For all the swing votes regarding where the Miami Heat does or doesn’t stand six weeks out from training camp, there’s one in particular that could both influence and shape 2022-23 for the team. Erik Spoelstra.
No, not Kyle Lowry. Despite all the conditioning and age concerns, Lowry, when he was on the court last season, was exactly the type of engine the Heat lacked in recent seasons.
No, not Bam Adebayo. Despite all the speculation about the lack of offensive explosiveness, only thumb surgery kept him from being named All-Star and an eventual All-NBA nod.
And no, not Tyler Herro. The thing is, he only struggled when he got hurt in the playoffs. Let’s not minimize a season that had him as the winner of the NBA Sixth Man Award and just seven-tenths of a point behind Jimmy Butler for the Heat’s regular-season scoring lead.
Enter Victor Oladipo.
Who has made it a point to be anywhere and everywhere this offseason.
At a time when several teammates have stepped out of the offseason spotlight, the former All-Star guard has been ubiquitous. There was a conference call with the South Florida media following the signing of his two-year, $18 million free agency contract. Next, he was alongside Adebayo during a team media session at Rolling Loud. From there, hang out on Vince Carter’s podcast — plus a steady stream of workout videos on just about every social media platform.
The Revenge Tour, he says, is his way of emphasizing that he was an NBA star and will be again.
Which creates a much different relationship with the Heat in his third season with the team.
Over the past two seasons, after being acquired at the NBA’s 2021 trading deadline by the Houston Rockets, Oladipo and Spoelstra were in tune when it came to the position of the 6-foot-4 guard. He was in rehab after years of knee problems. He couldn’t be at his best, wasn’t at his best, we shouldn’t have expected him to be at his best.
That was then.
Now there is a star hoping to be reborn, with expectations of playing time, opportunities and exposure.
It means something has to give.
The shots and scoring opportunities will be there, considering Lowry was practically reluctant to shoot in his first Heat season, Adebayo remains much more comfortable as a facilitator and Butler can’t be bothered by anything. as commonplace as the NBA regular season.
But Oladipo, through actions and words, hardly resembles someone who is content to function as a fourth wheel.
And that creates a bit of a pickle with Herro, who is eligible for a full-scale extension until the start of the regular season. Make that level of investment and expectations will stay close to what was produced in the 2021-22 regular season. But it would also be a difficult expectation to achieve if used as an equal, or lesser, of Oladipo.
A pragmatist would indicate that the trade market ultimately serves as a means of approaching the Heat hierarchy. Moving to a two-year deal, Oladipo will be trade-eligible by mid-season. But if Herro is extended, Herro would essentially become trade ineligible for the season.
Given the contributions Herro has provided to the Heat’s 2020 run to the NBA Finals and the opportunity to lock him down for the long haul, it’s easy to single him out, at 22, as the priority of the crew.
But then consider what Oladipo offered in last season’s run short of an NBA Finals win, the type of two-way play Herro arguably could never pull off in a career. built around the stitch sequence.
If Oladipo at 30 is as healthy as he is sure of himself, there’s no reason he shouldn’t still have three or four quality seasons from the No. 2 draft pick. of the NBA in 2013.
And two-way components are harder to find than singularly successful sixth men.
Victor Oladipo is about to create what Spoelstra often calls the good problems, the first world problems, the problems of the rich.
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THE TUCKER KEY: Predictably, the Philadelphia 76ers are emphasizing the intangibles they expect from free agent acquisition PJ Tucker. “PJ’s been around the block,” 76ers assistant coach Dave Jörger said of the former Heat on the 76ers website. “He has a veteran side to him. He has experience for him. And he is vocal. I think it will really help our dressing room. This will help our team continue to grow throughout the season. As with the Heat, the 76ers don’t expect (or need) Tucker to lead statistically, but simply offer the kind of toughness the 76ers lacked when they were ousted from the playoffs in the second round at the hands of the Heat. “Now you’re going to see guys come out of their shell a little bit with their personality — not outside of themselves, but that part can come out a little bit more because somebody’s kind of in front,” Joerger said. “Now we have a catalyst for this and a leader in this area, and I think you’ll see the tenacity of the guys come out a little more than in the past.”
BACK TO THIS: In the wake of Slovenia’s superb championship at EuroBasket in 2017, then Heat guard Goran Dragic saw it as the perfect time to step away from international competition. But as Slovenia are about to open their defense of that title, Dragic is back on the European stage. The difference, Dragic said, is that he’s now there to support the Dallas Mavericks guard. Luka Doncic, who he took under his wing in 2017. “The role will definitely be different,” Dragic, who signed with the Chicago Bulls in free agency last month, told EuroHoops. “I was Batman, but now I’ll be Robin. The biggest thing will be making sure we have good chemistry and being a leader on the pitch and lifting guys up when it’s hardest. Dragic, 36, said he was only released to join the Slovenian national team by the Bulls after he passed a full physical, along with his brother, Zoran Dragic, also a former Heat guard, providing the impetus. “Zoran was the one who talked about it all the time, every day,” Goran said.
PRECIOUS MOMENTS: As Precious Achiuwa emerged as a multi-position defender and 3-point threat last season, the Heat’s trade balance last August for Kyle Lowry could swing in the long-term favor of the Toronto Raptors. This is at least the perspective offered by the trainer Kenneth Miller at Sports Illustrated. “I think a bit after the All-Star break. . . he had a good feeling like, ‘OK, I feel like I can fit in here, I belong here,’” Miller said of Achiuwa. “It was a coming out party for him, and he’s been building on it ever since.” Among the priorities is working on the edge finishing skills that Achiuwa lacked with the Heat after being selected in the first round of the 2020 NBA draft in Memphis. “The grip has improved a lot,” Miller said. “Finishing around the rim looks really good, playing on the angles and creating your own shot from the dribble.”
NEW VIEW: Having appeared in just 39 NBA games in 2019-20 and 2020-21, then just six last season, split evenly between the 76ers and San Antonio Spurs, former Heat guard Tyler Johnson signed with the Brisbane Bullets in Australia. He will team up there with the former NBA center Aron Baynes, his former teammate with the Phoenix Suns. “I’ve heard so many good things about the NBL,” Johnson, 30, told the league’s website. NBA players who have spent time with Brisbane in recent years include the Suns guard Torrey Craig.
0. Games played with the Heat as a COVID emergency callout last season Aric Holmann, who recently signed to play with Tezenis Verona in Italy. Holman was signed by the Heat last December for a close call, at the time playing for G League side San Antonio Spurs in Austin, Texas, with the Heat needing to bring a player to San Antonio in time. for a game that night. , a match finally postponed for lack of available players. The power forward who was not drafted from Mississippi State in 2019 has yet to appear in an NBA game. He was with the Houston Rockets in the summer league last month.