There are rumours and counter-rumours aplenty with Victor Oladipo ahead of this offseason.
The Indiana Pacers guard is due to become a free agent in 2021. Reports of Oladipo wanting out have seemingly been quashed by the man himself, but murmurs continue that he could be traded this offseason after reportedly failing to agree an extension in 2019.
An Oladipo trade would likely suggest a shift in direction for Indiana. It would define this Pacers offseason, and the return they got might define their short-term future.
ESPN podcast The Hoop Collective delved into potential offseason moves this week with Oladipo one of the players focused on. Tim Bontemps speculated that the Pacers would be selling low on the former All-NBA guard, while Brian Windhorst suggested that Oladipo’s interest in a move to Miami is greater than the Heat’s interest in him. Miami, of course, is coming off a trip to the Finals, but is eyeing up Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s potential free agency after the 2021 season.
Oladipo was one of the best players in the league in 2017/18, a legitimate two-way superstar. The first half of the next year he was worthy of an All-Star spot, albeit slightly below that level. Upon his return from an horrific ruptured quad tendon injury, he was a shadow of his former self both before and after the league’ hiatus. The circumstances mean it isn’t fair to judge the player Oladipo will be in 2021 yet, and that’s where this is a tricky offseason for the player and his team.
Other franchises will be reluctant to throw high-value picks or talented youngsters in a trade for Oladipo. Indiana will want at least one of those.
The Pacers’ demands in an Oladipo trade are likely a long way from the reality of what they will be offered. Potential Oladipo suitors like the Brooklyn Nets or Heat are probably not putting Caris LeVert or Tyler Herro in a trade for Oladipo. Does a deal centered around Spencer Dinwiddie or Kendrick Nunn interest Kevin Pritchard? Probably not.
For Indiana to recoup real value for Oladipo, they need to wait. They need him to bounce back in 2021. The uncertainty over the player he can be, and with one year on his deal, makes any offseason trade package unappealing. If he returns to an All-Star or All-NBA level, contenders will still be interested at the deadline if the Pacers are open to offers. Of course, if Oladipo’s at that standard, the Pacers might be in contention themselves.
It’s a difficult situation for a small-market team. Losing a star player in free agency can set a franchise like Indiana back, but they can take confidence from their regular season performance in 2019/20. They were still a good team without Oladipo. Even if it’s improbable he re-signs, the Pacers should be patient unless they can land a high-value pick or a young player with big upside like LeVert or Herro.
A lot can change in a few months. If Oladipo is a 20-point-per-game scorer, an elite defender and above-average three-point shooter in the first half of 2021, the Pacers’ negotiating position gets so much stronger. Indiana has more time until Oladipo’s free agency than the rumours might suggest. Rushing a trade this offseason isn’t a necessity, particularly with what the market for him will be.