The Miami Heat traded for Victor Oladipo at last week’s trade deadline, but did not commit to signing him to an extension. The rest of this season, therefore, amounts to a trial run for Oladipo — the Heat can see whether Oladipo can return to his All-NBA form during the 2017-18 season.
In early 2019, the former No. 2 overall pick ruptured his quad tendon. Since he returned in late January 2020, Oladipo hasn’t looked quite the same.
Of whether the arrival of Victor Oladipo signals the next iteration of the Heat, Pat Riley says, "That will come this summer, most likely, or the fall." But adds, "This is the next thing." Says winning is what keeps you the same.— Ira Winderman (@IraHeatBeat) March 26, 2021
Oladipo certainly has incentives to play at his highest level. He’s an impending free agent, so his performance the rest of the season will determine the contract offers he gets. And he always wanted to be in Miami. Oladipo, Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo could form a formidable Big Three — one that leads with their defense.
In a recent column, Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer said that if the Oladipo experiment doesn’t work out, the Heat could circle back to Kyle Lowry. Although the Adebayo extension prevented Miami from having max cap space this off-season, they could still create the space to sign Lowry to a final contract before he retires.
But O’Connor also mentioned Kawhi Leonard and Bradley Beal. The Leonard-to-Miami speculation stems from a Marc Stein 2019 report that Leonard at first recruited Butler to join him on the Los Angeles Clippers. Now, did Leonard simply reach out to Butler because he was also a free agent at the time? Paul George was still under contract with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Or did Leonard truly want to play with Butler?
Kawhi to Miami next summer?— First Things First (@FTFonFS1) March 26, 2021
"The Heat kept the money available in case Kawhi opts out this summer in L.A. He wanted to play with Jimmy Butler the first time & settled for Paul George. That universe does exist." — @getnickwright pic.twitter.com/zmHzzosZKV
O’Connor called it “highly improbable” that Leonard would leave the Clippers, and I agree. Only a monumental collapse in the playoffs similar to the blown 3-1 lead over the Denver Nuggets would lead him to consider leaving.
The Ringer NBA writer calls Beal “a more realistic target” for Miami. Beal still has given no indication that he’d like to leave the Washington Wizards. The Heat (and every other team) hope that Beal says to himself, “I’m 27 years old now. Do I want to spend the rest of my prime in Washington, a franchise that hasn’t made it past the second round since 1979?”
The Heat’s trade of their 2023 first-round pick, which belongs to the Oklahoma City Thunder, makes a trade for Beal more difficult. But if Oladipo plays at his 2018 level, the Heat will give him an extension and move forward with him, Butler and Adebayo as their franchise cornerstones. Miami kept their flexibility to keep their options open.