INDIANAPOLIS – Another NBA season is about to start, so it looks like push is meeting shove as far as the Victor Oladipo and the Indiana Pacers are concerned.
With the NBA and its Players Association board of representatives agreeing Thursday night on a plan for a Dec. 22 start to the season, teams are now looking ahead to bolster their rosters. The plan is for a reduced 72-game schedule.
Oladipo starred at Indiana University from 2010 to 2013 and was a huge fan favorite in Hoosier Nation. He spent time with the Orlando Magic and Oklahoma City Thunder before returning the Indiana in a trade during the summer of 2017. He was an NBA All-Star the following year, but then suffered a series quad injury in January of 2019.
His recovery has been slow, and it was disrupted when the NBA had to shut down for four months because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Oladipo returned in July when the Pacers played eight regular season games in the NBA bubble in Orlando and then lost to Eastern Conference champion Miami in the first round. Oladipo played relatively well, but he still hasn't returned to his All-Star form.
Because of that, there's trepidation on both sides as Oladipo and the Pacers approach the 2020-21 season. It's the last year of Oladipo's four-year, $84-million contract, and he would like a max extension. The Pacers, still concerned about his overall health, are reticent to commit to something like that, but would like to keep him around at a more reasonable number.
It's all up in the air right now.
What the Pacers don't want, though, is for Oladipo to walk at the end of the season without getting anything in return. Hence the trade talk, either before the season or soon thereafter.
He has All-Star ability and a relatively affordable one-year deal for many teams, so there is interest. ESPN's Zach Lowe reported Thursday that some teams may be backing off from Oladipo trade discussions, but others are diving in.
Two teams that seem to be out are the Miami Heat and the New York Knicks. There was some discussion during the summer that Miami might be a likely destination, but two trade pieces – rookie Tyler Herro (Kentucky) and Duncan Robinson (Michigan) played so well in their run to the NBA Finals that the Heat don't want to part with them, at least for Oladipo. The New York Knicks' interest seems to have faded, too, Lowe said.
Two teams that might get more aggressive in Oladipo trade talks would be the New Jersey Nets and the Milwaukee Bucks, both of whom have NBA title aspirations but might need one more piece to do so.
The fit might be right for Oladipo, because he grew up in the Washington, D.C., area with Nets star Kevin Durant. Lowe said the Pacers' asking price might be former Michigan star Caris LeVert and more, and the would be "very surprised if Brooklyn dealt LeVert for him.'' But Oladipo certainly would be a good fit at the two-guard spot along with Durant and point guard Kyrie Irving.
Milwaukee has interest, but several NBA analysts question whether they have pieces that the Pacers would be interested in. If the Pacers do have multiple suitors, it's unlikely that Milwaukee to be the highest bidder.
There is still a chance that the Pacers can work something out with Oladipo, who has cherished all the love he's received from fans across the state of Indiana, both at the college and pro levels.
As part of the NBA's collective bargaining agreement, the Pacers are able to offer Oladipo an extension at any point during the season, and can offer him a four-year deal starting at $25 million per season. Now that the date is likely set for the start of a season, it will be interesting to see how quickly it all plays out.
The two-round (60-player) NBA draft is set for Nov. 18. The league and players association is talking about opening up free agency immediately so teams can all go to camp on Dec. 1 with their full roster.
There were nine former Indiana University players in the NBA at the end of last season. That included Oladipo, Eric Gordon (Houston), OG Anunoby (Toronto), Romeo Langford (Boston), Juwan Morgan (Utah), Thomas Bryant (Washington), Yogi Ferrell (Sacramento), Noah Vonleh (Denver) and Cody Zeller (Charlotte).