Heat make a splash at the NBA trade deadline

The Miami Heat are known for their aggressiveness at the NBA trade deadline… and yesterday was no different.

The team acquired Houston Rockets star guard Victor Oladipo, sending forward Kelly Olynyk and guard Avery Bradley along with a 2022 first-round pick to Houston. The deal was struck just at the 3 p.m. deadline. 

Heat president of basketball operations Pat Riley was engaged in trade talks until the last minutes of the deadline, showing the team’s commitment to improving the roster. Riley has a history of trying to acquire “whales,” star players who are seen as a key ingredient to winning. In the past, he has picked up Alonzo Mourning, Shaquille O’Neal and Jimmy Butler, to name a few. The move for Oladipo falls in line with Riley’s philosophy. 

Last season, the team made the NBA Finals, but this year has gotten off to a rocky start. The team sits at a 22-23 record after losing five straight and is in need of reinforcements.

Oladipo figures to be a key player for the Heat, averaging about 21 points per game to go along with 5 rebounds and 5 assists per game this season. The Heat is currently among the bottom five teams in points scored per game as a team, so Oladipo should provide a much-needed scoring boost. 

The two-time NBA All-Star should be an automatic starter for the Heat, potentially replacing Kendrick Nunn. Oladipo can play at both guard positions, bringing versatility to the lineup. He also adds an extra ball-handler to a team lacking elite ball-handlers.

Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo are the Heat’s two star players. They were in need of a third star. The two have missed a total of 21 games this season. The team lacks enough firepower to win without both players on the court, as last night’s loss to the Portland Trail Blazers showed. The addition of Oladipo leaves the Heat better equipped to deal with such games and make a run at better playoff seeding. 

Following tonight’s game against the Charlotte Hornets, the Heat have six back-to-backs left in the season. The grueling schedule becomes much more manageable with a third star added to the fray. The newly acquired Oladipo and Bjelica could be available as soon as Monday for the Heat’s game against the New York Knicks, while Jimmy Butler remains questionable for tonight’s game against the Charlotte Hornets.

The Heat and head coach Erik Spoelstra pride themselves on defense and Oladipo fits this mold. He made the NBA all-defensive first team in 2018 after being voted one of the two best defensive guards in the league. Adding Oladipo to a team with two stars who were also named to NBA all-defensive teams figures to make the top-10 rated Heat defense even better.

One concern: Oladipo has struggled with injuries throughout his career. He will need to stay healthy if the trade is to improve the Heat. In the 2018-2019 season, he suffered a ruptured quad tendon in his right knee, forcing him to miss most of that season and the subsequent one. 

In trading for Oladipo, the Heat lost starting power forward Kelly Olynyk, who replaced Jae Crowder after he signed with the Phoenix Suns in the offseason. The Heat’s success last season revolved around a small lineup that didn’t suit Olynyk’s style. The team will presumably move Trevor Ariza into that role. 

Oladipo is playing on an expiring deal, meaning the Heat will have to agree to a new contract after the season to keep him. Oladipo has a couple months to prove his value to the Heat and turn this into a long-term partnership.

Another possible Olynyk replacement is Nemanja Bjelica, whom the team acquired from the Sacramento Kings for forwards Moe Harkless and Chris Silva. He should provide a similar level of floor spacing to that of Olynyk, posting a career-high 11.5 points per game on nearly 42% shooting from the 3-point line last season. 

Pat Riley was ultra-aggressive during the trade deadline and managed to hold onto all of the team’s key assets while making moves to improve the team. Integrating new players will be a tough task for the coaching staff, but if there is anything we’ve learned from the Heat, it’s that they don’t shy away from any challenge.

Michael Morales is an FIU student majoring in journalism. He has an immense passion for sports and aspires to be a sports writer and podcast host.

Kevin Gonzalez is a broadcast media major at FIU. He is skilled in video editing and production, and his true passion is sports. He strives to create and host his own on-air sports show and podcast.