Exactly 6 months ago from next Saturday, basically every NBA fan was staring at their phone, computer, or TV, waiting for that next Woj bomb to pop up before the trade deadline. For many Miami Heat fans, it wasn’t as much “if” something would happen. It was “which” would happen.
By that I mean the Heat were going to try and grab a highly talented guard who plugged two of their biggest issues at the time: shot creation and point of attack defense. The two options were Victor Oladipo and Kyle Lowry, mostly since both of them were perfect choices to make yet another late season push.
The Heat ended up acquiring Oladipo due to the pricing being much cheaper than if they went all in on Lowry at the time. And well, I’d say that was a pretty great decision.
Fast forward a few months and the Miami Heat have both of those guys on their roster. Of course the Oladipo insertion will have to wait quite a while, but that shouldn’t even be a big area of focus. This team is absolutely and positively built for the post-season. So if they have to hold Dipo out for an extended period to make sure he’s healthy enough for that push, then so be it.
But when discussing these two players, it always feels like they’re evaluated individually when preparing for this upcoming season. Many picture them in a scary defensive lineup along with Jimmy Butler, PJ Tucker, and Bam Adebayo, but it’s not insane to say they can handle their own lineups with Butler and Adebayo each getting a breather.
So, that’s what we’ll be looking into here. What would a Lowry-Oladipo back-court look like this season?
A Flash From the Past
When I initially think of Lowry playing next to a shot creating guard on the offensive end, barring Oladipo comes back with that ability to a certain degree, the Lowry-DeRozan long term combo is what I picture immediately.
In no way, shape, or form am I saying that is what Oladipo will look like next season, but it translates to the way he can be utilized in a Miami Heat offense. And that all starts with the consistent 1-2 punch in specific offensive sets.
Lowry and DeRozan were fantastic at bouncing off each other throughout their tenure, but a lot of their floor time consisted of taking turns in a sense. Lowry flipping the switch into play-making mode or plummeting to the basket in PnR, or DeRozan going to work in the high post for straight bucket getting.
With a healthy Oladipo, it would be interesting to see that “taking turns” mentality with the right guys around them on the floor.
But when looking at some Oladipo patterns, I don’t see an immediate shot creation impact upon return. Whenever he returns from injury, catch and shoot three point attempts always rise, and I’d expect that to be the case once again. Lowry has always been great at finding shooters on the perimeter with wild kick-outs or no-look swings, and that creativity may be huge for Dipo to get into a rhythm.
In a lot of ways, this will be the starting point when Oladipo makes his awaited return to the basketball court, but seeing his mentality in the past, it never takes long for him to get back into attacking mode. And well, that’s when this back-court dynamic will truly excel.
In a perfect scenario when these two share the floor, Oladipo dominates the ball and Lowry is the off-ball threat. Not to continually compare it to the DeRozan usage, but that’s why the offense was able to run so smoothly.
Looking at the play above, we see them bouncing off one another in the Spain pick and roll. DeRozan attacks, Lowry screens the screener, leading to a pop out for three. If Dipo has 75% of his attacking ability back, these type of actions can work.
Even though he was known for being an athletic player, I don’t think it’s where his offensive success derives from completely. He has great touch, can create space around the rim with his body, and can control the mid-range enough to make it hard on defenders. And none of that stuff is parallel with completely relying on athleticism.
The point is that Lowry off the ball will be huge for this duo. If they can find a rhythm late in the regular season before the playoffs, that elevates this team even more. And when getting to playoff time, there won’t be many instances where Butler and Adebayo are both on the sideline, meaning those two sharing the floor with them just leads to absolute chaos for opposing teams.
Take a look at the play above. I’m sure your first takeaway is: how does this relate to Oladipo when seeing rim rocking lob finishes from DeRozan? The answer to that question is the emphatic slam has nothing to do with why I’m showing this play. It’s really about the pacing and back-door usage in an updated Heat offense.
