It’s only May, but some Kings fans are beginning to wonder about Victor Oladipo, who has battled his way into the Miami playoff rotation despite playing only eight games with them this season.
Last week, a report indicated that, according to an anonymous GM, Oladipo is looking at “a minimum, make-good contract next year” with a team like the Knicks, Blazers, or Kings.
Riding a roller coaster of injuries, Victor Oladipo has had a frustrating bit of luck in his NBA career. Even as he’s hit some of the lowest lows after being taunted with tiny peaks throughout the years, he’s still fighting to remain relevant, and it’s grabbing some attention.
In the broadcast of Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals between the Heat and the 76ers, Grant Hill expressed what many were thinking.
“As someone… who struggled with injuries and missed a significant amount of time,” Hill began in reflection, “what Oladipo has done, missing pretty much two seasons, not playing, coming back to a deep team, number-one seed in the East, and contributing here on this stage — finding his timing, his rhythm, working the rust off — I’m very impressed.”
He finished that game with 19 points and 6 rebounds in 29 minutes off the bench.
It doesn’t feel that long ago when Oladipo was headed for a second straight all-star appearance after just winning the league’s Most Improved Player, leading the NBA in steals, and taking LeBron’s Cavs to seven games the year before. That peak Oladipo was standing on really doesn’t feel so distant.
All of that was happening in early 2019, and it seemed like a prophetic look at what could be an incredible player-team pairing for years to come. However, in late January, all of that was turned upside down as Oladipo’s season came to an end when he ruptured his quadriceps tendon, taking Pacers fans’ hopes down a few pegs after Oladipo—along with Domantas Sabonis—was added in exchange for former superstar Paul George and making it look more than worth it.
Oladipo came back twelve months later after recovering from his injury, playing a total of 19 games for the Pacers. The following season, the last year of his contract, he played nine games with Indiana before he was traded to Houston as part of the blockbuster trade that landed James Harden in Brooklyn.
Between January and March 2021, Oladipo played in just twenty games for the Rockets, dealing with injuries off and on. Then he was shipped to Miami around the deadline after declining to sign an extension with Houston.
In Miami, Oladipo played in four games before his season came to an end with another injury to the same quadriceps tendon he hurt in Indiana. He then became an unrestricted free agent that summer before opting to resign with the Heat on a veteran minimum deal with an eye on “2022 free agency to return to the market and sign a big contract once he’s fully healthy,” as Shams Charania reported.
After almost a year without playing, Victor Oladipo made his first appearance in early March, ultimately appearing in eight of the final sixteen games of the season as part of a decision to reintegrate slowly. In his small regular season sample size, Oladipo was averaging 12.4 points, 3.5 assists, and 2.9 rebounds in 21.6 minutes a game while shooting over 40% from deep after struggling with the three since the injury deluge began in his career.
Despite all his limited play as a result of the injuries, Oladipo is making a difference for the Heat in the playoffs. In four games played thus far, he’s averaging 13.3 points on 42.2% from the field, 2.5 assists, and 5.0 rebounds in 28.8 minutes per game. His three point shot in the playoffs hasn’t exactly come together all the way at just 30%, but of the four games, two have featured good shooting, the other two it’s been the opposite, so though he’s been inconsistent, he’s shown he still has immense promise. In Wednesday’s Game 2, for instance, Oladipo shot 3-4 from deep after going 0-5 in Game 1.
While he hasn’t exactly wowed anyone with eye-popping quickness, Oladipo is more than holding his own on that end of the floor. Really, if anyone’s getting called out for looking a step or two slower in that series, it’s Harden. In fact, by all indications, Oladipo’s hands are are still very active and he remains a smart defender who still showcases some instances of outstanding overall execution.
“I can’t really control anything else but my mentality and what I bring to the game,” Oladipo said after his team’s Game 2 win at home. “I just try to go in there and make it tough defensively. Offensively, just be aggressive, make the right reads and be smart. Obviously, I haven’t been here all year, but I’ve been watching and paying close attention. When I go in there, I trust my preparation, trust my instincts, and everything else will take care of itself.”
Oladipo’s mentality is paying off and with Sacramento mentioned in the report regarding what the guard is looking for next season, the Kings could have something here.
As an effective three-and-D guy, he already provides tremendous value to a Kings team in search of those very skills. Maybe one would like Oladipo to be a little longer or bigger, but he’s already making a case on skillset alone.
His upside, while not for certain, is undeniably promising. Given where his career seemed to be going before a major case of the injury blues, and given what he’s doing for the Heat right now, Victor Oladipo could feasibly be an excellent third option along with Fox and Sabonis—not necessarily an all-star, but someone who can put up about 18 or 19 a game. If Sacramento can add an effective scorer that can shoot from three, the potential for a ridiculous offense is more than possible.
Oladipo could essentially be an upgrade over what the Kings got from Justin Holiday being in the starting lineup in the final two months of the season. While Holiday’s three-point shooting was uncharacteristically down after coming to Sacramento, Oladipo is still an overall improvement by providing a similar level of defense, better playmaking abilities, and a more dynamic ability to score.
And with the prospect of being brought on a veteran minimum deal that would likely be somewhere around $2.5 and $2.8 million (it’s around $2.4 million this year with Miami), he’ll be cheap. So many potential upgrades for the Kings require the movement of key pieces, but bringing Oladipo in on a minimum deal could bring about a dynamic Kings starting lineup that doesn’t sacrifice, say, a Harrison Barnes.
Plus, if he proves some mettle, stays healthy, and puts together a nice year for a Kings team that maybe makes the playoffs, it could be the start of a multi-year stay in Sacramento.
Of course, the question that seems to linger perpetually centers around his durability. Oladipo has quite the extensive injury history and has played just 96 games in the last four seasons, so if the Kings are trying to succeed next year at making the playoffs, they need to take that into account before shredding their guard depth or anything like that in the process. In other words, with all the upside of Oladipo, Sacramento couldn’t exactly expect to bank on it coming to fruition.
Then there’s also that question of team needs. With De’Aaron Fox, Davion Mitchell, (almost certainly) Donte DiVincenzo, Justin Holiday, and Terrence Davis set to be on the roster next season, do the Kings need to focus on that position? Might they be better off trying to get a longer wing or a forward? Maybe a backup for Harrison Barnes or a stretch four?
That’s the thing: it’s really hard to say for sure.
Still, Victor Oladipo has singlehandedly salvaged his value with the way he has battled back to get to this point in his career and has made the thought appealing enough to consider.
If Sacramento can get him, that could be a major game changer, but they have to also consider all the possibilities of being let down as well.
Nevertheless, there’s still basketball to be played for the Heat guard this season, which will provide more opportunity to think about it. Kings fans can catch Oladipo in Game 3 this evening and consider for themselves the prospect of him suiting up in Sac.