NBA Trade Buzz: Victor Oladipo Likely to Be Dealt, Says Analysts
The Indiana Pacers appear to be headed into a new direction following their first-round exit in the 2020 NBA Playoffs. The Pacers, who suffered a sweep at the hands of the Miami Heat, recently parted ways with head coach Nate McMillan and there is a growing speculation that they will also make roster changes in the offseason.
In a recent Basketball Newsroundtable, several analysts predicted that the Pacers will eventually part ways with Oladipo, who has spent the past three seasons in Indiana after stints with the Orlando Magic and the Oklahoma City Thunder. The 28-year-old guard was dealt to the Pacers as part of the trade that sent former Indiana superstar Paul George to the Thunder back in 2017.
According to Michael Lee of The Athletic, the Pacers will likely trade Oladipo because they were able to perform decently during the time the All-Star guard was still recovering from an injury. Oladipo missed the majority of the 2018-19 and 2019-20 NBA seasons after he sustained a ruptured quad tendon in his right knee in January 2018.
"The Pacers kind of got used to life without him for a few months and it wasn't all that bad," Lee said. "With the sides unable to reach an agreement on an extension before this season, and his free agency approaching in 2021, Oladipo looks like the most getable star who’s available for teams seeking another piece to push them forward."
Without Oladipo, the Pacers found another star in the making, as Domantas Sabonis made his first All-Star appearance this season. The 24-year-old forward averaged career-highs 18.5 points, 12.4 rebounds, and 5.0 assists in 62 regular-season games. Luck was just not on Indiana's side, as Sabonis failed to make it into the NBA bubble after sustaining a foot injury.
But even without Sabonis, the Pacers managed to finish fourth in the Eastern Conference, thanks to TJ Warren. Warren emerged as one of the best players in the NBA bubble after averaging 31.0 points and 6.3 rebounds in six seeding games for Indiana. He turned heads in Orlando after scoring 53 points during their 127-121 win over the Philadelphia 76ers in the seeding games.
Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report agreed that the Oladipo is likely the next star to be traded in the offseason. He pointed out that the Pacers are facing a difficult situation because of Oladipo's impending free agency. He compared the situation to what the San Antonio Spurs and New Orleans Pelicans experienced when superstars Kawhi Leonard and Anthony Davis were about to become free agents. Pincus thinks that the Pacers will not break the bank for Oladipo and will just trade him, although he warned that it will be easier said than done for Indiana.
"They have an All-Star who can opt out of his deal after the coming season, potentially leaving as a free agent," Pincus said. "The Pacers are heavily invested in players like Malcolm Brogdon, Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner. They're not likely to spend into the luxury tax and since Oladipo is a significant flight risk, they need to look to get the best value they can in return before he leaves them high and dry. That Oladipo can scare off other suitors with the threat of free agency is a potential problem the Pacers may need to navigate through."
Nekias Duncan of Basketball News also agreed that Pacers fans will have to bid goodbye to Oladipo. Duncan mentioned the possibility of Oladipo moving to the Heat because of his connections with the franchise. The Heat, regardless of the result of their playoff campaign, are expected to shop for another star in the offseason.
"There’s been way too much smoke with Victor Oladipo to think he’ll finish his tenure in Indiana," Duncan said. "The will-he-won’t-he element of his bubble involvement was odd to say the least. Once you add in all of his connections to Miami -- he’s a part-owner of a gym there, he rehabbed there and he is pretty close with Heat legend Dwyane Wade -- it’s not hard to put two and two together and get four."
Oladipo Likely to Have Plenty of Suitors in the Trade Market
In a separate article in Bleacher Report, Pincus said that there are questions about Oladipo's health, but it is unlikely to discourage teams from making a deal with the Pacers. Pincus agreed that the Heat have Oladipo on their radar, but they will pursue the All-Star guard only if they feel that they have no chance to land their primary target -- Milwaukee Bucks superstar and reigning NBA Most Valuable Player Giannis Antetokounmpo.
"One contender could be the Heat, believed to be targeting Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Bucks with cap room in 2021. Milwaukee's fate will be evident over the coming weeks. A title could lead Antetokounmpo to sign a supermax extension; an early playoff exit could lead to an eventual trade or departure via free agency," Pincus said. "The Heat may not make a run at Oladipo until they know they're out of the running for Antetokounmpo."
Pincus added that the Atlanta Hawks is also a logical landing spot for Oladipo. He cited the team's attractive assets like young prospects Cam Reddish, De'Andre Hunter, Kevin Huerter, and the sixth overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. The Hawks are expected to be open to making big moves in the hopes of finally making the playoffs for the first time in the Trae Young era.
The Los Angeles Lakers and the Brooklyn Nets were also tagged as potential landing spots. The Lakers and the Nets might even agree to trade for Oladipo even without the guarantee of a contract extension from the veteran guard. Both the Lakers and the Nets are in win-now mode, trying to maximize the potential of their superstar duos of LeBron James and Anthony Davis, and Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, respectively.
Greg Swartz of Bleacher Report also tagged the Memphis Grizzlies in the race for Oladipo. The Grizzlies made a significant jump this season. Memphis, led by rookie sensation Ja Morant, almost made the playoffs this season. They qualified in the play-in series for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference, but they vowed out of contention after losing to the Damian Lillard-led Portland Trail Blazers. Although it won't be an instant solution for the Grizzlies, Swartz said that adding Oladipo makes sense for Memphis moving forward.
"The Grizzlies can choose to do nothing this offseason and may still see a big improvement next year, but even that may not be enough to get them into the Western Conference playoffs," Swartz said. "Bringing in a veteran shooting guard with an intense work ethic who can set the tone for the rest of the team would certainly help push Memphis into the postseason and help take scoring pressure off Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr."
New York Knicks Should Trade for DeMar DeRozan
The New York Knicks are also expected to be very active on the trade front in the offseason. The Knicks had a front-office facelift this year, hiring Leon Rose as the new team president and William Wesley as the executive vice president. The new front office then hired Tom Thibodeau as their new head coach starting next season. With a new front office and coaching staff at the helm, the Knicks are likely to make several moves in the offseason.
According to Rob Wolkenbrod of Forbes, if the Knicks are really serious in getting a star player, they should reach out to the San Antonio Spurs about a possible trade for DeMar DeRozan. Getting DeRozan would be easier said than done, but Wolkenbrod thinks that dangling their eighth pick in the draft along with a young player like Frank Ntilikina could make the Spurs decide to part ways with the All-Star guard.
Acquiring DeRozan will not fix all of New York's roster problem, but Wolkenbrod believes that it will be a step into the right direction. The Knicks will get a player who is expected to become their main offensive weapon, while complementing their young stars like RJ Barrett and Mitchell Robinson.
"Money aside, the Knicks finally receive a player with some semblance of star power. This is not at Carmelo Anthony levels in 2011, but the second-best player to enter New York since that blockbuster trade," Wolkenbrod said. "DeRozan becomes the go- to scorer for a Knicks team that will still not be good enough for the postseason, but with the competitive aspects to win a few more games. He is the obvious focal point of the offense, with RJ Barrett leading the group that flanks the long-time Toronto Raptor."
In his second season with the Spurs, DeRozan averaged 22.1 points on top of 5.6 assists and 5.5 rebounds in 68 games. The 31-year-old guard still has two season left in his five-year, $139 million contract. However, DeRozan holds a player option in the second season of the deal, which means that the Knicks or other interested teams would like to get a guarantee from him on exercising the option before giving up assets in a possible trade with the Spurs.