League insiders are beginning to believe that Victor Oladipo’s time in Indiana could be coming to an end. Oladipo is a near-perfect fit with the Toronto Raptors, should he be made available in the offseason.
One of the biggest storylines of the NBA resumption is players deciding not to return to play. This is happening for a variety of reasons. Avery Bradley is sitting out due to concerns about his son’s health. DeAndre Jordan decided to sit out after testing positive for COVID-19. Other players, like Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and Victor Oladipo are sitting out in order to further rehab injuries.
Shams Charania of The Athletic reported that Oladipo will be traveling to Orlando with the Indiana Pacers, but would not be suiting up when the season resumes (subscription required) at the end of the month.
Oladipo is still recovering from a ruptured quad tendon in his right knee. He originally suffered the injury during a game against the Toronto Raptors on January 23, 2019. Oladipo underwent surgery to repair the tendon and was out of the lineup for just over a year.
After making his return to the court, Oladipo played in just 13 games before the league suspended play. While Oladipo made significant strides during his rehabilitation, he was not all the way back when play abruptly ended. Oladipo’s production declined across the board. He was averaging 13.8 points, 3.2 rebounds, and three assists per game.
With Oladipo’s decision to sit out the remainder of the season, the team is obviously losing his production on the court. But the Pacers are also losing an important opportunity to evaluate how his rehabilitation has progressed. That is particularly problematic because Oladipo is eligible for a contract extension this offseason.
Ian Begley of SNY reported that the two sides had discussed a four-year, $80 million extension, but that those talks didn’t go far.
Oladipo is eligible to sign a new four-year deal worth just under $113 million. If the two sides cannot agree on a new contract Oladipo will become an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2021. At that point in time, Oladipo could sign a multiyear contract starting at 30 percent of the salary cap. Based on current cap projections ($125 million), Oladipo could receive up to $161 million over four years.
Without seeing Oladipo back on the court, Kevin Pritchard and his staff may be hesitant to make such a large financial commitment. If the two sides are not able to work out a deal, the Pacers could end up losing Oladipo for nothing.
The Miami Heat have been rumored to have interest in Oladipo when he hits free agency. Pat Riley isn’t shy about his preference for chasing All-Star players. The Heat won’t be Oladipo’s only suitor. There will be any number of teams hoarding cap space for a slew of potential free agents set to hit the open market.
Despite Oladipo’s pending free agency, his exit isn’t a foregone conclusion. Oladipo has a connection with Indiana. He spent three years as a member of the Indiana Hoosiers. As a junior, Oladipo was named the National Co-Defensive Player of the year, a first-team All-American and the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. Oladipo has emerged as one of the league’s top shooting guards during his time with the Pacers.
However, even if Oladipo is interested in re-signing with the franchise, the team might not be willing to pay to keep him in Indianapolis. Paul George recently came out publicly and admitted why he requested a trade out of Indiana. He said management wasn’t willing to spend the money necessary in order to contend for a championship.
The Pacers are a small market team. Their owner, Herb Simon is a billionaire, but his pockets aren’t as deep as Steve Ballmer. Nor do the Pacers have a rich TV deal like the Los Angeles Lakers. The Pacers rely on the league’s revenue sharing and have to pick and choose how best to allocate their resources.
The Pacers already have three players making at least $18 million annually in Malcolm Brogdon, Domantas Sabonis, and Myles Turner. If Oladipo were unwilling to sign for anything less than the max, the Pacers would be hard-pressed to pay it and keep the rest of the roster intact. As a result, the Pacers may want to explore moving Oladipo before he hits free agency.