NBA life comes at its players fast.
Two years ago, Victor Oladipo was coming off a 2017-18 campaign in which he made the All-Star team and was selected third-team All-NBA and first-team All-Defensive. Now, he finds himself in trade rumors.
In 2017-18, Oladipo averaged 23.1 points, 4.3 assists, a league-leading 2.4 steals and 2.1 threes. It was his first season with an above-average true shooting percentage. He was 12th in the league in box plus/minus and looked like a star on the rise.
The next season, a serious injury capped that rise. The ruptured quad tendon Oladipo suffered in Jan. 2019 kept him out of regular-season action for just over 12 months, and the 19 games he managed in 2019-20 weren't pretty: 14.5 points per game with a 50.6 true shooting percentage nearly six points below the league average.
In the meantime, the Indiana Pacers pushed toward home-court advantage in the Eastern Conference without Oladipo. Domantas Sabonis developed into an All-Star, Malcolm Brogdon ably assumed the lead-guard role, and T.J. Warren provided much of the scoring punch.
On the season, Indiana was minus-0.4 points per 100 possessions when Oladipo was in the game and plus-2.8 when he was out.
So, it comes as little surprise that the 28-year-old two-time All-Star may now be available in a trade.
According to Bleacher Report's Eric Pincus, "Oladipo is heading into the last year of his contract, and several executives around the league believe Indiana will shop him this offseason."
If the Pacers do put him on the market, what kind of value would he hold?
The red flags are numerous. On top of the recent injury and less-than-stellar play after his return, Oladipo is on an expiring contract. That may be a good thing for some teams, but it could be a problem for others.
Say he suddenly returns to All-Star—or near-All-Star—form in 2020-21. Would the team that acquired him want to pony up for a contract that might take him past his prime?
Of course, that depends on the organization that deals for him.
Take the Miami Heat, who've already emerged as a rumored suitor. They're coming off an unexpected run to the NBA Finals, but they aren't likely to do anything that impedes free-agency pursuits in 2021, which is when Giannis Antetokounmpo might be available.
Trading for Oladipo could very well lead to a one-year rental for Miami. Why give up value for that?
"It's just hard to see [Tyler] Herro being involved unless they're acquiring Giannis or [Bradley] Beal in a potential trade," Zach Harper wrote for The Athletic. "League sources believe a trade for Oladipo wouldn't even consider including Herro on Miami's end of it. '[Team president Pat] Riley hangs up.'"
Oladipo will be 30 on his next contract and is coming off 19 regular-season games in which he shot 31.7 percent from three. Herro is 20 years old and just averaged 16.0 points while shooting 37.5 percent from three over 21 playoff games. On more than one occasion, he was the guy Miami trusted to get a big bucket in a high-leverage postseason moment.
This union makes more sense as a borderline salary dump than it would with Herro involved, but Oladipo's value hasn't fallen quite that far. If it comes to that, the Pacers would be better served trying to reintegrate him under new head coach Nate Bjorkgren. If they could, it would either boost his trade value or keep the former Hoosier in Indiana.
The Milwaukee Bucks are another team that has been mentioned as a possible fit.
"I'll give you a team I'm keeping an eye on with Victor Oladipo," ESPN's Zach Lowe said on the Lowe Post. "Milwaukee. Just keeping my eye on them. That's all I'm going to say. I'm keeping my eye on them."
Something built around Eric Bledsoe and Oladipo could be interesting. Bledsoe and Brogdon made for a strong backcourt with the Bucks. They could perhaps rekindle that in Indiana.
For the Bucks, going after Oladipo might be exactly the kind of make-or-break move they need to consider ahead of Giannis' free agency. If he gets back to near-All-Star form, he could fill a similar defensive role as Bledsoe while providing more scoring. He's also bigger and two years younger.
If the best of Oladipo is behind us, Milwaukee could simply let him walk in 2021. If Antetokounmpo also left, it'd be easier to steer into a rebuild. If he stayed, not having the Bledsoe deal (which runs through 2022-23) on the books would open up flexibility for the next phase of the team-building process.
The New York Knicks are another team that might make some sense.
"While [Leon] Rose, the Knicks rookie president, has [Chris] Paul on his trade radar, putting together a package for younger Pacers' guard Victor Oladipo is expected to be a higher priority," the New York Post's Marc Berman reported.
New York hasn't had a guard selected to the All-Star team since Allan Houston in 2000-01, and it may be worth gambling on Oladipo being the first in 20 years. Again, if it doesn't happen, the Knicks could simply let him walk in free agency and chase the big names set to hit the market next summer.
They have plenty of salary-matching deals (Bobby Portis, Taj Gibson and Wayne Ellington, to name a few), and if Indiana thinks there's untapped potential in someone like Kevin Knox or Frank Ntilikina, it might be worth exploring a deal along those lines.
Of course, all of the above does little to answer the original question: What is Victor Oladipo actually worth on the NBA trade market?
The answer is probably the one parroted by law professors around the country: It depends.
There isn't a team in the league that is likely to move heaven and earth to land Oladipo for the final year of his contract, but the right fit might yield a decent prospect or late first-round pick.
If he's even close to the player he was in 2017-18, his $21 million salary would actually be solid value (Tim Hardaway Jr., Julius Randle and Terry Rozier are a few others in his salary range). That's just under a fifth of the projected 2020-21 salary cap of $109 million.
But there's no guarantee he gets back to that level. Prior to his 2017-18 breakout, Oladipo had just one above-average season (out of four), according to BPM. Right when he seemed to be figuring out how to dominate, an injury derailed him.
If Indiana trades him now, his new team will be gambling he can find the tracks again.