The Miami Heat announced last week that they were sending Victor Oladipo to work out with their G League affiliate, the Sioux Falls SkyForce, which sounded like a signal that the two-time All-Star’s return was imminent.
However, Heat’s head coach Erik Spoelstra quickly put a wet blanket on those hopes. “There is no imminent date or announcement,” Spoelstra said of Oladipo’s season debut, per Sun-Sentinel‘s Ira Winderman. “It’s really just part of the process of getting to some five-on-five, live competition.”
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While Heat Nation continues to wait for the 29-year-old guard to finally suit up during the 2021-22 NBA season, Oladipo’s performance, once he returns, will be a huge factor in how his future plays out.
Oladipo, who signed a one-year, veteran’s minimum contract with the Heat, will become a free agent on July 1. And despite the fact that Miami owns Oladipo’s Bird Rights, which allows the franchise to re-sign him above the salary cap, Bleacher Report‘s Andy Bailey believes he’s the team’s “biggest flight risk” this summer.
“The injuries are a major concern, but Oladipo is still a few months shy of 30, made an All-Star team as recently as 2018-19 and averaged 19.8 points in 33 games in 2020-21,” Bailey wrote. “If that’s enough to convince anyone to give him more than the minimum (probably where he ends up, given the fact that he hasn’t played this season), Oladipo would have to jump on it.”
Bleacher Report Seems to be Forgetting the Heat Own Oladipo’s Bird Rights
On the contrary, if Oladipo is absolutely spectacular upon his return, there’s no reason why Miami wouldn’t keep him.
Miami Herald’s Anthony Chiang reported on February 16, “Oladipo signed a one-year minimum deal worth about $2.4 million to return to the Heat as a free agent this past offseason. If Oladipo impresses when he returns, Miami holds his Bird rights and can exceed the salary cap to re-sign him up to his maximum salary when he becomes a free agent this upcoming offseason.”
Oladipo first joined the Heat on March 25 in a trade deal that involved Miami sending Avery Bradley, Kelly Olynyk, and a 2022 draft pick to the Rockets in exchange for the Indiana alum.
However, Oladipo only appeared in four games with the Heat before suffering a season-ending injury on April 8. After undergoing surgery on his right quadriceps tendon in May, he re-signed with the Heat in August.
In September, Oladipo, who had already bought a home on Hibiscus Drive, made it clear that he wanted to stay in Miami long term.
“I wasn’t given the opportunity to be my best self here,” Oladipo told Miami Herald‘s Barry Jackson in September. “I don’t know what our team would have done with a healthy version of me because I wasn’t given that opportunity; I was dealt a bad hand. I feel there’s unfinished business here. I feel like I came here for a reason and there’s a purpose for me being here and I’m trying to find out what that is… I believe we can do something very special here for years to come and I want to be a part of it.”
Other Heat Players on Expiring Contracts Seem Far More Likely to Depart
While Bailey seems to have missed the mark when it comes to Oladipo’s future, there are several other plays on the Heat’s roster more likely to depart this offseason.
Forward Markieff Morris, who hasn’t played in a game since taking a blindside hit to the back from Denver Nuggets star Nikola Jokic on November 8, is on an expiring contract. Morris signed a one-year, veteran’s minimum contract with the Heat, but due to whiplash and a neck injury, he’s been unable to be a contributing factor to Miami’s frontcourt, as previously hoped.
If Morris is able to return before the end of the season and perform at a high level, it’s easy to see the 32-year-old veteran taking a job with the highest bidder.
While both Dewayne Dedmon and Caleb Martin are also on expiring contracts, the latter seems to be the most-likely flight risk of the two. Last week, the Heat converted Martin’s two-way deal into a standard contract, which makes him eligible to participate in the playoffs. During the offseason, he’ll become a restricted free agent, which allows Miami to match any outside offer.
After getting waived by the Charlotte Hornets, Martin has thrived with the Heat. The 26-year-old has shown prowess on both offense and defense, and thus far this season, he’s averaging 9.5 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 1.0 assists per game. While it seems the Heat would love to keep Martin, the forward could very well receive offers that the Heat can’t afford to match.