Heat culture revived Victor Oladipo’s career. Then he saved the outfit’s season. In five of his last six games, he’s scored in double figures and helped Miami capture four wins. The five weeks it’s taken for Vic to find himself had a significant impact on the club’s two-way production.
It’s a darn shame the NBA has no official comeback player of the year award anymore. For the past four seasons, Oladipo has been plagued with injuries that robbed him of his natural gifts.
Since his first game this season for Miami on Dec. 6, Oladipo has suited up 17 out of 19 times. Before his insertion in the rotation, the Heat placed 18th in October and 13th in November in defensive rating. In December, Miami was ninth and currently first in the same stat for the six games played in January (4-2).
Even when he arrived in Miami, badly needing a second surgery to address the lingering pain in his right knee tendon, he was still a bullet on defense. He played in four games prior to reaggrevating the injury while logging 25 minutes in a win against the Lakers at home.
Last season, Oladipo doubled that to eight regular season matches between March. 7- Apr. 10, 2022. In the team’s last outing of the year against the Magic in Orlando, Vic had a 40-point outburst. His finest performance in the playoffs for Miami came when it eliminated the Hawks in Game 5 at home. It was his only start in the postseason, and he recorded 23 points with three rebounds and three takeaways.
On Thursday against a depleted Bucks squad, Oladipo came off the bench for 14 points, eight assists, eight rebounds and a steal. In his 33 minutes, he assisted Miami in securing the paint (18 points allowed) and holding Milwaukee to 40.2% shooting from the floor.
On his first score, he sized up Milwaukee’s Jordan Nwora on the left wing, then hit a triple in his face.
Pick and roll with Orlando Robinson provided Vic the opening to slice into the lane for a reverse layup under the rim on his next basket. His interception of a loose ball at the top of the key ignited a one-on-one fastbreak against Pat Connaughton on the next one. In full stride, Oladipo spun past his defender for a finish before the tracking Nwora could disrupt the play with a chase-down.
On his fourth make, Bam Adebayo set a screen against Jevon Carter. Unwisely, Carter went under the pick, and #4 canned a 27-foot triple. For his last field goal, Oladipo recovered his own missed jumper with no Bucks in the restricted area and went back up for a putback layup.
For the first time this season, the Miami Heat are three games above .500. This position is nothing to brag about, but considering how poorly the year began for the club, the group’s stock is rising. Oladipo is a significant factor behind that and probably the team’s fourth-best player. He can create separation without a screen, a skill that’s eluded Kyle Lowry because of age. For this reason, Miami must ride the wave of Vic’s solid play as long as it can.
His impact makes his teammates’ lives easier on the court. Listen to Tyler Herro. Following Miami’s loss on Sunday to the Nets, he said, “I tell [Oladipo] when I’m playing off the ball, it helps me a lot when he’s in the game. Just cause they’re so focused on me. When Vic comes in it gives another threat who can shoot, attack and do really everything offensively… He looks for me in transition. I tell him to be aggressive as much as possible.”
If this production level from Oladipo continues, the probability of the Heat securing home-court advantage through round one of the playoffs doesn’t seem so unrealistic.