Trade Packages and Landing Spots for Houston Rockets Star Victor OladipoFebruary 4, 2021
Trade Packages and Landing Spots for Houston Rockets Star Victor Oladipo
Victor Oladipo could be on the move. Again.
A lot of people scratched their heads when the Houston Rockets acquired him as part of the James Harden blockbuster. Caris LeVert, who's out indefinitely after a mass was found on his left kidney, is slightly younger and under contract for another two years at a team-friendly price. Choosing Oladipo reeked of immediacy.
Well, that or the Rockets believed they could reroute him later for more than they gave up to get him.
Some around the NBA are going with the latter. League executives told ESPN's Tim Bontemps that Houston could deal him elsewhere prior to the March 25 deadline.
That logic tracks in a vacuum. Oladipo is headed for a sizable payday in restricted free agency, and the Rockets aren't on the cusp of jockeying for a title. But his contract status also creates compensation issues.
Which teams are willing to give up assets for a fringe All-Star with an iffy injury history in whom they have to reinvest over the offseason? And exactly what kind of value are they willing to fork over?
Dipo Heads to the Big Apple
Houston Rockets Receive: Dennis Smith Jr., Obi Toppin, Dallas Mavericks' 2023 first-round pick (top-10 protection)
New York Knicks Receive: Victor Oladipo
League sources told Bleacher Report's A. Sherrod Blakely the Knicks "will be closely monitoring the impending free agent's play leading up to the deadline and beyond if he's not moved by then." Their level of interest in him now needs to depend on Houston's asking price.
Surrendering a small ransom makes zero sense. New York is pluckier than expected but not on the verge of title contention. More than that, the Knicks will have the cap space to sign Oladipo outright in free agency.
Sending out Obi Toppin and Dallas' 2023 first-rounder even sounds like a little much. But Toppin's long-term utility is very much theoretical at this point. New York could sleep at night knowing it's moving him at the peak of Julius Randle's value. Frontcourt minutes will be increasingly hard to come by long-term if the team views both him and Mitchell Robinson as big-picture building blocks.
The Rockets are not getting one of the Knicks' top-most trade chips. At least, they shouldn't. New York's cap space and Houston's post-James Harden timeline are both leverage. Any package that mandates the Knicks give up Robinson, RJ Barrett, Immanuel Quickley or their own first-rounders should be an immediate deal-breaker.
Bagging a top-eight prospect and a future pick would count as a win for Houston. Minutes with both Toppin and Christian Wood on the court would be a defensive nightmare but an offensive dream. The Rockets would also shave more than $10 million off this year's cap ledger.
The Knicks could offer more savings by excluding Dennis Smith Jr.'s expiring contract. But if they're forfeiting Toppin and a first, preserving some of their present flexibility should be a non-negotiable condition of any deal.
Dallas Gets a 3rd Star
Houston Rockets Receive: Josh Green, Tyrell Terry, James Johnson, 2025 first-round pick (top-seven protection, conditional upon Dallas' 2023 obligation to New York)
Dallas Mavericks Receive: Victor Oladipo
The Mavericks are another team that will have the flexibility to sign Victor Oladipo over the summer. That inherently curbs what their best offer looks like.
Granted, they're not working with a ton regardless of cap-space caveats. They don't have any blue-chip prospects and can't technically deal a guaranteed first-rounder before 2027. As it stands, this 2025 first-rounder is contingent upon them sending their 2023 first to the Knicks.
Dallas does have more of an incentive than New York to get Oladipo now. Luka Doncic alone offers a feasible path to contention, and the offense has long needed another shot creator who can put from-scratch pressure on defenses—especially in crunch time.
Just as the Mavericks may be reticent to cough up a distant first, the Rockets might view this return as an underwhelming pupu platter. But it's not a hodgepodge of nothing. Josh Green has the length and athleticism to be an impact defender at the NBA level, and Tyrell Terry, while undersized, has the shot-making bandwidth and vision to develop into a major offensive spark plug.
Both teams have alternative avenues they can explore if this proposal tilts too far in one direction. Jalen Brunson has played extremely well for most of this year and would be an interesting fit off the bench in Houston. And the Rockets could potentially coax more out of the Mavericks if they expand this deal to include absorbing the remaining two years and $22.8 million left on Dwight Powell's contract.
Golden State Mortgages Part of the Future for Now
Houston Rockets Receive: Kelly Oubre Jr., Jordan Poole, Brad Wanamaker, Minnesota Timberwolves' 2021 first-round pick (top-three protection, unprotected in 2022)
Golden State Warriors Receive: Victor Oladipo, Portland's 2021 first-round pick (lottery-protected through 2027; turns into a 2027 second if not conveyed)
Houston Rockets Receive: 2022 second-round pick
Golden State Warriors Receive: P.J. Tucker
Victor Oladipo is most likely not who the Warriors want if they're unloading James Wiseman or the Minnesota pick. But the star-level trade market isn't exactly flush with options right now, and any Bradley Beal pursuit might cost both of their top-shelf assets. Oladipo should prove gettable by dangling one.
Golden State should want him. It needs another competent decision-maker, period. More than anything, it needs someone who can augment the overall offense—particularly during the minutes Stephen Curry spends on the bench. The Warriors rank in the 1st percentile of points scored per 100 possessions with him off the floor.
Forking over a primo asset might ring hollow during a season in which they don't profile as a first-rate contender. Oladipo probably doesn't get them there. (Beal might not, either.) But Curry turns 33 in March and will be a free agent after next year. Messing around for another season, somewhere inside the lower-middle class of the Western Conference, shouldn't be an option.
