Heat Fleece Trade Deadline, Bump Title Aspirations


Pat Riley strikes again!

In the midst of an up-and-down season, a four-game skid served as a wake-up call for the red-hot Heat. Being .500 is good, but not great. They weren’t strong enough to compete with the NBA’s elite in their title hunt as currently constructed. Jimmy Butler could only carry them so far.

Not anymore.

In their last hour of desperation to skyrocket the Heat back into contention, Andy Elisburg and Pat Riley struck pure gold. Their genius not only elevates Miami as a contender, but creates the deepest team in the NBA.

Victor Oladipo

The primary acquisition of the deadline was two-time All-Star Victor Oladipo. Oladipo has been privately rumored for months to have interest in playing for Miami since being traded from the Pacers in the James Harden trade.

Though it is not surprising to see him in Miami, what is truly shocking is the price Riley paid for him. Avery Bradley is a player that has only played in 10 games this year due to injury. Kelly Olynyk is an on-and-off big who was replaced earlier in the day with a better fit. Not even an unprotected pick, but a pick swap.

Absolutely fleeced.

Oladipo immediately becomes a cornerstone asset for the Heat. The team has been desperate for a shot-creating two guard since Dwyane Wade retired, and boy they got a good one. Oladipo is a three-level scorer and elite at creating for himself and others off the dribble. Dipo will alleviate Jimmy and Goran Dragic from late-game ball-handling as well as crunch-time scoring. Victor is a career 34.8% three-point shooter and a 43% scorer from the floor.

After dealing with injuries in the previous two seasons, he is finally healthy and looks explosive again. At only 28 years old, he has plenty left in the tank.

Oladipo is an elite two-way guard that fits Miami’s culture like few do. Vic averages 1.6 steals per game for his career, and can lock-down the opposing team’s best guard. His hustle and persistence on both ends fit Miami’s gritty style of play to perfection.

Victor is averaging 20.8 points, 4.7 rebounds and 5.0 assists per game this season. A disgruntled player playing for a bad team forcing his way to the destination he wants sets the stage for a riveting comeback. It’s not out of the question to say that he could return to the 23-point scorer he was in 2018 immediately upon arriving in Miami.

Ladies and gentlemen, Miami’s third star has arrived.

Nemanja Bjelica

Ironically, the best Bjelica player comparison to make league-wide is Kelly Olynyk. With Olynyk’s departure, Bjelica should step up as a more-efficient, better-playmaking version of Kelly. Bjelica is averaging 7.2 points and 3.8 rebounds in only 17 minutes per game this season.

Comparatively, Olynyk was 10 and 6 in nearly 27 minutes per game. Bjelica shoots it 46% from the floor, but has been in a slump from three (29.3%). Only a season ago, Bjelica had a career season with averages of 11.5 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2.8 assists on 41% shooting from deep. This was in a season where he had a substantial role of 27 minutes per game in Sacramento, so perhaps a larger role in Miami will spark greater consistency.

Moe Harkless and Chris Silva were dealt to Sacramento in the deal. Another low-risk, high-reward deal for Miami as Harkless (1.4 points) and Silva (2.7 points) played minor roles in Miami’s rotation.

What was the Price?

Oladipo and Bjelica were acquired at an absolute bargain. Miami amazingly found a way to keep young assets in Tyler Herro, Precious Achiuwa, Kendrick Nunn, KZ Okpala and Duncan Robinson.

Key veteran contributors Andre Iguodala and Goran Dragic also remain. In a day that was bombarded with Kyle Lowry rumors for Herro and Robinson, Riley and Elisburg shifted focus to lower-cost, higher-reward moves. In those moves, they got their third star and an upgrade at the stretch-four position. This comes all on the heels of a steal in acquiring Trevor Ariza in a deal finalized last week.

Heat fans should be ecstatic to acquire such key assets without giving up any of the young keys to the franchise’s future. Additionally, neither the Bucks, Nets, Sixers or Celtics made any earth-shattering moves. Miami got much better while everyone else stayed the same– a dangerous situation for the collision-course of the contenders in the Eastern Conference.

More to Come in the Buyout Market

Teams now focus on the buyout market to finalize their rosters before the final stretch of the regular season– Miami being no exception. This year’s market features names that will certainly be interested in the Heat’s title-contending roster.

Miami has solidified a great backcourt with plenty of contributors, so look for them to find some big men to take some pressure off Bam Adebayo. A key name already linked with the team: LaMarcus Aldridge.

Aldridge presents a perfect fit alongside Bam as a shot-creator and rebounder. His mid-range game opens the floor, and his low-post game presents endless opportunities for utilization for Erik Spoelstra. It also frees Bam to play the four at times, which may be his natural position as an athletic, springy big. LaMarcus is averaging 13.7 points and 4.5 rebounds per contest this year. A seven-time all-star big could be just what Miami needs to fix their front court.

Miami has two roster spots open, so Aldridge might not be the lone buyout/free-agent target. DeMarcus Cousins remains a free agent, and he would be the perfect big for the second unit, providing rebounding and rim protection. Andre Drummond is most likely headed to Brooklyn or Los Angeles, but expect Miami to check in with him regardless.

Less than 30 games remain until the playoffs. The Heat should be more than ready to do some damage in the postseason with a new-look roster.

Something special is brewing in South Beach.

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About Conor Fagan

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