So Greg Oden chose to go to Miami - good for him. It's fair to say that the entire NBA is rooting for him to return to health, even though the thought of a fit Greg Oden playing for an already stacked Miami team is completely terrifying. Per Marc Stein, here are the details of the contract:
Sources close to process tell ESPN that Greg Oden has agreed to two-year minimum deal with Miami Heat with player option in Year 2— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) August 3, 2013
To me, it's a bit shocking that he's only getting the veteran's minimum, after the Pelicans were rumored to have offered Oden just shy of $3 Million. Perhaps the player option is key here - if he has a great first year for the Heat, he could be in line for a massive contract after just one year. Nonetheless, it's hard to shake the notion that the Pelicans outbid their opponents by a large amount and still weren't able to nab their target.
The seemingly excellent fit between the Pelicans and Oden only makes his decision more depressing. For once, all the problems that plague New Orleans when chasing free agents were actually selling points. New Orleans is a football-first city that is the smallest market in the NBA. The Hornets were rarely on national TV, and the city only recently got a daily newspaper. For most players, the Pelicans' backwater status is a huge negative, but for a player looking to rebound from depression and injury away from media scrutiny, it's a godsend.
The reasons why Oden would want to go to New Orleans don't end there. Monty Williams coached him in Portland. The Hornets showed they can keep strict minute caps last year by abiding by the Gordon Rules. The Pelicans have a solid core of talent that's all within Oden's age range. The Pelicans' inability to quickly contend for a title is, for once, a point in their favor.
Even with all these positive factors, even after purportedly offering three times more than Miami did, Oden still decided to join the Heat. As a Pelicans fan and a fan of small-market NBA teams in general, that's why I despair. Because even in the extremely rare instance that we actually have a good case to make and more money to offer for a free agent considering a big-market team, we still lose.
Greg Oden was always a long-shot. The odds of signing him were low and the chances of him being able to play a significant number of minutes were possibly even lower. But this saga will stick in the back of my mind for a long time - if the Pelicans can't sign Greg Oden in free agency, then who can they sign?