Last week a report surfaced that Indiana Pacers guard Victor Oladipo wants to be traded to the Miami Heat. In such a scenario, the Heat likely trade a young player or two and a first-round draft pick to the Pacers, and Oladipo signs an extension with the Heat.
This would be an enormous mistake for the Heat.
Let's take into account the Pacers' perspective. Oladipo is a free agent after the 2020-21 NBA season, and they have roughly $70 million per season invested in Myles Turner, Malcolm Brogdon, Domantas Sabonis, and Jeremy Lamb.
Oladipo was sidelined for the first three and a half months of the regular season as he continued to recover from his 2019 knee injury. For what it's worth, the Pacers weren't worse without Oladipo, going 30-17 before his season debut. They're currently 39-26.
The Pacers are theoretically looking to get better by trading their star. Regardless of his fit and injury history, Oladipo is a star at full force. Two seasons ago he averaged an astonishing 23.1 points per game and put the Pacers on his back.
Indiana is going to want at least one young player with star potential and a first-round pick that can help them in the near future. That means at least one of Kendrick Nunn, Tyler Herro, and Duncan Robinson and at least Miami's 2020 first-round draft selection. The Pacers likely won't want center Bam Adebayo given Myles Turner's presence.
Why would the Heat trade for a player they could just sign next offseason? Well, Oladipo's camp can tell the Heat that if he hits the open market next summer he's going to listen to other teams in free agency. Another outcome is he gets traded and signs an extension with a different contender. It forces Miami to make a quick decision.
The Heat (41-24) are the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference and have a unique and unparalleled rise to prominence among their competitors.
Last season the Heat were the epitome of NBA stagnation. They had a handful of talented, young players who weren't turning a collective corner accompanied by veterans who weren't long-term pieces to the puzzle. This coupling of players managed to be in the playoff race until the final week of the regular season, finishing 39-43.
The Heat made a four-team trade with the Philadelphia 76ers, Portland Trail Blazers, and Los Angeles Clippers to acquire star forward Jimmy Butler and big man Meyers Leonard. Other moves included drafting Herro out of Kentucky with the 13th selection in the NBA Draft and signing Nunn out of the NBA G-League.
Lo and behold the Heat are a legitimate threat to win the Eastern Conference.
Jimmy Butler has been his typical self: a two-way star. He's the driving force of head coach Erik Spoelstra's offense, hitting the boards, and playing stout defense.
Adebayo has become one of the best centers in the NBA. He's a savvy passer, puts the ball on the floor, and hits the boards at a high level. The athletic big man is averaging 16.2 points, 10.5 rebounds, 5.1 assists, 1.2 steals, and 1.3 blocks per game.
Nunn has been a fearless scorer and vital source of offense, averaging 15.6 points per game; Herro has been a willing scorer and reliable outside player, shooting 39.1 percent from beyond the arc; Robinson has stretched the floor at a pristine level, shooting 44.8 percent from beyond the arc while averaging 13.3 points per game; when healthy, Derrick Jones Jr. is a physical specimen headlined by his absurd dunking ability.
Miami tends to slow the game down offensively. That said, they have the young legs and versatility to ambush defenses with their speed. They're also tied with the Utah Jazz for first in the NBA in three-point shooting percentage (38.3 percent).
This is Butler's first season as the unambiguous best player on his team. It's Adebayo and Robinson's first season starting on a full-time basis. For Nunn and Herro, this season is their first crack at the NBA game.
Miami is deep, young, versatile, and only going to get better. This is just the beginning. Trading from this core would be terminating their potential. If the first season of these circumstances warrants the fourth seed in the East what does the end result produce?
Oladipo is a 6-foot-4 version of Butler. He doesn't have a set position, can play in isolation, is a superb defender, accustomed to having the ball in his hands late in games, and is a star. If you're going to find an accomplished star to pair with Butler, do you want that player to be a carbon copy of him?
Would you rather have full-blown versions of Nunn and Herro or Oladipo?
Every year the NBA world gets engrossed in who's going to be the next star duo. Reality check: you don't need two superstars to be a contender. The Milwaukee Bucks, Toronto Raptors, and Denver Nuggets are prime examples.
They rose to the top by sticking to their mission statement, developing talent, and making prudent transactions when they presented themselves. Miami has a roster with upside that probably hasn't even completely figured themselves out, which is scary.
If the Heat get knocked out of the playoffs early this season and come up short again next season then making a splash is sensible; they can sign a star and/or multiple high-priced players. Making such a move this offseason is premature.
Victor Oladipo is a great player, but acquiring him would be the Miami Heat bypassing their potential.