Nov 23, 2018; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indiana Pacers guard (4) Victor Oladipo shoots the ball during warmups before a game against the San Antonio Spurs at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. (Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports)
Rumors suggest that Indiana Pacers star Victor Oladipo wants out and the San Antonio Spurs are one of the few teams that could harness his talent.
Before the injury bug altered the trajectory of his season, Indiana Pacers guard Victor Oladipo was bound for stardom. A former No. 2 pick with tremendous potential from the start of his career, Oladipo wasn’t put in a good position until the Pacers acquired him in 2017. He made consecutive All-Star teams as the leader of that franchise and now, the San Antonio Spurs may be able to target him in the trade market.
A report was released by Jared Weiss of The Athletic claiming that Oladipo was looking toward a future outside of Indianapolis. While Oladipo himself refuted the report, we’ve seen enough player movement to know that a statement like this doesn’t mean anything. When push comes to shove, Oladipo is going to do what he needs to further his career.
Victor Oladipo isn't worried about the rumors. pic.twitter.com/WgGIdsyVdu
— theScore (@theScore) October 1, 2020
Meanwhile, the San Antonio Spurs just missed out on the playoffs for the first time since they drafted Tim Duncan. With the youth prevailing in the River City, the Spurs are on the cusp of a major shift toward the future. Most of their veterans’ contracts expire next season with the dawn of a new era upon us. However, the team may not be completely ready to go down without a fight and if they’re going to enter a win-now mindset at any point soon, it should probably be now.
The San Antonio Spurs are a small-market team — They cannot bank on landing a superstar free agent to help turn things around. Their best bets are to draft well and trade for a star if one becomes available. Considering the fact that he’s played a total of 55 regular-season games in the past two seasons, Oladipo’s trade value is at an all-time low.
So why exactly should the San Antonio Spurs go out and trade for a player with these concerns?
Next: Why would the Spurs aim for Oladipo?
Jan 21, 2018; San Antonio, TX, USA; Indiana Pacers shooting guard Victor Oladipo (4) shoots the ball during the second half against the San Antonio Spurs at AT&T Center. (Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports)
The San Antonio Spurs & Oladipo can have a mutually beneficial relationship.
There are few organizations better suited to help a player return to form than the San Antonio Spurs. Over the years, San Antonio has been a place where players go to play under the close watch of an expert training staff that will always prioritize the player’s livelihood over a basketball game. Their reputation was tarnished by the Kawhi Leonard saga, but the truth remains that the San Antonio Spurs want only the best for the players who wear their jersey.
Take veteran forward Rudy Gay, for example. When Gay signed with the San Antonio Spurs, he was returning from a torn Achilles tendon that seemed like the end of his run as an effective and reliable NBA player. That trajectory changed when he joined a Spurs organization with a medical staff that prepared him for the long road that was ahead. Now, Gay is playing some of his best and most efficient basketball as the Spurs’ system puts him in a position to succeed.
If the San Antonio Spurs trade for Victor Oladipo, they’d be making the same investment that they made with Gay and countless players before him. The debilitating quad injury that Oladipo suffered way back when is the same thing that they helped Tony Parker return from. It’s a long and treacherous road to recovery that includes returning in poor condition like Oladipo did late in the season.
The All-Star whose competitive drive compels him to reach new heights is still inside of Oladipo. We saw it on full display against the Miami Heat in Game Four of the Eastern Conference First Round. In that game, Oladipo scored 25 points on 47.4 percent shooting while matched up against the likes of Jimmy Butler, Andre Iguodala and Bam Adebayo. He drained five 3-pointers at a 45.5 percent clip and stuffed the stat sheet with eight boards, five assists and five steals.
Oladipo is still an All-Star caliber player and the San Antonio Spurs can position him for success.
Next: What would they have to give up?
The San Antonio Spurs cash in on some assets.
Finding common middle ground on a trade proposal is always the most difficult part of these hypotheticals because ultimately, I cannot accurately say how the Indiana Pacers value Oladipo at this point. If he were to publically ask for a trade, his value would significantly decline with teams knowing he wants to force his way out. That’s not the case, so the San Antonio Spurs aren’t getting out of this process without parting with players who they value.
Moving on from San Antonio Spurs point guard Dejounte Murray would be heartbreaking for many of the fans. Before the youth movement was truly established, Murray was the signal of hope for what’s to come in the Spurs franchise. Unfortunately, moving him is the most logical course of action in this equation.
Not only does the salary help to facilitate the deal, but Murray is a player whose work ethic, values and skill set align with the current Pacers roster. He’s a gritty point guard with All-Defensive upside whose offense has improved with every year in the league. Murray is four years younger than Oladipo with a much more favorable contract.
