Three years after being traded by the OKC Thunder, Victor Oladipo is rumored to want out of the Pacers organization.
It seems unfathomable it was just four seasons ago that the OKC Thunder had two MVP talents on the roster and were poised to be competing yearly for the NBA title. But in the offseason of 2016, the franchise shifted dramatically.
OKC was still reeling after losing a 3-1 lead to the Golden State Warriors and adding insult to injury the franchise cornerstone, Kevin Durant exited to join them in free agency. His departure was a shock and came without the same courtesy he afforded the Warriors via a sign and trade.
What many forget is that summer Sam Presti made big moves on draft night to bolster the roster. The magician pulled off a draft-night trade sending Serge Ibaka to the Orlando Magic in exchange for Victor Oladipo, Ersan Ilyasova, and just-drafted Domantas Sabonis. This move was made to appease Durant with another scoring option in Oladipo as well as the talented Sabonis who the team felt would grow into a solid contributor.
Everything changed with Durant’s exit and when Russell Westbrook committed to the Thunder it once again shifted Presti’s strategy. As Westbrook went on a terror that season averaging a triple-double and winning MVP it became clear to keep their star satisfied further upgrades were required. Subsequently, the two players added the prior summer was dealt to the Pacers in another draft night shocker to bring in Paul George.
Former OKC Thunder guard Victor Oladipo rumored to want out of Indy
Oladipo committed himself that summer (2017) to getting into top shape and by the time he hit the Indiana Pacers court he was functioning at an All-Star level. In fact, his initial season with the Pacers witnessed what became his best professional campaign. He made the All-Star team, won Most Improved Player, and was named to both the All-NBA and All-Defense teams.
This magical season for Dipo was followed by his worst as he suffered a horrific quad injury that took him off the court for a full year. He returned this season to appear in 19 regular season games averaging 14.5 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 2.9 assists. He used those games to ease back into the rotation and regain his rhythm and form albeit it was halted by the coronavirus pandemic that put the season on hold.
He was much closer to his typical form by the time the playoffs hit as he registered 17.8 points, 3.3 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 2.3 steals and shot 36.4 percent from deep. A sweep at the hands of the Miami Heat may not be as drastic in context, given the Pacers were without Sabonis and the Heat is now in the NBA Finals.
Shortly after the Pacers lost in the first round, head coach Nate McMillan was fired which was somewhat puzzling given he’s got his squad to perform above expectations and hold home court seeding despite injuries to the core. That was the first hint something was amiss in Indiana.
This week another shoe dropped as Jared Weiss of the paid-for subscription The Athletic offered insight on Oladipo. Weiss wrote sources state Oladipo wants to be moved this offseason (one year prior to the end of his contract). Again, there were hints of this when no extension was signed and Oladipo indicated he wanted a max deal. Pacers GM Kevin Pritchard had stated the team would work to Dipo’s timeline on the extension since this would be his first opportunity to make a decision.
While that sounds like a GM simply working to keep his star happy it also might suggest the Pacers aren’t exactly leaping to open up the bank vault to tie him down. Also not surprising given Indiana is notorious for being economically cautious when it comes to overextending; something Paul George complained about and cited as the reason he asked to be traded.
Weiss went on to speculate on the potential for a deal to move Hayward to Indy where he lives. That would make Danny Ainge appear to be the most heartless GMs in the league given he already jettisoned Isaiah Thomas out of Boston following his injury so moving Hayward after his horrific injury would cement his cold-hearted nature.
The other very real and obvious question is how the Celtics would work with two guards on the smaller side. It worked for Oladipo playing beside Darren Collison. And, even if Kemba Walker and Oladipo could be successful that would mean Brad Stevens would be losing one of his key advantages which is being able to play three lengthy wings (Jaylen Brown, Gordon Hayward, and Jayson Tatum) in the center portion of his starting rotation. Adding Oladipo would take away that advantage and while the undersized Daniel Theis at center was successful how would this move affect his effectiveness?
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Other teams would surely be interested in adding Oladipo for his scoring and playmaking panache. Consider how the Bucks were ousted this season and with Giannis Antetokounmpo approaching his free agency next summer, Milwaukee won’t sit dormant. The Lakers while in the NBA Finals know they need to add a third scoring talent. Dallas definitely needs another playmaking scorer who can compliment Luka Doncic and take some heat off their star particularly in clutch time.
If you’re the Pacers certainly you’d be more interested in the young teams with cap space who have assets to offer and plenty of valuable draft picks with good shots of being lottery picks. In that regard, the Knicks would be a team Pritchard would be wise to consider if the rumors turn out to be fact.
If we’re basing where Dipo lands on the star’s own words his frequent recent tweets about the Nuggets might provide an inkling of his desires. With a deep roster of assets that might be a workable option for both sides.
It’s unlikely the OKC Thunder would revisit adding Oladipo to the roster given the direction the team is presumably headed. Sam Presti isn’t going to send Chris Paul anywhere without first talking to his captain and it’s unlikely he’d want to part with Schroder for Dipo to assume the extra costs while rebuilding.
Ultimately, there was no rebuttal or denial to the Weiss article by either Oladipo or the Pacers so there sure seems to be fire behind the smoke.