Greg Oden has not been a Portland Trail Blazer for over two years now, but I am still fascinated by his movement within the NBA. His bruised and battered legacy needs even more healing than his bruised and battered body. The process is lengthy and ongoing. The question is: “Where will his physical and psychological recovery take him next?”
After an improbable comeback season with the Miami Heat, in which Oden played 23 games, his future is up in the air once more. The Heat have three remaining roster spots to fill before the 2014-15 season, but have been entirely non-committal on the Oden front.
According to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, Mike Conley Sr. (Oden’s agent) stated that “They [Miami] said they’ll get back to us,” and that “A couple of teams have inquired. He [Oden] wants to be able to play.” This is not a hard “NO” from the Heat, but it does not inspire confidence.
Any free agents to be signed by the Heat for the upcoming season will receive no more than the veteran’s minimum, which would be close to $1M per season for Oden. While the price is right, the payout is… questionable. They will likely explore other options first.
It is entirely possible that Oden goes unsigned by any NBA team, but there are a few outside of Miami that could still use his help. Chicago’s only backup to the injury prone Joakim Noah is the 836 year old journeyman (give or take 800 years) Nazr Mohammed. As a probable contender in the East this year, perhaps they were among the teams to speak with Oden’s camp.
The Lakers are also reasonable possibility. They could use another center on a one year deal while they sort out their mess. As it stands, they have the undersized Jordan Hill and the under-skilled Robert Sacre holding down the 5 spot. Oden could be a valuable addition to the end of their depth chart as well.
The problem is that Oden is a high-risk/middling-reward player. The only teams that will give him a look are in legitimate need of another big man. The higher the need, the higher the risk, and the reward is not necessarily worth it for most non-contenders like Los Angeles.
Because of this, Oden will probably never be part of a long term team building process. He is destined to live out his NBA days on rental contracts. Whether or not contenders come knocking this year is circumstantial. Much depends upon his health, his conditioning, and interest generated by the Miami Heat and others. As long as Oden’s physical status remains uncertain, his future in the NBA will match it.