Even when it seemed Miami had the players built for a transition heavy offense, that never really checked out. If you’re going to be a top defensive team in the league, that should always translate to open floor buckets, and the new acquisitions should finally make that possible.
Many have brought this point up about Lowry’s increased speed and willingness to catch defenses off-guard through fast pace, but I’d say Oladipo is pretty similar in that sense. Before his recent injury, he loved to run the floor and get easy opportunities, even in his small stint with Miami.
So, if they share the floor for an extended period, I’d expect this to come to fruition.
Secondly, there’s a chance Dipo may lack that same explosiveness that he once had. The way to counteract that is using a lot of the things they used in Toronto a few years back.
Let me just say, Lowry is a fantastic passer, but an even better adjective is that he’s a sneaky passer. He’s one of those guys that gives weak-side defenders, or bigs defending PnR, a major headache on a night to night basis. To that point, the utilization of back-cuts and back-door screening should absolutely be a priority.
If they can find ways to bend a defense through anticipation of passes, they’ve already won. This is something I don’t really expect to see a ton of in the regular season, just due to the fact they can spring it on teams in a playoff series if offense becomes stagnant.
This is why Oladipo is a true wild card for this team. Not just due to his overall health, but the boost he can give to this team in every facet. And the reason I’m only focusing on the ways they can run offense is because the defensive stuff is a given.
A Lowry-Dipo defensive back-court is something the Heat have been needing for some time. And well, that’s excluding the team’s top 2 defenders, Adebayo and Butler, which could potentially be a closing four on many nights in the playoffs.
What Can the Heat Run to Maximize this Combo?
Whenever we discuss “maximizing” certain players on the floor offensively, the lineup should always include Duncan Robinson. The driving lanes just expand whenever he’s being used as a screener or sprinting off a screen of his own, which we see in action right here.
Oladipo looks like he’s about to flow into a double drag with Robinson and Adebayo screening, but he inserts the ball into Adebayo. This play transitions into a DHO back to Dipo, while Robinson turns and screens for the player in the weak-side corner.
In this case, that corner player would be Kyle Lowry.
Oladipo ended up getting position for a tough bucket here, but this could usually go in a couple different directions. He could hit Lowry on the loop-around at the top of they key, hit Robinson who is popping out in the corner, or probe through the lane for a reset.
And well, that’ll be the Lowry and Oladipo on-court chain reaction. Using the Erik Spoelstra added layers to create good looks through each other’s biggest offensive skill.
This final offensive action is something I’ve brought up repeatedly, but never in terms of Oladipo.
It’s something Toronto went to a ton when Lowry was on the floor, where he inserts the ball in the high-post/elbow, as he runs off the ball into a pin-down for a wing triple. This is where those Spoelstra “layers” come into play, since Oladipo can bring a specific wrinkle.
I’ve brought up this set since it can be run for Herro to get some good looks with Lowry in the post, but this could probably benefit Dipo even more. Even though this possession flowed into a DHO back to Lowry for a three, I see this going in a different direction.
When this is being run, all eyes are on the off-ball madness, waiting to see if the shooter gets open or the big slips for the cut. The Dipo wrinkle could potentially be a game of one-on-one on the elbow. He’s always been great in space once he gets defenders on their heels, which is exactly where this would go.
Either creating a good look for mid-range or taking a chance on a blow-by with no big in sight. This is why these two can be dynamic on the offensive end with Erik Spoelstra steering the ship.
Whenever I show specific examples, it’s important to note the possibilities are endless with how they will be positioned in a normal game flow, but they will clearly have a strong base to revert back to.
Once upon a time these two players were essentially being compared in Miami to see who could make the bigger impact. And now the comparison is whether this combo will work better with the ball in the hands of Oladipo or in the hands of Lowry.
Things can change quickly in this league, and that’s exactly what happened for the Heat. The regular season may be bright for this squad, but the playoffs are even brighter.