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Rockets Receive Little in Return for Victor Oladipo

Oladipo isn’t in James Harden’s stratosphere, and he’s likely not as impactful as Kyle Lowry. But for this price, how could the Heat turn down a deal?

It took a few extra minutes past the trade deadline, but the Rockets have found a suitor in Miami for Victor Oladipo. Houston will receive Avery Bradley and Kelly Olynyk in the deal, as well as the right to swap first-round picks beginning in 2022. That could be a bit of a modest sum for the former All-Star, though there’s no guarantee Oladipo ever regains his Indiana form.

So who won Thursday’s at-the-buzzer deal? Let’s grade the trade:

Miami Heat: A-

Miami didn’t seem all that enthusiastic to trade the farm for James Harden months ago, and it appeared to quibble with the asking price for Kyle Lowry as Thursday’s deadline approached. Oladipo isn’t in Harden’s stratosphere, and he’s likely not as impactful as Lowry. But for this price, how could the Heat turn down a deal? Avery Bradley is an expiring contract with little tread left on his NBA tires. Kelly Olynyk is a useful frontcourt piece, though one with limitations in the wrong series. A pick swap will likely be closer to immaterial than truly impactful. Acquiring a legitimate backcourt upgrade is worth the modest sum.

Just how valuable will Oladipo be in Miami? The answer is hard to parse. It’s been an up-and-down 38-game sample for Oladipo since returning from a devastating knee injury in January 2020. He posted quality counting stats with the Rockets, but he shot just 40.7 percent from the field while sporting an ugly 102.8 offensive rating. Oladipo dribbled the air out of plenty of possessions in Houston, a stark contrast to the ideal side-to-side movement generated by Jimmy Butler and the Heat. Expecting Oladipo to be a true sidekick to Butler is probably a misguided expectation.

Oladipo is unlikely to be deployed as a high-usage, high-minutes piece with Miami. He should take some semblance of secondary playmaking responsibilities, though ideally, he’s best served as another cog in Miami’s attack as Butler and Goran Dragic run the show. You can fairly question whether Oladipo is any sort of game changer in the Eastern Conference title race. Though considering the price, making Thursday’s trade is an easy decision.

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Houston Rockets: D

The thinning market for Oladipo became increasingly clear in recent weeks. What Houston likely assumed was a valuable piece to flip at the deadline became a non-priority for opposing teams, leaving the Rockets with little choice before agreeing to a deal with Miami. Contenders found better or more affordable options in Aaron Gordon and Evan Fournier. Potential lottery teams decided to keep their assets and wait until free agency. A severely-limited market appears to have forced Houston’s hand.

I’m not necessarily crushing the Rockets for the package they got in return for Oladipo. Olynyk will help stabilize the center rotation. Maybe a pick swap will come in handy. The larger issue lies in Houston’s process dating back to the Harden trade. The Rockets effectively chose to receive Oladipo over Caris LeVert, either misreading Oladipo’s current effectiveness as a player or his value on the trade market. LeVert isn’t exactly a soon-to-be All-Star. Yet he’s still a quality young player on a solid contract. The gamble that Oladipo would provide more either on the floor or via trade didn’t pay off.

The Rockets are effectively done shedding assets as it enters an arduous rebuild. They are now firmly in the hands of the lottery gods, and it’s unlikely any realistic trade involving Oladipo would have changed the course of the franchise. Yet returning back to contention often requires winning each move on the margins, accumulating young players and picks whenever possible. The Rockets weren’t able to receive either as they sent Oladipo back to the Eastern Conference.

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