Victor Oladipo Can Be Exactly What the Slumping Miami Heat Need to Win the East

Victor Oladipo’s return to the floor hasn’t quite elevated the Miami Heat to new heights. His return is more about the long game, though, as the 29-year-old could play a pivotal role in Miami’s quest to return to the NBA Finals.

Oladipo missed last year due to a knee injury — his second extensive absence due to a knee injury in four years. He has appeared in six games off the bench for the Heat thus far this season and has struggled to pick up steam. 

The rest of the regular season is about playoff positioning for Miami. This means Oladipo will likely continue to have an at-best minimal rotation role. Miami, 49-28, is looking to secure the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference. Head coach Erik Spoelstra will presumably favor those who have been present all season. But this could change in the postseason. 

Victor Oladipo gives the Miami Heat more effective depth

Entering this season, the most pressing concern for the Heat was depth. But this concern has been squashed. 

Tyler Herro continues to be a sturdy scorer in starting minutes off the bench. Max Strus is a cunning scorer and efficient shooter. Gabe Vincent is able to generate offense. Big men Omer Yurtseven and Dewayne Dedmon have been reputable interior players. Veteran forward Markieff Morris can make a difference in the scoring department. 

Oladipo gives the Heat more depth — specifically, another legitimate scoring option off the bench. The combo guard does a little bit of everything. He gets inside off the dribble with ease; he is a respectable shooter and proven defender who hits the boards at a high level for a guard. 

Oladipo has found success as both a primary and secondary source of offense. With Miami, the Maryland native will be fortunate to be the latter as Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, and Herro fuel the offense. The beauty of Oladipo’s game is that he can make an impact in a handful of ways.

For instance, Oladipo can help facilitate for his teammates, start the fastbreak, and beef up Miami’s defensive efforts. It’s fair to expect Oladipo not to pose a high-level scoring threat for a while. As a productive and consistent two-way player, he can provide an NBA contender with a lot.

Victor Oladipo fits the Miami Heat’s timeline

Victor Oladipo and Jimmy Butler of the Miami Heat talk during a free-throw attempt
Miami Heat teammates Victor Oladipo and Jimmy Butler | Eric Espada/Getty Images

Is Miami an old team? Not necessarily. At the same time, a lot of players holding down high-minute roles are on the back end of their respective careers. To boot, injuries have hindered the bulk of their roster from time to time.

Of course, a 29-year-old Oladipo coming off a knee injury doesn’t exactly break the trend for the Heat. That said, he’s healthy right now and fits their timeline. Miami is on the verge of becoming a team that’s up against the clock. Two years ago, it lost to the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals. Last season, the Milwaukee Bucks swept the Heat in the first round of the playoffs. 

For the better part of this season, the Heat have been one of the best teams in the NBA, residing in the upper portion of the Eastern Conference playoff picture. The issue: There are plenty of teams — the Brooklyn Nets, Philadelphia 76ers, and Boston Celtics — in the same boat, trying to break through with their current core.

Miami is a win-now team. Its best bet for the remainder of the season is attempting to squeeze out whatever impactful and productive minutes remain in the veterans. Oladipo is accustomed to postseason play; he is playing for his NBA career and is essentially a free-agent signing for the Heat.

Furthermore, while Miami owns the top seed in the East, a pair of vital pieces to the puzzle have underwhelmed. Free-agent signee Kyle Lowry has been an effective facilitator but has also been inefficient. Duncan Robinson, an elite NBA shooter, is shooting just 36.9% from behind the arc this season. Oladipo’s arrival can help make up for some of the shortcomings of the aforementioned players.

Oladipo getting into the swing of things can only help the Heat. He’s a late-season enhancement for a team with championship aspirations. 

Stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference.

RELATED: Jimmy Butler Unearthed a $184 Million Concern for the Title-Contending Miami Heat