This wouldn’t be an admission of defeat by the Indiana Pacers, which is why forward Trey Lyles is a feasible addition to this deal. His floor spacing, mobility and rebounding from the power forward could be valuable to every team hoping to compete. Plus, Lyles and Muray have a strong rapport as partners on the fastbreak and in the pick-and-roll.
Lastly, the Spurs would give up their 2021 first-round draft pick. The reasoning behind it is that the Spurs are theoretically planning to compete next season if they make this deal. Indiana would have to bank on the fact that the Spurs wouldn’t be able to make it into the playoff picture despite their best efforts with Oladipo.
Even if the San Antonio Spurs do make it, which they should in this scenario, the Pacers are still getting a first-round draft pick after trading theirs in this past draft to acquire Malcolm Brogdon.
Next: Why would the Pacers do it?
Indiana trends in a new direction with pieces from the San Antonio Spurs.
A rotation featuring Murray and Brogdon in the backcourt is one that opposing guards should fear. Each of these players attacks the game with a level of grit and intensity that can’t be replicated amongst most teams. That combination, in conjunction with a talented and deep frontcourt rotation, is enough to get back into the playoff picture.
Meanwhile, the Pacers get to deploy an improved lineup from the one that earned the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference this season. The Oladipo experiment was highly successful for the Indiana Pacers, who ended up with two all-stars in return for Paul George. Even with that being the case, the Pacers seem to be gearing up for a change of direction.
Firing head coach Nate McMillan sent a clear sign from the Pacers‘ ownership. Moderate success is no longer going to cut it for this organization, which is part of the reason why Oladipo was rushed back to play before the NBA season was suspended. Just as they move on from McMillan, it would not be a surprise in for the Pacers to move on from their former All-Star. Of course, they need to play the market and see what is available, but it’s unlikely for them to find a better deal than the one that the San Antonio Spurs can present them.
The emergence of forward T.J. Warren in the Orlando restart proved that the Pacers don’t need Oladipo any longer. They have enough firepower on the team to compete at the same level without paying an All-Star’s salary. Extensions are looming for some of their younger players, which means the Pacers could easily fall into the NBA’s luxury tax. Cutting down on some salary and returning key players on unintimidating contracts will maximize their roster.
Next: How does this change the outlook for the Spurs?
Oct 24, 2018; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs shooting guard DeMar DeRozan (10) shoots the ball as Indiana Pacers shooting guard Victor Oladipo (4) defends during the first half at AT&T Center. (Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports)
Now, the San Antonio Spurs are in a position to compete in the ’21 NBA Playoffs.
Having just turned 28, Oladipo is young enough to compete for years to come. The Spurs’ young players won’t be ready to lead the show for some time, but that doesn’t mean the organization will wait around for them. These players are capable of taking the reins when the time comes, but DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge are here to compete next season.
In this scenario, San Antonio’s starting lineup would feature Derrick White, Oladipo, Lonnie Walker IV, DeRozan and Aldridge. That sounds like a playoff team to me — Especially when you consider they’d have a Hall of Fame coach leading them in Gregg Popovich.
Specifically, White and Oladipo make for a fearful defensive combination. Neither of these players necessarily relies on athleticism to compete, but use it when applying a high-IQ and strong defensive repertoire. The same applies to the Spurs’ current rotation, but instead of waiting for Murray to hit his stride, the Spurs competing straight away with Oladipo.
Adding a third All-Star-caliber player to the rotation takes the pressure off of other Spurs players. If one guy is having a slow night, the others can step up in his place. If the injury bug shows up, it’ll be no problem. Like always with the San Antonio Spurs, the next man will always be ready to step up.
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The modern NBA is funny in that many teams you wouldn’t suspect are only one move away from changing the way they’re viewed. With this lineup, San Antonio would likely return to the playoff picture and compete to represent the Western Conference in the Finals.
They have different playstyles to run through that can combat the league’s best. San Antonio could deploy a killer small-ball lineup as needed or go big against teams like the Lakers or Nuggets. For as much as people want to pretend like the current NBA is all about shooting and playing small, the most important key is versatility. It’s exactly why the Miami Heat are in the NBA Finals right now.
If things don’t work out, there’s no need to panic. Like most other players on this roster, Oladipo‘s contract expires in 2021, giving the San Antonio Spurs a clean slate. I don’t see how this team wouldn’t work, but on the off chance they didn’t, the San Antonio Spurs could completely rebuild on the fly. Aldridge and DeRozan could both walk in the San Antonio Spurs could remain competitive with Oladipo leading the young core next to White, Walker and the gang.
No matter what happens this off-season, the future is bright for the San Antonio Spurs.