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Heat Insider: Victor Oladipo's Future Hinges on MIA Pursuing FAs Like Kawhi, Lowry

Rob Goldberg@@TheRobGoldbergFeatured Columnist IVMay 15, 2021

Carlos Goldman/NBAE via Getty Images

The Miami Heat have a lot of flexibility going into the offseason, with the option to either add high-profile free agents or keep the current roster intact.

One key question mark will be the future of Victor Oladipo, who played just four games with the Heat before requiring surgery on his injured quadriceps. According to Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the injury could force the guard to miss the first half of the 2021-22 season.

Winderman explained the team's plans going into the summer:

"The chances of Oladipo returning to the Heat could come down to whether the team attempts to maximize salary-cap space to sign an outside free agent, such as Kyle Lowry or, possibly, Kawhi Leonard, or instead opts to operate above the salary cap and prioritize retaining the current roster."

The 2021 free-agent class has fewer game-changing superstars than past years, especially after Giannis Antetokounmpo signed a new deal with the Milwaukee Bucks.

But Kawhi Leonard could hit the open market if he declines his $36 million player option. There are also proven veterans possibly set to hit the market like Kyle Lowry and Chris Paul, as well as intriguing restricted free agents like John Collins and Lonzo Ball.

The Heat have done a good job of limiting long-term commitments with Jimmy Butler ($36 million) and Bam Adebayo ($28.1 million) the only high-priced players on the books for 2021-22. Tyler Herro, Precious Achiuwa and KZ Okpala are the only other players with guaranteed money, while Goran Dragic and Andre Iguodala have team options.

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With that flexibility, Miami can add a high-priced free agent to create a Big Three alongside Butler and Adebayo, hoping the supporting cast will be enough to compete for a title.

If it instead decides to run it back with the current squad, which sits fifth in the Eastern Conference and made the NBA Finals last season, there could be new contracts for contributors like Duncan Robinson and Kendrick Nunn.

The trade for Oladipo didn't go as planned because of his injury, but the Heat also acquired his Bird rights in the deal with the Houston Rockets. It gives them the ability to add an extra year to an extension as well as go over the salary cap to re-sign him.

When healthy, the two-time All-Star has proved he can be a difference-maker on both ends of the court. He averaged 19.8 points, 4.8 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game in 2020-21 across 33 games with the Pacers, Rockets and Heat.

The Heat have showed they can compete with the best teams in the Eastern Conference with this roster. Keeping the group together and adding more production from Oladipo could be enough to make another deep playoff run in 2022.

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