NBA Free Agency News: Oladipo Era In Indy Might Be Over
Should the Pacers try to retain Oladipo beyond 2021?
There is no doubt that Victor Oladipo is a star, but is he the star that the Indiana Pacers should look to build around for the next few years? The answer to this question was very obvious two seasons ago when Oladipo put up a career-high stat line of 23.1 points, 5.2 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 2.4 steals per game during the 2017-18 season. He was already one of the best two-way guards we have in the league, but a major leg injury he suffered last year hindered his progress.
Oladipo did come back from spending a full year away from the team to recover from the injury. However, he was not the same All-Star caliber player as his efficiency and overall athleticism went down. He put up a lowly 39% overall clip from the field, including an atrocious 30% from the three-point line.
Of course, the 28-year old shooting guard has only played 13 games since his return last January. It will take longer than that for him to find his groove, and again be confident in driving to the rim without the fear of getting injured again. All these matters now lead us to the possibility that the Pacers front office may be considering a future without Oladipo. As per SNY’s Ian Begley, other teams are now keeping tabs on the possibility that Indiana puts the 6-foot-4 shooting guard on the trading block next season.
“Opposing teams are keeping an eye on the situation in Indy because the club will likely have to commit significant money to Victor Oladipo in the summer of 2021 if it wants to keep him. The Pacers will be able to exceed the cap to sign Oladipo. But it would take a significant financial commitment from Indy to keep the foursome of Oladipo, Sabonis, Brogdon and Turner intact.
ESPN reported that the Pacers and Oladipo had talks about an extension before the season but concluded it was best to table the talks. Per SNY sources, at one point in the extension talk between the club and Oladipo, the idea of a four-year extension for around $80 million was broached. Discussions about an extension didn't progress much from there, sources said.”
After coming off two consecutive All-Star selections, Oladipo is averaging 13.8 points, 3.2 rebounds and 3.0 assists in 13 games this season. The Pacers coaching staff still manages his workload as he is just logging in 25.9 minutes per game. It’s still possible for the team to retain Oladipo by offering him an extension in the offseason. We are yet to really witness how his partnership with fellow backcourt star Malcolm Brogdon will turn out to be. Young big man Domantas Sabonis is now an All-Star, so that makes a star trio that could prove to be a dangerous core in the league.
As for Oladipo, there’s no doubt that he can bounce back from the inefficient showing he put on since his return. He has always been one of the best defensive guards in the league, and his willingness and effort on that end of the floor should give him the benefit of the doubt. However, Oladipo also expressed his disappointment on the fact that his return was cut short due to the suspension of games.
As per the Associated Press, the Pacers guard said that he is still not sure if he is already in a hundred percent but emphasized he will do his best to “get better and get stronger.”
"It hurt just because it took me a while to come back and then, obviously, this happens and now you miss more. I was out there playing, going as best I can, as hard as I can. To say if I was 100 percent out there, I don't know if I could say that. I'm just going to try and do my best to get better and get stronger.
Even before this surfaced, I was dealing with trying to come back, trying to get my quickness back, learn how to walk again. But I found a way and I'm going to keep finding a way until I think I fulfill my potential. And to be honest, I'm not going to stop even when I've done that because I always think I can do more."
The Pacers have compiled a decent record of 39 wins against 26 losses this season. Should the NBA decide to resume the season and immediately hold the playoffs, the 5th-seeded Pacers will go up against Jimmy Butler and the 4th-ranked Miami Heat in the first round.
Ibaka wants to stay in Toronto
The defending champs’ sweet-shooting, defensive-minded big man doesn’t plan on going somewhere else. Serge Ibaka, a two-time league leader in blocks, plans on re-signing with the Toronto Raptors when he becomes an unrestricted free agent this offseason. The veteran combo big has been instrumental for the Raptors this year, especially given the fact that Marc Gasol has missed a huge chunk of games due to injury.
As per William Lou of Yahoo Sports Canada, Ibaka said that he doesn’t have any reason to leave a “beautiful city” and “one of the best teams” in the league. The Raptors, even with the departure of Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green, are sporting a stellar 46-18 record while sitting on the second spot in the Eastern Conference.
“I’m gonna stay bro. This place is beautiful. It’s a beautiful city, beautiful people here, and we have one of the best teams, so why leave? Go where?”
Of course, that will happen if the defending champs also want him back. But why wouldn’t they be? Ibaka is posting career-highs in points (16.0 ppg) and three-point shooting percentage (39%) this season. The 30-year old rim protector has become a consistent operator on the offensive end, and he is still ever reliable on defense.
In a mailbag column posted by The Athletic’s Blake Murphy, he emphasized that the Raptors front office are faced with a tough choice on which big man will they put more priority in re-signing. Aside from Ibaka, Gasol is also entering free agency in the offseason.
“Ibaka certainly has the edge as a scorer who can soak up volume, which is part of why I liked him so much as a bench centre when the team was healthy. He’s also several years younger, so if the team were to go the multi-year deal route (say, three years a bit above the mid-level exception), he might make more sense. With that said, even at his age and with perhaps less capacity for big minutes, Gasol is superior at most non-scoring skills – he’s an elite passer and dot-connector in the offence, a more effective (if less traditional) rim deterrent and a better overall defender. I’d also think that even with Ibaka’s hot shooting season and Gasol’s occasional hesitance, Gasol’s track record as a 3-point shooter provides a bit more spacing than Ibaka. Gasol may also be more amenable to a one-year overpay that retains one centre and keeps the books more clear long term, which is the route I’d probably be going here if I were the Raptors.”
But even if Ibaka miss out on the opportunity to stay as a Raptors, it is without any doubt that he will garner tons of interest in free agency. The value of sweet-shooting, defensively-great big men like Ibaka has increased during today’s pace-and-space, small-ball basketball. Teams such as the Washington Wizards, the Charlotte Hornets and even the Houston Rockets all need someone like Ibaka to be a steady presence on both offense and defense.