How Will Victor Oladipo Be Used for Miami Upon his Return?
How Will Victor Oladipo Be Used for Miami Upon his Return?
May 22, 2024 11:51 PM

The biggest wild card for the Miami Heat this upcoming season is Victor Oladipo. After acquiring him at the trade deadline last season, the Heat resigned him to a veteran minimum following his recent injury.

With many evaluating the rotation of the Heat next season, it’s pretty obvious that Oladipo being plugged into a bench role can change the trajectory of the team. There has been mixed reporting about the timetable of his return exactly, but that probably isn’t the most important part about the next steps.

It isn’t when he will return, it is how he will return.

After repairing his right quadriceps tendon, it’s unclear how he will look once he gets back into action. But in my opinion, Oladipo at 75% helps this team at the back end of the season. As long as he can bring his base skill-set, it moves the needle enough.

So, let’s hop right into the ways that he will be used. And as we go through it, you’ll notice his role will mainly revolve around the key player that is on the floor next to him at that time…

Defensive Readiness

Before going completely into offensive usage, the defensive end must be the place we start. That was one of the main reasons the Heat wanted to acquire him last season, due to him possibly plugging the point of attack issues on the team.

And after adding Kyle Lowry this off-season, there are a bunch of projected defensive lineups that can really do damage in a playoff series. But when looking at the way he will come back from this injury, the biggest question seems to be how he will translate on the defensive end.

Lacking that same explosiveness and speed usually means taking a step back on that end, much like many are kind of expecting when Klay Thompson returns for the Golden State Warriors. But one thing that should be mentioned is that Oladipo’s defense isn’t solely carried by his speed and overall movement. It’s actually the defensive principles that carry the weight.

Look at the clips above from his biggest game with the Heat last season in that short span. These defensive highlights just further prove my point. Sprinkling in simple blitzes with Bam Adebayo, getting his hands on the ball when defending the post, and just making the necessary rotations.

None of that will change. He won’t have to carry a huge load on that end of the floor with the latest roster changes, except possibly guarding the best back-up guard when sharing the floor with Tyler Herro off the bench.

It’s just about what he will give them on the offensive end to complement others, and there’s one way to fully maximize that stuff….

Spotting Up from Deep Frequently. Very Frequently

There’s an obvious formula to working Oladipo back into play slowly. And well, that includes more spot-up shooting than explosive driving and kicking. Once again, Lowry now being a part of the roster can really allow Oladipo to take his time on the offensive end when returning, but some of this will be on Herro’s immediate role.

Although I will tough on this duo next, it’s important to mention that Herro’s utilization is going to be simplified majorly. It could be in many different ways, but the point is that putting Oladipo into catch and shoot spots at the beginning can really cater to Herro.

Aside from that, Oladipo’s spot-up shooting willingness has trended upward over the years. In the 2018-2019 season, he only played 36 games in the regular season, and shot 96 total spot-up triples on 41% shooting. Looking at this past season where he bounced around the league playing 33 games, he ended up attempting a total of 120 threes on 38% shooting.

This wasn’t supposed to be his offensive role on any team, due to his dynamic attacking ability paving the way along with his unique outside shot creation. But well, adjustments are important when a player goes through the things Oladipo has gone through.

Whenever he has been slotted back into play after an absence, catch and shoot scoring is where he always finds himself. And I’m pretty sure we will see it again with Miami this upcoming season.

Back-Up Back-Court Flexibility

As alluded to briefly in the last section, the success of the Heat late in the season will have a lot to do with the production of Herro and Oladipo off the bench. How can they produce at a high level as the key players on the floor? Well, let’s take a look.

For starters, as I’ve noted many times, there won’t be many instances that those two are the key players on the floor, due to the idea that Lowry, Adebayo, and Butler will be on the bench at the same time isn’t truly a reality.

But taking a look at the clip above, this is where Herro’s game will be simplified a bit to start the season. Playing off the catch, but obviously not in a Duncan Robinson style. He’s going to station himself on the wing or corner in shooting position, but he’s going to mix in those step-backs and side-steps to really make himself dangerous.

Looking at the second clip, this ties into Oladipo’s possible role in the offense. Herro collapsing the defense a bit off the pick and roll then making decisions from there. That is another part of his game that could really use a boost, and if he can read rotations at a high level in this way, by making skip passes under the rim, this combination elevates.

In a very small sample size last season, the numbers with Herro and Oladipo on the floor weren’t very good. But with the recent roster construction, lineups will benefit when both of them can play against opposing back-up back-courts.

Oladipo may be the wild card of the team, but the wild card tandem is definitely the development of these two as possible reserve killers.

Adebayo-Oladipo Immediate On-Court Chemistry

Before discussing this from Oladipo’s perspective, it should be noted in a general sense. Why was is that Adebayo worked so well with Oladipo in a short span?

As good as Oladipo is, it wasn’t just because of him. It’s what comes from a shot creating guard who can score at all three levels following a screen or a hand-off from Adebayo. It’s why the Lowry addition is more important than some may think.

Spacing wasn’t off in these games, off-ball actions were fluid due to the amount of eyes on the strong side, and their skill-sets matched up. If multiples shot creators are put on the floor with Adebayo, it’s clear that good things will come out of it. Very good things.

Other than that, the first clip just shows how much the team elevates if he has even the slightest ability to get to the rim in a smooth fashion. That would mean Lowry and Butler could take a breather together on the bench, while Herro, Oladipo, and Adebayo bounce off each other to create good offense.

Oladipo at the top of the key with Adebayo and Robinson as screeners. It turns into an Adebayo hand-off for Dipo as Robinson screens for Herro in the corner. No help can drop down due to the pull that off-ball action puts on the defense, leading to an easy bucket for Dipo.

That’s the effect Oladipo has on the team. It’s the reliever for a 35 year old Lowry and a 31 year old Butler. These lineups with Herro-Dipo-Robinson-(insert corner spacer)-Adebayo will be a creative frenzy for Coach Erik Spoelstra, before transitioning back into the main thing with Lowry and Butler running the show.

It’s simple: Oladipo changes the game for them.

The Kyle Lowry Effect

Finally, Dipo wouldn’t just be a Lowry filler. We’ve talked about the way they can bounce off each other defensively at the point of attack, but there’s one offensive point to be made: pacing.

The Heat were a heavy half-court team this past season, even when shifting into a top 10 defense after acquiring Trevor Ariza. Transition offense didn’t ever look bad, it was just that possessions were always slowed down or pulled out to await the initial action.

A big like Adebayo with his guard-like skill-set should take advantage of that area, Butler loves to bull-doze his way to the cup, and of course, Lowry can get down there whenever he chooses and manipulate the whistle in different ways.

But the same may go for Oladipo.

He’s another guy who likes to push tempo, and if Butler or Adebayo are unwilling to, just know Lowry and Oladipo will make sure to change that rather quickly. That also does wonders for shooters like Robinson, since if the ball can be sprayed in the open court to collapse the defense a bit, transition threes will come often.

Looking back at the Warriors’ outside shooting over the years, it felt like every game, open looks were being generated just through that open court pressure. Draymond Green or Andre Iguodala would take control at times, and Miami has a few of those types that can mirror that transition shooting creation to a certain degree.

The most essential part about a player like Oladipo returning from injury is that he is versatile. If one part of his game eases up, he will put more weight on an attribute that can benefit in the short-term. This new roster is much more diverse, but for that to truly be seen, Dipo will need to take advantage of the role Coach Spo drums up for him upon his return.

And that could be sooner than originally expected.

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