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Free Agency, NBA / Jul 15, 2013 / 3:30 pm

Who Will Greg Oden Help More: Miami or San Antonio?

Greg Oden

Greg Oden (photo. Scott Spychalski)

Recently, sources tell Marc Stein of ESPN that the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs are the frontrunners for the 2007 no. 1 overall pick, Greg Oden. Oden is said to be going to Vegas to meet with officials for the Pelicans, Kings and Mavericks, all of whom are trying to join Miami and San Antonio on Oden’s list of possible destinations. But which of the two frontrunners for his services need him the most?

It might seem incongruous for the league’s best two teams to enter into a bidding war for a man that hasn’t graced an NBA hardwood since the 2009-2010 season. But even the best teams need to re-tool and Oden’s skills match up well with the few things the Spurs and Heat need to improve on. Rather than dwell on whether Oden can get back to the level that made him the first overall pick in 2007, remains to be seen, but it’s always fun to guess what Oden would bring in a Heat or Spurs uniform.

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Oden on the Miami Heat

Last season the Heat rattled off 27-straight wins on their way to a 66-16 record and homecourt advantage throughout the NBA playoffs. That home court helped as they fought through consecutive Game 7s against the Pacers and Spurs on their way to a second consecutive title. So his inclusion on the Heat wouldn’t necessitate any of the savior hooey that marred his time in Portland. They’re doing OK without the big man.

But that doesn’t mean they couldn’t use his rebounding and defense. Last season, the titanic Heat ranked in the bottom five for offensive rebounding percentage. Part of that was due to being ranked first in the league in effective field goal percentage and true shooting percentage (all stats via NBA.com/stats). LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh all shot over 50 percent from the field in one of the more dominating offensive displays by a team in recent history. But man, they got destroyed on the glass. They ranked in the bottom third of the league in defensive rebounding and overall rebounding percentage as well as that odorous offensive rebounding percentage.

Orlando’s Nikola Vucevic had a 25-point/21-rebound game against the Heat in early March and they were overpowered in long stretches against the Indiana Pacers’ formidable duo of David West and Roy Hibbert during their Eastern Conference Finals’ matchup. In all likelihood the Heat will meet a revamped Bulls squad with Derrick Rose and a healthy Joakim Noah, as well as the Pacers in the 2014 Playoffs, so they could use some low-post help for Bosh and Chris Andersen.

The Heat ranked seventh in the league in points allowed per 100 possessions. That’s excellent when you consider how much length they gave up when they were going small with Bosh at center and either Shane Battier or Mike Miller as an undersized power forward who can stretch the defense with their shooting. But Battier couldn’t handle West last season, and Bosh struggled mightily against Hibbert. Erik Spoelstra stumbled upon the success of small ball in last season’s Eastern Conference Semifinals against Indiana after Wade went down, but it’s proven to be an effective way for the Heat to play. Unfortunately, against teams like Indiana, Chicago (who ended their 27-game winning streak without Rose) and San Antonio, it exposes a glaring weakness rebounding the basketball and defending the rim.

When push came to shove, the Heat’s hyperkinetic switching and hard double-teams oftentimes forced turnovers and put so much pressure on opposing ball-handlers their lack of size on the back line wasn’t an issue. Also, Chris Bosh came up big late in the playoffs with a huge offensive rebound in Game 6 of the Finals before that incredible Ray Allen 3-pointer to tie the game. But the Heat are weak on the glass, and while “Birdman Birdman” has re-upped for a chance at a three-peat, and Joel Anthony is his usual self, Oden would be a big upgrade over both those backup centers if he was healthy.

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