No Jimmy Butler-no Kyle Lowry on Monday night against the Boston Celtics. What is the product of that equation? Well, it shows an offensive game-plan that lacks one of the Heat’s most crucial elements: rim pressure.
Tyler Herro was pretty much the only one who could semi-do it on a very awkward offensive night, but he’s clearly a complementary driver and attacker at this stage in his career, and not a primary reliable source in that way.
So, those points get you thinking. Missing top dogs on the roster? Missing rim pressure offensively? Missing that main dish on a night where guys like Max Strus provide the complementary 27 points?
Yeah, in theory, there isn’t a better filler/answer to those questions than a healthy Victor Oladipo.
And yet, as the clock hit midnight late last night, could we officially be in the return month of the Heat’s potential shiny new toy?
The thing about Oladipo is that he can fill a lot of holes and provide a lot of things, but when discussing it this far away from actually seeing him out there, it’s tough to predict how he will look in certain aspects of his game.
Defense is the thing that’ll shoot up his minutes per game immensely, since ultimately I feel that’s what will keep him on the floor for extended time. Guys like Caleb Martin and Gabe Vincent have been elite on-ball stoppers as of late, but adding in one of the better off-ball hounds, navigating screens everywhere on the floor is just another beast.
But once again, there’s a caveat: we don’t know if that’ll still be intact as soon as he returns.
While I could dissect so many different elements of his game that’ll provide a major plus to this Heat team down the stretch of the year, I want to keep this relevant to what we’ve seen as of late, and that’s the need for his on-ball attack.
The last two games from Miami have highlighted the drive and kick that they rely on so heavily. Against Toronto, it was their only good looking offense in those 3 overtimes, but the frequency of it wasn’t as high as it should’ve been. Against Boston, the Celtics wouldn’t help off the weak-side corner, which pretty much eliminates the “kick” in drive and kick.
But was it truly the “kick” that was eliminated? Absolutely not.
The thing Miami was without in that scenario was the “drive.” As pointed out earlier, Herro being the primary attacker leaves a top tier defense picking their poison, and the choice wasn’t a very difficult one.
Yet in a drive and kick offense, it’s something Oladipo is built for.
Looking at those clips up above, you see a guy that can draw multiple defenders into the lane when attacking, almost in Butler fashion when he’s rolling on a certain night. In that second clip, when facing Miami in game 4 of the Bubble playoffs, he takes the iso on Butler, gets past just enough to collapse Herro-Crowder-Bam, then makes a live skip pass to the opposite wing for a 3.
When evaluating talent, that stuff doesn’t just disappear. We can talk about potentially lacking that initial speed to get by Butler on that isolation, but those reads will always be there to stay. And that’s what’ll make the lives of guys like Butler and Lowry so much easier.
Speaking of the debate about him having that burst to make plays at the rim, I’m not so sure he relies on it as much as some think. There’s no doubt he’s an explosive player on both ends, but he uses more finesse than pure quickness.
Looking at the first two clips above, during that short stint with Miami, you can see that little euro step was his penetration go-to when getting that one-on-one under the rim.
No matter if it’s an iso on James Wiseman or a horns set into a hand-off and size mismatch down low on Dennis Schroder, there are ways for Dipo to apply that much needed rim pressure without that “burst.”
But it should be mentioned that this operation should not be looked at like the last. As many reports have shown, the injury has actually been repaired in a way that wasn’t the case when he got to Miami last season. It’s more about eliminating the degree of re-injury instead of worrying about that explosive push, but we will just have to see how that plays out.
Another part of his offensive bag that requires skill over quickness is his ability to get to the line.
In his 4 games with Miami last year, (yes, very small sample size), he got to the line at least 5 times in three of those games. He just has a knack for drawing contact and forcing defenders to make that swipe, which could be his most useful tool in a playoff series.
The Heat currently rank 24th in free throw attempts per game, but that may be one of the biggest shifting numbers once the playoffs begin. Once Lowry and Butler are actually on the floor together for longer than a day or two, while Dipo can be that “Butler off the bench” as a pace provider by getting to the line, it’s essentially the perfect fit.
Oladipo will no doubt have to earn his spot from these high level role players like Martin or Strus when he makes his return, but there’s also no doubt that his build is the picture perfect type of player for what this team needs at this moment in time.
Rim pressure, check.
Perfect balance off the bench to the game of Tyler Herro, check.
Defensive versatility late in games to eliminate singular defenders getting picked on, check.
And just a high level talent who has done it in this league for quite some time at an elite standard, definite check.
That timer is dwindling down sooner and sooner on Oladipo’s return, and games like last night against Boston will dwindle down shortly after.
We can have the conversation about playoff rotations, and who plays where, but I can guarantee Dipo will be a part of that if healthy.
And when Victor Oladipo is your team’s 7th man come playoff time, I’d say you’re in an OK spot.
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