell me which player you'd rather have.
First, we have per-36-minute numbers from each anonymous player's most recent season:
And now, let's throw in the shooting percentages:
Even after the first chart, it's starting to seem pretty obvious that Player A is the one you want on your team, right? He might score slightly fewer points and steal the ball with less frequency, but he's superior in the rest of the statistical categories (other than assists) and dominates in PER.
That feeling is only cemented by the second chart, especially because you may as well throw out the three-point shooting. Player B only made one triple during the season, so we're dealing with some pretty important small-sample-size warnings here.
Well, Player A is Oden during the 2009-10 season for the Portland Trail Blazers, the last time he was actually healthy enough to play. Player B is Dwight Howard during his one go-around with the Los Angeles Lakers last year.
Like I said, Oden has been great when he's on the court. But, of course, there have been a few problems.
Even during that 2009-10 campaign, Oden was only able to play 23.9 minutes per game, and it's much easier to maintain great per-minute numbers like he did when you're not receiving an abundance of playing time.
The second problem also lies in the first: 2009-10.
The Ohio State product literally hasn't played since that season, and he's stepped onto the court in only 82 contests since he was drafted right before Kevin Durant. To put that in perspective, Durant has played in 461 games.
Asking a player to regain his productivity after a three-year absence is tough. In Oden's case, it's highly unlikely that he'll be able to look like more than a shell of himself, but even 50 percent of his former level will still be a rather impressive output.
With the Heat, Oden won't be asked to function as a do-everything center. Instead, he'll have a more defined role, one that won't require him to be on the court for extended periods of time. He'll be a defensive center who anchors the unit in the paint and crashes the boards. Plus, Erik Spoelstra is a savvy enough head coach that he can likely build a system around the former Buckeye that limits the amount of lateral movement for the big man.
All of these signs point toward the potential for a productive season in South Beach. Oden is in the right situation—especially because he's a luxury item, not a crucial piece of the three-peat attempt—and has always been a quality player while on the court.
However, the thing holding him back is out of his control. The surgeries have piled up—you can view a full timeline here—and multiple microfracture procedures don't make a return very easy. Even if he can stay healthy enough to play, the surgeons' scalpels have likely sapped most of his previously immense athleticism.
It's that unknown nature that makes it difficult to bet on Oden. At this point, his health is in the hands of a higher power.
The Case for Beasley
Control isn't an issue for Beasley.
Yes, it is.
But the thing is, Beasley's lack of control is well within his control, if that makes sense. The major hindrance in his career thus far has been his off-court immaturity. It's problematic when I have to say that his latest off-court drama is what led to the Phoenix Suns' decision to cut him.
Before Beasley can even think about becoming a productive player on the court, he has to get a grip on his off-court behavior. His next mistake, no matter how minuscule, could very well be the one that prohibits him from ever getting another chance in the NBA.
Plus, even if he handles himself well while surrounded by the allure of South Beach, he still has to make the 12-man roster. Beasley is working with a one-year, non-guaranteed deal that is essentially tantamount to a training-camp invitation.
He has his work cut out for him if he wants to make the team, much less earn a significant role in Spoelstra's rotation. Furthermore, if he gets that coveted spot on the defending champions' roster, where exactly does he fit in?
Miami already has plenty of options at both forward positions, which means that Beasley would still most likely end up as one of the last men in the rotation, and that's assuming that he can get his act together on the court, too.
Here's a graph that might induce nightmares for anyone who has watched the former Kansas State standout go to work on the offensive end of the court:
Offensive win shares are supposed to be positive. It's actually pretty hard to earn minus-2.5 of them, because that means that a player has to perform at an awful level and still get major minutes.
Beasley isn't much of a defender, his impressive rebounding didn't translate from Kansas State to the NBA and he's never been recognized as a team player. He's just a scorer, and that's not really what the Heat need out of him unless he can start playing with much more efficiency.
To do so, Beasley will have to work from the post a lot more often, passing up jumpers for chances at higher-percentage shots.
So, which sounds like a better bet?
Which gamble will pan out?
The first option is a player who has to stay healthy after so many knee procedures that I've lost count, even if he was remarkably productive the last time he was on the court, all the way back in 2009-10.
The second is a guy who has to fight for a spot on the 12-man roster, manage to earn playing time when his skills parallel many of the other Miami players, keep his nose clean off the court and manage to start playing productive basketball for the first time in a while.
My money is hesitantly on Oden, but thank goodness that's only hypothetical money. I wouldn't actually place a wager on either player.