1) We've seen Pat Riley gamble on centers who had spent years away from the NBA in the Big Three era, like Eddy Curry and Chris Andersen. How likely is it that this Oden/Miami marriage will succeed, and what should be the definition of "succeed" in this case?
Jay Ramos: I think it's very unlikely. Greg Oden will never be a significant contributor in this league again. He's played 82 games in six seasons since being drafted. It's not just a gamble, it's a blind gamble. How many people have come back from multiple micro-fracture surgeries and sustained success?
It would be something of a medical miracle. The definition of success would be playing in the rotation, or at least being a specialty piece for 15 minutes a night against bigger squads. It's improbable, though.
Matt Pineda: How likely? It's not favorable. Oden has given no signs in his NBA career that he can or will stay healthy - that's why this is a low risk-high reward move with a minimum salary. However, unlike Andersen and Curry, Oden has taken off the last three years on his own terms, stating that he wanted to be beyond healthy before he tries again. We have to expect that Oden's past injuries are behind him, otherwise Riley doesn't take that gamble. But new injuries in the future will always be a scare. I think a success is Greg being able to play 12 minutes a game in the playoffs and being able to control the effectiveness of the East's centers.
Surya Fernandez: Let's just say Birdman beat the odds and ended up becoming by far the most useful of any of the free agent big men that Riley has brought in during the Big 3 era and really since Alonzo Mourning's retirement (Mark Blount, for starters). So yes, Oden's potential is huge and, if healthy, could certainly deliver far more than Erick Dampier or Zydrunas Ilgauskas. But there's that part, the "if healthy". Every conversation has to rightfully include that. The equations shifts dramatically if he can play around 50 regular season games off the bench (about as much as Dampier did in 2010-11), matching up with the likes of the San Antonio Spurs, Chicago Bulls and the Indiana Pacers. Of course they'll need him when it matters the most, the Heat faced those last three teams just mentioned. With the injuries, surgical procedures and quite frankly questionable rehabbing methods the Portland Trail Blazers training staff might have used with Oden - we have no idea if any of this will happen until it happens.
Diego Quezada: I haven't seen Oden work out recently, nor am I am team doctor. But we know that Oden has had three microfracture surgeries and sat out the entire 2012-13 season rehabbing. This signing is essentially a shot in the dark, so the chances of "success" are slim. The bar for a "success" in this case would have Oden becoming a serviceable NBA center at some point in the next two years. Eddy Curry had also spent significant time away from basketball before joining Miami in 2011 -- though for different reasons -- and played a little but never caught on. If it's any consolation, the chances of Oden becoming a success stand higher than the odds Curry had.
2) Along those same lines, what can Heat fans realistically expect from him when he is ready to step on the court and once the season is in full swing?
Quezada: If the Heat training staff is comfortable enough to have him play, Heat fans should expect him to boost rebounding for the team, block a few shoots and become a safety-valve offensive option in the post. He's unquestionably lost some of his athleticism and explosiveness from his Ohio State days, and he won't become a dominant force ever again. But if he's ready, Heat fans should expect him to contribute.
Fernandez: He's always been a great defender, superb rebounder on both ends of the floor and can catch the ball with two hands and make a nice offensive move or dish it to the right teammate. That's talent right there but the huge question (among so many others) is how much explosiveness he has left and the fact we're talking about a 25 year old says just about everything. All signs point to a positive recovery and the Heat are officially committed to bringing him along when he is truly ready. So basically Heat fans should applaud him when he steps on the court but to expect Eddy Curry-type production to at least start with. He was already a foul machine in Portland, so he might not even stay on the court much anyway as he shakes the considerable rust off.
Pineda: We as fans need to be patient. It will take a while to not only return his conditionally to an NBA level, but also to adjust both his offensive and defensive game to Miami Heat basketball. I'd look for him to not to sniff a rotation spot until around the All-Star break.
Ramos: Nothing. Anything he gives is a plus against a shot in the dark. If he steps on the court, it's a countdown to another injury. If we're objectively using history to predict the future, it's an easy prediction to make. Obviously you hope for the best, but the evidence is damning.
3) If Oden can play, is he even a good fit for this team -- one that won two championships after it moved Chris Bosh to the five and likes floor-spacing, versatility and athleticism? How does he fit into the rotation?
