Victor Oladipo had long cited his desire to take his talents to South Beach. After a half-season stay in Houston with mixed results, he finally got his wish on Thursday as the Rockets traded Oladipo at the NBA trade deadline to the Heat for guard Avery Bradley, big man Kelly Olynyk and the right to swap first round draft picks with Miami in the 2022 draft.
Rockets fans will no doubt be somewhat nonplussed by a deal that essentially closes the book on James Harden as well as Oladipo. In the end the Rockets trade for Harden netted them a bunch of draft picks and pick swaps along with two middling players, neither of whom are likely to be on the roster next season.
The Rockets final return for James Harden:— Adam Spolane (@AdamSpolane) March 25, 2021
Unprotected first round picks from BKN in 2022, 2024, and 2026
Unprotected pick swaps from BKN in 2021, 2023, 2025, and 2027
Unprotected first round pick from MIL in 2023
First round pick swap from MIA in 2022
It is likely that at least some of this deal was to give Oladipo what he wanted. On Twitter, after the deal was announced, talk centered around how Harden, Oladipo and P.J. Tucker all landed in the places they wanted to be. Since we know the team and GM Rafael Stone worked with Harden and Tucker to get them where they wanted to go, it makes sense they did the same for Oladipo.
The return for Oladipo was underwhelming at best, just plain bad at best. Going back to the Harden trade, they could have acquired Caris LaVert instead who is averaging nearly 18 points per game in Indianapolis. But, this isn't about old mistakes or about what they got back from the Heat on Thursday. It was partially about getting something for Oladipo's expiring contract — in this case, just the pick swap given Bradley's deal is expiring and Olynyk's has a team option for next season — while keeping their cap space (though admittedly not much of it).
More critically, this was an exercise in clearing actual space on the floor for young emerging talent like Kevin Porter, Jr. and K.J. Martin. The team couldn't just sit a talented guy like Oladipo on the bench, but they need to see what they have in some of these young players going forward and this gives them the flexibility to play those guys more minutes. In the end, the Rockets decided it was time to fully embrace a rebuild.
The move leaves John Wall as the sole all-star veteran on a team of budding youngsters. With two years left on his contract at max dollars, Wall isn't going anywhere soon, but he gives them a solid presence on the floor and in the locker room as well as some help for when the Rockets are desperately trying to score (something they will struggle with for the rest of the season).
No one should be thrilled with the return for Oladipo, but the Rockets are obviously more interested in making room for the future than holding onto a player that would soon be part of their past anyway.
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