Miami’s front office has a lot of big decisions to make this summer considering only five Heat players are guaranteed to return, and one of the most complicated matters is what to do with Victor Oladipo.
The 29-year-old guard joined the Heat on March 25 after a trade with Houston, and on April 8, after playing in just four games with Miami, the two-time All-Star suffered a non-contact injury. Miami remained cagey on whether he’d return to play before announcing in May that Olidapo underwent season-ending surgery on his right quadriceps tendon.
After Miami was eliminated from the playoffs, Heat president Pat Riley gave his annual postseason media conference and publicly addressed Oladipo’s injury for the first time. Unfortunately, The Godfather didn’t exactly sing his praises.
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On June 3, Riley said, according to the Miami Herald, “When we made the trade, we knew there was a risk. He injured himself four games into this run. He’s like any other free agent on the team who sustained an injury; he will be rehabbing with us until he’s healthy enough to get out of that cast. He’s got to let it heal.”
Oldaipo, who becomes a free agent this summer, previously made it clear that he wanted to stay in Miami after purchasing an $8 million home in the area. However, after the Bucks claimed their spot in the Eastern Conference Finals on June 19, Oladipo shared a cryptic congratulations to the team that swept the Heat in Round 1.
Oladipo wrote on his Instagram stories, “Elite Game 7 big time shots and moments in that one. Congrats to the bros PJ KM TA and GA and the bucks organization. I can’t wait for that feeling.”
Now, Oladipo could innocently be sending praise to the Bucks’ stars following an epic overtime win, but it’s a strange message to send your team’s rival franchise — a team the Heat faced in the playoffs each of the last two seasons.
If Oladipo is unsure of his job security in Miami, this note could also be his way of telling Milwaukee that he would love to join them in the hunt next season. The Bucks did make an offer to trade for Oladipo last winter while he was with Indiana, according to Bleacher Report, but the Pacers turned it down.
Lingering in Oladipo’s mind could be The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor report suggesting the Heat might’ve nabbed Oladipo only as a placeholder until they could acquire Kyle Lowry during the offseason. O’Connor wrote on March 29:
If it doesn’t work out with Oladipo, the Heat could pivot back to Lowry. League sources said if Lowry had been traded, his preference was the Heat because of his close friendship with Jimmy Butler. The Heat can realistically create about $26 million in space while retaining the restricted free-agent rights to Robinson and Kendrick Nunn, if the salary cap is $112 million as currently projected. That number falls short of all max contracts for next season—which range from $28 million for players coming off rookie deals to $39 million for players with 10-plus years of experience—but it could be more than enough to entice Lowry.
Oladipo’s Free Agency Stock Plummeted Following His Injury
Oladipo ruptured the quadriceps tendon in the same knee back on January 23, 2019. After undergoing surgery, Oladipo missed the rest of the 2018- 2019 NBA season and didn’t return to action until January 29, 2020. After Oladipo reinjured himself this year, it was largely assumed Miami would let him leave in free agency once the season was over.
On the flip side, however, Oladipo’s free-agency market value has plummeted. His chances of getting the big contract he wanted diminished with each game he remained out. Therefore, Miami may choose to keep him at a heavily discounted price while the Heat continue to restructure their roster.
“We know the position we’re in,” Riley said. “We know we have the flexibility. We can go in a lot of different directions.”
Riley Spoke About Adding a Third Big Name for Next Season
The Heat would greatly benefit by adding another All-Star to complement the team’s core of Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo. With Oladipo’s future still up in the air, and anywhere from $22 million to $28 million in cap space, Riley could make a blockbuster move to sign a top-tier free agent this summer, and still sign Oladipo on a make-good contract.
“We’ll see,” Riley said. “The market will determine a lot of that as we move forward. I like the nucleus of our team. We have a great core with Jimmy [Butler] and Bam [Adebayo]; regardless of how they performed in the playoffs, we didn’t make a mistake on those guys.”