We saw glimpses late in the regular season. We saw more flashes
in the Round 1 series against the Atlanta Hawks. Then, in last
night's 120-85 drubbing of the Philadelphia 76ers, we were given
yet another view of what Victor Oladipo can provide the Miami Heat
when healthy and in rhythm.
With Kyle Lowry hobbled and in and out of the lineup, Gabe
Vincent struggling from the field and an overall lack of half-court
shot creation outside Jimmy Butler and Tyler Herro, Oladipo finding
his groove is proving essential for the Heat.
Oladipo played only eight games in the regular season, which is
still mind-boggling. He hasn't even played in 20 contests with
Miami since the trade from Houston last season, though he'll hit
the mark on Thursday when he sees the court during Game 6.
Returning from injury multiple times and trying to find his way
on the court as a player has certainly been a process for Oladipo.
He fell out of Erik Spoelstra's rotation entirely near the end of
the season, accruing five DNP (Coach's Decisions) in a six-game
When Oladipo did play, he never quite found his role. The
flashes were there, but the cohesiveness wasn't, which was
understandable given the context. That's what makes his current
play all the more impressive.
Some of the clunkiness in the offense remains, but the process
Here, Oladipo throws a lob when Caleb Martin isn't on the same
page, and even with the failed outlet, Oladipo quickly makes
Selling the at-rim attempt to get Paul Reed in the air before
hitting Bam Adebayo with a dumpoff is the kind of verve and
creativity the Heat really need in half-court settings. Turning
nothing into something was Oladipo's specialty in Indiana. Being
able to do it flowing in the offense alongside Butler was
highlighted in Game 5, and it had me doing the Leonardo DiCaprio
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood point at the screen
from my desk.
Off this baseline out-of-bounds play, we hardly even get to see
it (much like Joel Embiid!), and that's part of the point:
His suddenness and stealth as a cutter collapsing the defense
creates easy points for the two-man play with Jimmy Butler.
A few possessions later on another broken play, Butler misses
the jumper and gets his own board. Oladipo makes himself available
in the corner, and when Maxey flies in to pick him up, Oladipo jets
to the rim to keep the outlet open for Butler.
With how demonstrative Butler has been getting into the lane and
collapsing the defense in the playoffs, Oladipo finding his timing
as an off-ball player is an absolute boon.
But, the Heat have a multitude of players who can flow off the
ball. What makes this so notable is what Oladipo has been able to
bring as both a pick-and-roll operator and late clock
When Oladipo draws close-outs the way he's capable of when his
shot is falling, he creates havoc with his secondary attacks. If
the shot clock is winding down, he's good at drawing contact and
finding his way to the free throw line, averaging four trips to the
line in the series and 3.4 in the seven games he's played in the
Finding his balance toggling on and off the ball opens up new
line-up constructions and modes of play that elevate who the Heat
So much depends on his shot falling on volume, which has been a
sticking point since his initial injury in Indiana. Drawing the
defense on the weak-side and getting to the rim to keep revving the
engine of the offense, or gliding into his pull-up twos or floaters
is predicated on defenses respecting his shot. He still doesn't
quite have that standstill burst he did in 2017-18, but stepping
into the catch off the second side is legitimately devastating from him.
A side note: I'm not even sure it's about his legs not being
back. He certainly doesn't have the same first step he once did.
However, it feels like his handle and his lower body haven't gotten
back into sync. Injuries suck, but I think it makes me appreciate
Oladipo and the work he's put in to get back even more. It's been a
really difficult few seasons for him, and seeing him find his
footing is awesome.
This snippet from Game 2 is the quintessential vision of who
Victor Oladipo can be in Miami:
He exhibits consistent cycling of the offense. He makes himself
available and shifts on and off the ball.
The ground coverage has been awesome. Watch the way he shuts
down Tyrese Maxey's drive and the way he's able to crunch in to
help in the paint before closing back out, getting his hand in the
cookie jar and getting away scot-free with a turnover.
He's absolutely hounded James Harden when he's matched up with
him, often pressing Harden for 94 feet. It sounds minute, but just
go back through and watch the possessions where Oladipo presses
Furthermore, look how consistently the Sixers are starting their
possessions with a third of the clock drained. Even without a
turnover caused (and many have been!), applying pressure has
smothered Philly's offense.
Oladipo is so active on screens, and his play this series
reminds us why he was All-Defense a few seasons ago. He engulfs
offensive players on switches and chokes the gaps to make it more
difficult to slip (a great part of Miami's overall defensive
ethos). I hate charges with a passion, but Oladipo draws contact as
the low man with charisma. I don't know how else to explain it!
He sheds screens and uses his probing arms so well to spear
ball-handlers and make his presence felt. James Harden is not
having a good time with Oladipo!
What he's brought defensively is unquestionable. Pairing his
aptitude and skill on that end with his growth in comfort as a more
complimentary player makes me more optimistic about the postseason
upside of this team.