Heat reaches deals with Victor Oladipo and Nemanja Bjelica that make them the biggest winners of the NBA trade deadline again


On the 2020 NBA trade deadline, the Miami Heat almost got Danilo Gallinari. The deal reportedly fell apart because Gallinari didn’t agree to a one-year extension that would have made him a free agent in the summer of 2021, but Miami still got better that day. By adding forwards Jae Crowder, Andre Iguodala and Solomon Hill of the Memphis Grizzlies, Pat Riley’s center office made the Heat more versatile defensively, more powerful offensively and even tougher than they already were.

However, few realized at the time that this move would propel them to the final. In hindsight, Miami won the 2020 deadline, at least in terms of immediate impact, and history appears to have repeated itself on Thursday. Before the 3 p.m. ET deadline, the Heat were in the Kyle Lowry mix, but the talks reportedly stalled because they did not part ways with Tyler Herro. However, they managed to improve because they stole Victor Oladipo from the Houston Rockets and rescued Nemanja Bjelica from the Sacramento Kings. They are also reportedly close to picking up LaMarcus Aldridge in the acquisition market.

Lowry would have transformed the team. I’m signing up for Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo to share the floor with another tough-as-nails All-Star who affects the game equally on both ends and doesn’t need the ball to be effective. (Okay, none of them made the All-Star Game this year, whatever.) There’s no way we’re going to look back at the 2021 Heat and wonder if Lowry might have weakened them defensively, making Gallinari’s comparison imperfect. However, considering how little the deadline cost them, and considering that they had already traded in for Trevor Ariza, it seems they have won the day.

To get Oladipo, Miami sent Kelly Olynyk and Avery Bradley to the Rockets and agreed to a first-round pick change in 2022. Olynyk has been a starter for the Heat for most of the season, but Bjelica is an ideal replacement. Bradley was supposed to give Miami the kind of perimeter defense he didn’t have, but he’s offside with a calf injury, he’s only played in 10 games this season and there would have been no real minutes for him with Oladipo in the mix. . The selection change could mean backtracking in the 2022 draft – according to the Houston Chronicle, Houston can trade any of the 2022 picks it currently owns, including the Brooklyn Nets pick, but this is the closest it could get to seeing Oladipo for free before he reaches free agency.

To get Bjelica, the Heat sent forward Moe Harkless and big man Chris Silva to the Kings. Harkless started as power forward on opening night, but has been largely out of the rotation since then. It has been clear for months that he was not going to be his replacement for Crowder, mainly due to his lack of gravity on the perimeter. He and Silva have played in 11 games each this season, and have logged a combined 207 minutes. In three games with Miami, Ariza has played five more minutes than Harkless and Silva’s combined total since mid-February.

Ariza, by the way, only cost the Heat the exiled Meyers Leonard and a 2027 second-round pick.

All this adulation from the front office must come with a massive warning: We don’t know how well Oladipo will fit in in Miami. If he were playing at the All-NBA level he reached in 2018, no team could have dreamed of getting it so cheap. This season he has taken 3.9 triple pull-ups per game and has done only 28.6 percent of them. He has averaged 20.8 points with a worrying 51.6 percent from actual shots. Miami has a history of helping players be their best, but that doesn’t guarantee that it will happen this time. Lowry’s price was much higher because it is so much safer.

This is a test for Oladipo. He will turn 29 in May and be a free agent in the offseason. Bjelica and Ariza will also be free agents soon, and since every player the Heat traded had an expiring contract or had a team option next season, Miami didn’t have to give up any cap space for this to happen. He also didn’t have to say goodbye to Herro, Duncan Robinson, Kendrick Nunn or any future picks. Meanwhile, the Boston Celtics traded two second-round picks and ate their trade exception for Evan Fournier. The Portland Trail Blazers traded Gary Trent Jr. and Rodney Hood for Norman Powell. The Philadelphia 76ers handed over two second-round picks and Tony Bradley for George Hill. The Clippers traded Lou Williams and two second-round picks for a season and a half from Rajon Rondo. Fournier and Powell are rentals, as is Oladipo.

That the Heat pulled this off and created two roster spots in the process is insane, if you’re the type who cares about the goofy mechanics of NBA team building. Assuming they do add Aldridge, I’m not even sure what they would be looking for in the acquisition market. As is, your rotation is stacked. Between Goran Dragic, Butler, Herro, Oladipo, and Nunn, they have more than enough playmaking. At Ariza and Iguodala, they have proven playoff veterans who can protect multiple positions. If Erik Spoelstra is looking for a pick-and-pop guy when Adebayo is on the bench, he can choose between Aldridge and Bjelica. Does Robinson have to get off the bench now? Precious Achiuwa is about to be squeezed? I don’t know how all of this is going to work out, but Spoelstra might be the best coach in the NBA when it comes to shuffling the lineup in the playoffs. It makes sense to give you options.

By the 2020 deadline, it was already obvious that Butler knew what he was doing when he went to Miami. There were a few gaps on the list, but I was correctly trusting the main office to fill them. Butler’s acquisition itself required creativity, as the Heat didn’t have the cap space to sign him. Their decision only seems wiser now, and the moves they’ve made since then should have reinforced their faith in the organization. Plan A doesn’t always work out, but Miami always finds something out.



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