The Houston Rockets are trading Victor Oladipo to the Miami Heat, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski. The Heat are sending back Kelly Olynyk, Avery Bradley and a 2022 pick swap, per The Athletic's Shams Charania. The deal marks the end of Oladipo's brief tenure in Houston. Oladipo had previously spent the past three seasons and change with the Indiana Pacers, but was surprisingly dealt to the Rockets as part of the James Harden blockbuster. At that point, Houston appeared interested in remaining competitive after dealing Harden. However, those dreams were dashed when Christian Wood went down with an ankle injury and the Rockets lost 20 games in a row. Now Houston is shipping Oladipo out months before he becomes an unrestricted free agent.
Oladipo was an All-NBA player during the 2017-18 season with the Pacers, but things have only gone downhill since. He suffered a number of minor injuries early in the 2018-19 season before rupturing a quad tendon that knocked him out for over a year. He wasn't the same when he returned to the Pacers, and when they saw the opportunity to flip him for Caris LeVert, they grabbed it. In 20 games as a Rocket, Oladipo averaged 21.2 points on 40.7 percent shooting from the field and 32 percent from behind the arc. That inefficiency scared off some suitors, but Oladipo was a star once. The upside of acquiring him at the lowest point of his value in hopes of getting him back to that level held quite a bit of appeal.
Oladipo couldn't ask for a better landing spot than Miami. He has reportedly been interested in joining the Heat for quite some time, and few teams have a better track record when it comes to helping players recapture past glory. In Oladipo, the Heat are getting the defensive guard they've lacked for most of the season due to Avery Bradley's injuries. He'll be able to defend top opposing guards, a necessity in Brooklyn's conference, and lead bench units offensively, which tend to struggle when Jimmy Butler rests. His shooting is a slight concern alongside Butler and Bam Adebayo, but the Heat run such a motion-based egalitarian system that they have likely already devised workarounds that will maximize the trio. Plus, with the shooting they have elsewhere, the Heat aren't exactly short on spacing. While Oladipo has not quite been himself this season, the cost of the deal makes it well worth the risk for Miami. They gave up very little to acquire a player with star potential. That gives them a very strong grade for the deal as a whole.
- 2022 pick swap
Heat trade grade: A
This was an absolute no-brainer for the Heat. Olynyk's role in the rotation was likely going to be minimized after the Nemanja Bjelica trade, especially if LaMarcus Aldridge joins the Heat through a buyout. Bradley has barely played this season, and at a bare minimum, was behind Goran Dragic, Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson on the depth chart. Even if they weren't interested in Oladipo, the cost was so low that there was practically no reason not to make this trade.
Of course, they were interested in Oladipo. They had been for quite some time. The only catch was that they seemingly preferred Kyle Lowry. Heading into the deadline, the potential opportunity cost of an Oladipo deal appeared to be the chance at eventually landing Lowry. If the Heat didn't trade for Lowry, common sense suggested that another team would have, and then they would have used his Bird Rights to re-sign him in the offseason.
Well, Lowry didn't get traded. In a sense, that allows the Heat to have their cake and eat it too. They get to audition Oladipo for the next several months and see if he's a long-term fit. If he is? Great. Re-sign him. If not? Oh well. Miami still has close to max cap space this offseason. They can pivot towards Lowry pretty easily.
The short-term implications are a bit messy, but still promising. Lineups featuring Oladipo, Butler and Adebayo might be slightly cramped. They can mitigate those concerns by playing the three alongside Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson, and with Bjelica acquired as well, the Heat have more than enough aggregate shooting to compensate. Oladipo immediately becomes Miami's best defensive guard, and their matchup with Brooklyn suddenly looks a lot cleaner. Oladipo will likely guard Kyrie Irving. Butler will likely guard James Harden. Adebayo will likely guard Kevin Durant. Butler and Oladipo are malleable enough to handle different alignments involving those stars, but the core principle is the same: the Heat now have three high-level defenders in their starting lineup to throw at the three star Nets.
In the aggregate, the Heat essentially turned Bradley, Olynyk, Moe Harkless and Meyers Leonard into Oladipo, Bjelica, Trevor Ariza and potentially Aldridge using only minor draft capital to grease the wheels. That is an unmitigated success for Miami. Where they stand in relation to the Eastern Conference's other contenders is subjective. If Oladipo isn't the old Oladipo, they probably still don't have enough to beat Brooklyn. But they just added a 20-point scorer that can defend on an expiring contract for players that were falling out of the rotation anyway. Under almost any circumstances, that is a home run deal.
Rockets trade grade: D
The Rockets traded for Victor Oladipo with this day in mind. If they were looking for a long-term cornerstone out of the James Harden deal, they likely would have kept Caris LeVert. Instead, they added Oladipo hoping they could flip him for more at the deadline. Well, the deadline arrived, and the Rockets got essentially nothing for him. That makes the Harden deal look even worse with hindsight. Three players from that trade remain in Houston: Olynyk, Bradley and Dante Exum. Yikes.
The primary motivation behind that deal was the acquisition of draft capital. In fairness, Houston got quite a bit of it. But player value and draft value did not have to be mutually exclusive. The Rockets could have gained control of Brooklyn's first-round picks for the next seven seasons and acquired LeVert and Jarrett Allen. Instead, they took a swing on a player whose value was declining and missed badly.
The saving grace for this deal is that it doesn't actually hurt the Rockets. They didn't take on long-term money. In fact, you could argue that losing Oladipo will help them lose games, which is essential for them this season as Oklahoma City has the right to swap Miami's late first-round pick with theirs if it doesn't fall in the top four. The worse the Rockets play, the likelier it is that they keep their pick.
But the Rockets were doing just fine losing on their own even before this deal. In the end, this deal just removes an asset from the Harden deal. The best player that Houston got back for a franchise icon had to be dumped at the deadline for whatever scraps the Rockets could find. If they could do it all over again, they'd surely take LeVert. If nothing else, he would've fetched quite a bit more than nothing. That's all they got for Oladipo.