The Miami Heat have made significant additions to their roster each offseason for the past three seasons.
This past offseason was no different when the Heat signed two recognizable free agents coming off their second consecutive championship. However, this time around, it wasn’t a heralded defensive specialist or the NBA’s all-time leading perimeter shooter.
These moves were met with skepticism as nobody, not even the Heat, knew how the signings would pan out.
Given that we are just mere weeks away from the postseason, it’s time to evaluate the additions of Oden and Beasley.
Prior to joining the Heat, Greg Oden played a grand total of 82 games his entire career and had nearly a four-year layoff between his last game in 2009 and his first game in Miami earlier this year.
Quite frankly, it was a gamble to take on Oden and his balky knees. There was no guarantee he’d see the court with multiple knee surgeries and bouts with alcoholism threatening the career of the once promising prospect.
Still, with the Heat lacking a true center in the Big Three era and facing stiffer competition as they try to defend their title, they had to make a move.
Oden was given a contract for the singular purpose to counteract the big man in Indiana, Roy Hibbert, who averaged 22.1 points on 55 percent shooting and 10.4 rebounds per game against Miami in last year’s Eastern Finals series. He dominated Miami inside the paint and had them backpedaling away from the rim on defense.
To put some perspective to Hibbert’s performance against Miami, the 7-footer averaged just 17 points on 48 percent shooting and 9.9 rebounds per contest during the rest of the playoffs last season. But, he feasted on the Heat.
For Oden to be properly prepared for the likes of Hibbert and the Pacers cumbersome frontcourt, he would need the regular season to get his legs back under him and get into game shape.
Oden has appeared in 21 games thus far, already equaling the amount he played in the 2009-2010 campaign, and is averaging just under 10 minutes per game.
While his on-court appearances have been admirable, the former Blazers first overall pick has looked rusty and predictably slow. He still hasn’t adjusted to the NBA’s game speed and is out of sync on a Heat offense that features quick ball movement and slashing athletes such as LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.
Oden has put in a plethora of hard work and training to get back to this point. To Oden’s credit, he has stayed relatively healthy and has the stamina to play in small bursts and make an impact (albeit mostly on the defensive end.)
The big man is averaging 3.0 points, 2.3 boards, and 0.5 blocks per game currently, while shooting 57 percent from the floor. The numbers obviously aren’t mind blowing, but he’s not in Miami to score or carry any type of offensive load.
Oden’s role on the two-time defending champs is to neutralize Hibbert and the matchup problems that he causes Miami. Oden has missed both games against the Pacers this season, but will get his first crack against Hibbert tonight in Indiana.
Despite not playing against the Pacers yet, Oden has done a solid job on the defensive end in the games he has played. He has noticeably altered shots, protected the paint, and given the Heat a worthy defender in the middle in short stints.
Oden has also been bumped up to Miami’s starting lineup recently, which Heat Coach Erik Spoelstra said he plans on experimenting with for the remainder of the season.
Given that Oden’s purpose on the Heat is to stop Hibbert come playoff time, it’s fair to say his grade is incomplete. As far as his body of work in the games we have seen him play, Oden has played well enough to earn his contract and deserve an opportunity to play for one of the best teams in the league.
Michael Beasley was somewhat of a surprise signing by the Heat.
The 25-year-old’s career was in jeopardy after failed stints in Minnesota and Phoenix to go along with legal trouble that left a negative stigma around Beasley.
With Beasley’s career seemingly in the balance, Pat Riley decided to take a chance and reunite with the player he selected with the second overall pick in 2008.
It was a questionable move considering his numbers have been decreasing every year since his initial season with the Timberwolves and he has continued to struggle with legal and emotional issues.
Still, there was no denying Beasley’s raw talent and athleticism and his potential to provide instant scoring off the bench for a Heat team whose reserve unit is aging quickly.
Beasley was given a non-guaranteed contract, but proved from the beginning months of the season he was worthy of a season-long experiment.
During November and December, the former Kansas State star averaged 11.2 points and 4.8 rebounds in just around 20 minutes per game. He provided a necessary spark off the bench and was surprisingly efficient, taking good, clean shots and picking his spots well. The team was 12-3 when Beasley played 14 minutes or more.
Beasley rightfully had his contract picked up for the remainder in the season as the new year turned.
Oddly enough, that’s when Beasley’s production began to dip.
In January and February, Beasley averaged just 5.6 points and 2.5 boards as his minutes began to diminish and he was slowly worked out of Miami’s rotation.
Still, Coach Spoelstra didn’t lose all faith in Beasley as he ramped up his minutes in the beginning of March, which Beasley responded to with a season-high 24 points in a loss to Houston earlier in the month.
Recently, Beasley has seen his minutes increase closer to his season average, and he has bumped up his game, averaging 8.1 points on 48 percent shooting to go along with 3.0 rebounds in the month of March.
Beasley has shown flashes of greatness this season with his ability to provide scoring and grab boards, while infusing the second unit with life. However, his season as a whole has been wildly inconsistent.
With Beasley’s recent surge in play, it appears Spoelstra is grooming him to be part of the Heat’s tight playoff rotation.
If Beasley can replicate his play from the beginning of the season, he could be a crucial asset for the Heat’s bench when it matters most. When LeBron, Wade and Bosh are resting, Beasley can lead a second unit with Allen, Chris Andersen and Norris Cole.
At 25, Beasley still has a ton of talent and potential. He certainly has the proper guidance with so many future Hall-of-Famers on the same roster with him. Beasley has earned the shot to be a rotation player in the playoffs and potentially become a big piece of this team going forward if he can become more consistent.
While Oden and Beasley haven’t been All Stars, they certainly have carved a role out for themselves on this team, and the Heat’s gamble could pay dividends come playoff time.