The so-called test run between the Miami Heat and Victor Oladipo has seen several twists and turns since the trade deadline. Now it finally appears to have veered off the track for good.
On Wednesday, the team announced that Oladipo was undergoing season-ending surgery on his right quadriceps tendon. The procedure is scheduled for May 13 in New York and there is no timetable for his return at this time, according to a press release. The two-time All-Star saw action in only four games for Miami after coming over on March 25 for Avery Bradley, Kelly Olynyk and a 2022 draft pick. Oladipo averaged 12 points and 3.5 assists in 27.8 minutes per game for the Heat.
The former Houston Rockets and Indiana Pacers guard hadn’t logged a minute since April 8 when he limped off the court. Oladipo tweaked his previously injured right knee against the Los Angeles Lakers and later admitted that “one leg was stronger than the other.” The 28-year-old had never fully recovered from 2019 surgery on his right quadriceps tendon after a lengthy rehab. Oladipo is an unrestricted free agent after the season, but the injured guard should have a hard time securing the max contract he expected.
Remember, Oladipo turned down a $45 million contract from the Houston Rockets before being traded to Miami. The Heat could choose to waive him outright or coax him back on a cheaper deal. The South Florida Sun-Sentinel‘s Ira Winderman reported on April 10:
This was always Part B of the Victor Oladipo equation, that if for any reason, be it injury or productivity, the Heat still could circle back to utilizing cap space, instead of Victor’s Bird Rights, this summer in free agency. As it is, it is increasingly unlikely that Victor will get anything near a maximum deal this summer, in terms or annual dollars or even years, from the Heat or elsewhere. Thursday’s injury rekindled plenty of questions that never were far removed from the conversation.
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Heat Could Explore Other Options in 2022
Oladipo’s arrival in Miami was viewed as a short-term rental with the option of turning into a long-term mortgage based on the health of his knee. Well, it would appear as if Miami will turn to Plan B and they have plenty of cap space to make a splash in 2022. Some big names have already been floated out there — Bradley Beal, Kawhi Leonard, Kyle Lowry — and the team has further flexibility to sign Duncan Robinson who could command $15-$20 million per year.
Other potential names to watch this offseason include (unrestricted free agents) Demar DeRozan, Lou Williams, Kelly Oubre, Tim Hardaway Jr., Jrue Holiday, J.J. Redick, Evan Fournier, Mike Conley, Norman Powell — along with (restricted free agents) John Collins and Lauri Markkanen. Remember, the Heat can decline Goran Dragic’s $19.4 team option to free up more money.
Keeping Kendrick Nunn Top Priority?
Second-year guard Kendrick Nunn stands to benefit the most from Oladipo’s misfortune. He has started 42 of his 54 games for the Heat this season while averaging 14.3 points per game.
The Rookie of the Year runner-up has excelled in whatever role has been asked of him, whether off the bench or in the starting five. Nunn is a restricted free agent in 2022 who is sure to have plenty of suitors, but maybe the Heat reward his patience with a long-term contract. They certainly have the funds to make him a future building block.
“Look, this league isn’t easy, and sometimes you’re put in situations where you just have to show some resilience, or you go the other way,” head coach Erik Spoelstra said of Nunn on April 12. “And Kendrick is a tough kid, tough-minded, and he really wants to be there for his team. So he’s handled it the right way, really put in a lot of time behind the scenes, and then when he was given this opportunity again he was ready for it.”