Free agent center Greg Oden has reportedly pared down his choices, and will decide between the Miami Heat and New Orleans Pelicans.
The 25-year-old former Ohio State standout, who hasn’t played in the NBA since 2009, worked out for Miami, San Antonio, New Orleans, Atlanta, Dallas, and Sacramento last week in Indianapolis. Oden looked impressive by most reports, and a deal and choice were expected by the end of his week.
Now according to Heat columnist Ethan J. Skolnick of the Palm Beach Post, Oden has whittled down the teams to Miami and New Orleans.
Skolnick tweeted Thursday morning: “Still expecting news on Greg Oden by the end of the weekend. Still primarily between Pelicans and Heat, from what I’m hearing.”
Most teams in the NBA would love to have a viable and proven shot-blocking and rebounding seven-footer like Oden, but Miami could especially use his size. Head coach Erik Spoelstra has largely used Chris Bosh at center for the last three seasons, and while it has resulted in three consecutive NBA Finals appearances and two titles, the Heat have still struggled on the boards. Miami finished last in the league in rebounding last year.
Veterans Chris Andersen and Joel Anthony are behind Bosh on the depth chart, but an oft-injured Oden has more potential to grow with the Heat. He would probably work back slowly, and Miami could use him sparingly until they need him for the playoffs where a half-court game becomes more central to the offense.
Miami would also give Oden the best chance to capture a championship, and finally give him a leg up on Kevin Durant, the player taken after Oden with the No. 2 overall selection in the 2007 draft. Dubbed by some critics as a bust, Oden has taken flak due to his three micro-fracture surgeries limiting him to 82 NBA games in six years. Despite limited playing time, Oden made the most of his time by averaging 15.3 points, 11.9 rebounds, and 2.3 blocks per 36 minutes.
New Orleans, a rising team that could make a playoff run next season with talented shooting guard Eric Gordon, forward Anthony Davis and the newly acquired Tyreke Evans and All-Star Jrue Holiday, could present more playing time and possibly more money than the Heat.
The Pelicans are currently well below the luxury tax threshold with $63 million committed to salaries next season, while Miami have already breached the line with a $79 million payroll, the third highest in the league.