Snagging P.J. Tucker with the disabled player exception they carved out as a result of Klay Thompson's Achilles injury would exponentially improve the optics of this deal. So, too, would the acquisition of Portland's lottery-protected pick.
For the Rockets, this package would essentially amount to flipping Oladipo, Tucker and that Blazers selection for Minnesota's first. They should absolutely give the green light. The Timberwolves are currently tied for the league's worst record with no clear route upward. That pick forecasts as a high lotto selection this year or, if it doesn't convey, next season.
Maybe Houston could finagle something else from the Warriors. They also own Minnesota's 2021 second and can move future firsts. But Oladipo is on the verge of a huge payday, and Tucker is either a rental or someone Golden State would have to re-sign at age 36. Acquiring the Timberwolves pick for two expirings and a lower-level first is solid value.
*This deal cannot be completed until after Feb. 5, when Brad Wanamaker will be trade-eligible.
New Orleans Assembles a Biggish 3
Chicago Bulls Receive: Lonzo Ball
Houston Rockets Receive: Lauri Markkanen, JJ Redick, 2021 Los Angeles Lakers first-round pick (protected Nos. 8-30, unprotected in 2022), New Orleans' 2022 first-round pick (lottery-protected)
New Orleans Pelicans Receive: Victor Oladipo, P.J. Tucker
This idea is being pulled from a previous trade brainstorm. It's aging well.
Victor Oladipo would arm the Pelicans with another body who could attack set defenses and deliver secondary playmaking. He historically isn't the cleanest off-ball fit and has seen his efficiency drop in Houston, but he's converting 42.4 percent of his spot-up triples on the season. New Orleans also needs more bodies to throw at wings on defense, and he qualifies as that, albeit in smaller form.
Giving up value for a soon-to-be free agent incites all sorts of questions for the Pelicans. How much will he cost to keep? Does it make sense to pay him, a maxed-out Brandon Ingram, Steven Adams and Josh Hart, a restricted free agent this summer? Are they even good enough this year to bankroll a win-now play for someone who isn't Bradley Beal?
That is all debatable. But Oladipo wouldn't be costing the Pelicans a ton of equity here.
They are already shopping Lonzo Ball and JJ Redick, according to The Athletic's Shams Charania, and it'll be a legitimate shock if that bound-to-be-2022 Lakers pick conveys earlier than No. 23. Including a protected 2022 first of their own would hardly be overkill when they'd be getting P.J. Tucker, too. They could potentially rework the deal to save a first if they don't want him, but he'd be a utopian fit up front next to Zion.
Chicago's position comes down to whether it'll flip one restricted-free-agent-to-be for another. It's not an easy decision. Lauri Markkanen has yet to meaningfully deepen his offensive bag, but he's been better than Ball this year. Still, Lonzo would give the Bulls a third playmaker to monitor alongside Zach LaVine and Coby White. And unlike both, he's a pass-first floor general.
Two firsts, Markkanen and an expiring salary should be enough for the Rockets to part with Oladipo. Shelling out near-max money to re-sign him doesn't track with a post-Harden window. This package would let them sell high on Oladipo and Tucker, two players who may just leave for nothing over the offseason. Houston might even be able to extract value out of another team for Redick's services.
Memphis Takes a Swing at Immediacy
Houston Rockets Receive: Tyus Jones, Xavier Tillman Sr., Justise Winslow, Utah Jazz's 2021 first-round pick (protected Nos. 1-7 and 15-30, top-six protection in 2022, top-three protection in 2023, top-one protection in 2024)
Memphis Grizzlies Receive: Ben McLemore, Victor Oladipo
Break up the Grizzlies!
On second thought: Beef up the Grizzlies!
Ja Morant's sprained left ankle was supposed to doom Memphis when coupled with continued absences from Jaren Jackson Jr. (knee) and Justise Winslow (hip). Neither injuries nor COVID-19 protocols have been kind to this team. And yet, the Grizzlies are still standing behind an exhaustive and terrifying defense that currently ranks fourth in points allowed per possession.
Staying the course is fine. Memphis' most important players are still young. But Oladipo's impending free agency opens the door to land a fringe All-Star at a reasonable cost. He would do wonders for the offense; imagine subbing him into the starting lineup for Dillon Brooks and bringing the latter's comprehensive physicality off the bench.
This might be a tick too much for the Grizzlies' tastes. But they have neither the (ready-made) cap space nor the market appeal to poach him in free agency, and Winslow's health bill renders him more of a flier than an asset. Houston could still justify taking this deal when viewing it against the cost of landing Oladipo (Caris LeVert and a second-round pick).
Tyus Jones could provide absurd defensive ball pressure off the bench behind John Wall, and Xavier Tillman Sr. would be a tantalizing interior stopper to play beside Christian Wood. Winslow has a team option for next season, so the Rockets could treat him as an expiring contract or float his salary in hopes of bagging a higher-end three-and-D wing who can play-make for others.
Utah's first-round pick will probably convey in the mid-to-late 20s next year.
The Grizzlies have other salary fodder to play around with if they remain bullish on Winslow. But Kyle Anderson feels a touch too valuable at both ends to be plugged in, and the Rockets would probably want something or someone else if they're taking back Brooks or the expiring contract of Gorgui Dieng.
Unless otherwise noted, stats courtesy of NBA.com, Basketball Reference, Stathead or Cleaning the Glass and accurate entering games on Jan. 21. Salary information via Basketball Insiders and Spotrac.
Dan Favale covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter (@danfavale), and listen to his Hardwood Knocks podcast, co-hosted by B/R's Adam Fromal.