Victor Oladipo decided to remain with the Miami Heat this off-season on a team friendly contract of two years at $18.2M, with a player option on the second year. This deal did not hard cap the Heat, as it actually gave them more room to avoid the luxury tax. As a fan it’s been noticed for a long time now, even before he was traded here, that Oladipo has love and respect for this franchise. It was only a matter of time that he would find his way to South Beach.
After going through yet another offseason surgery prior to the 2021-2022 NBA season, us Heat fans waited patiently for his much anticipated return. On March 7 of this year, that return finally came a reality. It was unofficially marked “Dipo Day” inside FTX arena, a game that I actually went to live, and the atmosphere was electric.
Every time the man touched the ball it seemed Heat fans were on their feet waiting for something to happen. In a limited 15 minutes of action off the bench, he had a very encouraging outing; 11 points, 4 assists, on 4/7 shooting and 2/3 from downtown to go along with some great defense. It was such a good sight to see watching Dipo dance to “Pepas” in his warm up gear instead of street clothes.
However, it wasn’t all smooth sailing after that game. Dipo followed up that performance with some rocky outings that showed there was some clear rust there. Including being in and out of the line up from time to time. The last game of the season Oladipo had a statement game. Finally getting starter minutes and an opportunity with our main guys out for rest, he absolutely exploded for 40 points, 10 rebounds, 7 assists, on 13/22 shooting and 5/11 from three. He also had 2 steals and was 9/11 from the free throw line.
It was Dipo’s first 40 point game since his Indiana Pacers days. A performance that led Erik Spoelstra to decide to give him a chance come post season time, in which he did not disappoint. His best offensive game was to close out the Atlanta Hawks in the first round in Game 5 at home. He dropped 23 points, and in the final minutes showed his passion and love for the Miami fans as he ran over to the crowd, screaming in excitement and energy. The perfect “I have arrived” type moment, as he proudly lifted his jersey up repping that “Miami” across his chest.
After the game, Oladipo had an inspirational message as he discussed his journey. It’s been a rough road for the former All-Star, but through it all, he has remained professional and persevered.
“We all human, we all get to that point. If you haven’t, you will at some point in your life,” Oladipo said. “I’ve been fighting even before I was born. I’ve been fighting… I was always counted out. When God gave me this obstacle, I could’ve done two things. I could’ve stopped, or I could have run right through it. And I’m still running through it. No weapon formed against me shall prosper.”
Besides just that one game, the man was a menace on the defensive end all playoffs long. Locking up some very talented players, forcing them into turnovers, getting deflections, steals, and even some blocks. He proved that his All-NBA caliber defense was still very much there, as his lateral quickness and hands were still elite. He most notably made it extremely difficult for Jaylen Brown in the Boston Celtics series, at times it just seemed like Brown had absolutely no where to go with Dipo in front of him.
Some people forget that this man used to be a problem for opposing teams on both ends of the court, and is still only 30 years old. For years we have been desperately lacking another ISO scorer to help the likes of Jimmy Butler and even Tyler Herro... when the offense starts to stick, having a person you can give the ball to and just let them go to work. He is extremely versatile, as he has a great mid range game, strong driving abilities, and a decent three point shot as well. He can hit spot up jumpers and three pointers, pull ups, shots off the dribble, and even create for others.
Victor Oladipo has a tremendous success story, to go through surgery after surgery and still have the mental stability to overcome it. At his best he averaged 23.1 PPG, was a 2X All-Star and an All-NBA player. I personally believe a full off-season healthy can do wonders for this man. He is going to come out swinging, potentially even go for the most improved player or sixth man award (depending on who starts). Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel recently wrote,:
“If Victor Oladipo gets even close to his previous form, then an argument can be made that his off-season signing will trump any outside signing by the Celtics, Bucks, Nets or even 76ers.”
A real X-Factor and wild card player for Miami, the self proclaimed revenge tour has some real hype around it. With a rather quiet off-season, us Heat fans should be all for it.