Miami Heat’s Big ‘Gamble’ With All-Star Guard: Will He Stay or Go?

Erik Spoelstra, Victor Oladipo

Getty/Instagram via @MiamiHeat Miami Heat's head coach Erik Spoelstra (L) and two-time All-Star Victor Oladipo (R).

The Miami Heat have a lot of big decisions to make this offseason considering only five players are contractually guaranteed to return next year. In addition to deciding whether or not they can afford to keep both Duncan Robinson and Kendrick Nunn, the Heat need to figure out what to do with Victor Oladipo.

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On Bleacher Report‘s ranking of the Top 15 free-agent guards available this summer, Oladipo was ranked No. 14. The two-time All-Star’s upside continues to wane as his injury-prone history continues to haunt his game.

The 29-year-old guard joined the Heat on March 25, and in exchange, Miami sent Avery Bradley, Kelly Olynyk, and a 2022 draft pick to the Houston Rockets.

Unfortunately, after playing in just four games with the Heat, Oladipo suffered a non-contact injury on April 8. Miami remained vague on whether or not the two-time All-Star would return to action before the playoffs, but announced in May that Olidapo underwent season-ending surgery on his right quadriceps tendon.

Bleacher Report’s Andy Bailey pointed out that Oladipo’s injuries limited his playtime not just with the Heat, but with every team he’s played with before. “Victor Oladipo has played in just 88 games for three different teams over the last three seasons. And on top of the red flags that come with that lack of availability, he’s had a below-average true shooting percentage in each of those three campaigns.

“There have been flashes of the slasher and disruptive perimeter defender we once knew,” Bailey continued, “but they were few and far between in 2020-21. At this point, he’s a bit of a gamble, but some team will take that.”

Oladipo is likely kicking himself for turning down the two-year, $45.2 million contract extension the Rockets offered him in February.

Pat Riley Didn’t Give Oladipo a Huge Vote of Confidence That He’ll Remain in Miami

Victor Oladipo

GettyVictor Oladipo #7 of the Houston Rockets drives to the basket against Eric Bledsoe #5 of the New Orleans Pelicans during the first half at the Smoothie King Center on January 30, 2021.

After the Heat were swept by the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round of the playoffs, Heat president Pat Riley broke his silence on Oladipo’s future in Miami during his annual postseason press conference. And it was far from the vote of confidence Oladipo was likely looking to hear from The Godfather.

Riley said on June 3, “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.”

Prior to joining the Heat, Oladipo ruptured the quadriceps tendon in that 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 Oldipo reinjured himself this year, it was largely assumed Miami would waive him once the season was over.

On the flip side, however, Oladipo’s free agency market value has plummeted. His chances of getting a max contract 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.”

Will Oladipo Ever Return to Full Health?

The “gamble” Bailey discusses is the question of whether Oladipo will ever return to All-Star form. As it stands, the answer seems to be no.

His performance level has run quickly downhill since he first underwent season-ending surgery in 2019. While he was shooting 32% on threes with the Rockets, he shot 23.5% during his sting with the Heat. After joining Miami, his turnover rate went from 2.6 per game to 3.5 per game.

Following his most recent surgery, Oladipo likely won’t be cleared for full-contact basketball until November, a month after the 2021-22 NBA starts.

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