Ramos: He's a fit as a specialist. The Heat should continue to play it's style and keep as many shooters on the floor as possible, and dictate it to other teams. Oden would simply be a body to throw on Roy Hibbert or Marc Gasol onm a night where they are rolling.
Quezada: Before signing him, Pat Riley knew that Oden wasn't the agile defensive player in the mold of Joel Anthony who can trap the ball-handler in a pick-and-roll and quickly recover to his man. In Curry's limited minutes with the Heat, he showed that he cannot defend the pick-and-roll -- a signature move in the NBA. In Miami, Oden will likely hang back from the pick and try to force the ball-handler in a pick-and-roll into a tough jumper. If Oden can't even run the floor, though, this marriage isn't going anywhere. Chris Andersen will take up all those backup center minutes.
Pineda: Yes, he is a good fit. Although Miami is lethal offensively without Oden, Roy Hibbert is getting better and smarter. And the Heat need someone who can help inside against him. Oden can help against teams with size, but teams without size should still be no hindrance to the Miami Heat. I think Oden lightens the load of LeBron playing minutes at the 4. I think the Heat look to play more of a power rotation after the first substitution once Oden is ready to contribute.
Fernandez: As I said previously, everything changes if he's healthy enough to consistently withstand the rigors of being an NBA player. One of the reasons Birdman works so well with the Heat is that he can run the floor and keep up with their pace. I'm not quite sure Oden can do that, but the Heat will just have to cross that bridge when they come to it. Regardless, Birdman and Haslem will be playing the lion's share of minutes with Chris Bosh in the regular season.
4) People knew Oden as an elite defender. But if he still can contribute offensively, what does that add to the Heat?
Quezada: If Oden has a few moves in his arsenal -- like a jump-hook, drop-step, spin move, etc. -- he could become a good offensive option for those reserve-heavy Miami lineups with only one member of the Big Three. It's also important not to understate Oden's ability to catch the ball. Andersen became such an electrifying offensive force for Miami not because he had any post game but because he knew his positioning and could catch the ball. If Oden is ambulatory and can catch the ball, that alone will provide positive benefits for the Heat.
Ramos: The Heat have some pretty good post-up options in Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James. But he would add a traditional post option that would allow for LeBron to possibly be the beneficiary of some inside-outside work on the opposite end.
Fernandez: Spoelstra could theoretically have options with various lineups, from game to game or series to series, if Oden is a legit pick and roll threat and post-up player, it allows the Heat offense to be as dynamic as it wants to be. Simply being able to gobble up offensive rebounds alone would do wonders for the Heat on that side of the floor. A game to save your season could swing suddenly with one timely offensive rebound and dish out to Ray Allen for a quick three. Something totally crazy like that.
Pineda: It adds something they have never had before. Someone who can score from the block will lengthen the careers of the Big 3.
5) Was this a move strictly made for the playoffs and do you think the Heat will "save him" for that time or should he be playing regularly, some time around the All-Star break or earlier, if he has a clean bill of health? How many minutes would you play him if you were Spoelstra?
Pineda: The signing will make no sense if he isn't around for the playoffs. I think he is used like Mike Miller was, not often but when needed, and then pulled out for the times they need him in the playoffs. Certainly, he will need some run in the season to get chemistry and such, but his minutes should never go over 15 if Chris Andersen is healthy.
Fernandez: Oden could be on this season's "Mike Miller Conservation Program". Miller's 15 minute average in less than 60 games last season sounds about right for Oden. No back to back games or anything foolish like that. Let's not get carried away either.
Ramos: I wouldn't count on Greg Oden for much if I was Spo. I would get him some minutes when he's cleared as the season goes, and see how he responds, cross my fingers and hope for the best. Low risk, decent reward.
Quezada: Riley made this move for the same reason he signed Curry, Andersen, Erick Dampier and Zydrunas Ilgauskas. The Heat have no money to sign quality big men, now deep in the luxury tax. As a result, he has to gamble on cheap players. In an ideal world, Oden would defend the Roy Hibberts of the world. But no one should expect anything out of Oden. If he does have a clean bill of health, he should play. Bosh and Andersen are ahead of him on the depth chart, but some Eastern Conference teams will field really bad squads this year. The Heat should blow out some teams, and Oden can get his feet wet then.