Indiana Pacers: What Giannis to Miami rumors mean for Oladipo and Indy

Victor Oladipo, Indiana Pacers (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)
Victor Oladipo, Indiana Pacers (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images) /

The “Giannis to the Heat” rumors have been louder than ever lately. If the rumors are true, it could have major implications on what happens with Victor Oladipo and the Indiana Pacers.

With the Miami Heat taking a 2-0 series lead over the Milwaukee Bucks in the second round of the NBA playoffs, the rumors that Giannis Antetokounmpo may be headed to Miami next summer have been even more prevalent than usual. The Heat putting up such a fight against the best regular season team in the NBA is as good of a pitch as any as to why he should join their squad when he becomes a free agent. If these rumors end up being true and Giannis does decide to join the Heat, it could have a major impact on what happens with Victor Oladipo and the future of Indiana Pacers.

The free agency class of 2021 is going to be one that will be comparable to what we saw in 2019. It is full of stars. It will feature names such as Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Lebron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and of course; Victor Oladipo.

Now the Heat have made it very clear that they are gearing up for the Summer of 2021. They essentially only have just shy of $47 million guaranteed for the 2021-22 season, with $36 million going to Jimmy Butler, $1.8 million to KZ Okpala, a team option for $4 million that they will most definitely pick up for Tyler Herro, and $5.2 million they still owe Ryan Anderson from buying him out.

While that looks pretty good at first glance, and it is a good thing for the most part, that means that they have a LOT of slots to fill while trying to land another superstar or two at the same time.

At this point in time, it is uncertain what the salary cap is going to be for the 2021-22 season. But there have been projections that it will be around $115 million next season, so that is what we will go with for the time being.

One key player that will play a huge factor in all of this is Bam Adebayo. He will be going into the final year of his rookie deal next year as well, and all indications are that he will be expecting max money as well, or something very close to it. He will be eligible for up to 25% of the salary cap, which would make his max contract look something like 5 years/$143 million, with the first year accounting for $28.75 million.

Then they will need to think about their tertiary players they will need to pay if they want to bring back, such as Duncan Robinson, Kendrick Nunn, and Derrick Jones Jr. Robinson has emerged as one of, if not the best three-point shooter in the NBA this season. Nunn finished second in Rookie of the Year voting, behind just Ja Morant. And Jones Jr. has tons of raw athleticism and talent that coaches dream about.

All three of these guys will be up for a new contract between now and the summer of 2021. While it is impossible to know for sure what it will cost Miami to keep these guys, it is definitely not out of the question that it will be around $40 million, maybe more, for the three of them.

Now, this brings us to the big piece: Giannis. The largest contract Giannis would be able to sign if he decides not to re-sign in Milwaukee would be roughly $162 million over 4 seasons, an average of a little over $40 million per year. And that is definitely what is going to take to bring him in.

So that puts the Heat at around $155 million in total payroll between 8 players, which would likely be at above the luxury tax. They would be able to structure the contracts how they want and load the contracts up on the back ends so that they can avoid entering the tax with the expectation that the cap will go up each year. And if they are quick to bring Giannis in and sign him first, they would be able to sign most of their role players using Bird rights to avoid some cap exceptions that way as well.

But, what does all of this have to do with the Pacers? I’m glad you ask. I say all of this to say: if the Heat are able to sign Giannis next summer in free agency, it will be nearly impossible for them to sign Victor Oladipo as well. Victor made it clear that he thinks he is a player deserving of a max contract when he turned down the Pacers’ extension offer of $80 million over 4 years. And if he is able to return to the form we saw during the 2017-18 season, he is more than deserving of a contract of that magnitude.

So let’s say that Giannis does decide to take his talents to South Beach. What exactly does this mean for the Indiana Pacers and Victor Oladipo?

It takes one of the major players out of contention for landing Oladipo. Vic has been connected with Miami for the past couple of years. Miami is always a popular destination for free agents, and Oladipo just happens to live there and work out there in the offseason. But if Giannis is occupying over $40 million per year on the Heat’s payroll, they are no longer in play for landing Oladipo.

It means Indiana has more options. They can do a number of things.

The Pacers have most of their roster locked up beyond the Summer of 2021, with the exception of a handful of role players and of course, Victor. Being that the Pacers have Oladipo’s Bird rights, they would be able to exceed the cap in order to bring him back on a max deal if that is what it takes to do so. Whereas, any other team, the Miami Heat, for instance, cannot. So if both sides can come to an agreement, they can resign him and keep Oladipo in Indiana for the foreseeable future.

The Pacers have an advantage over the 29 other teams in the league when it comes to signing Victor, in that they can offer him a longer contract worth more money than any other team. It is just a matter of coming to an agreement.

That is what I, along with many Pacers fans, hope to see get done.

If it comes to a point where the two sides cannot come to an agreement on a deal, they could trade Oladipo. This might not be exactly the first choice, but it is an option they have if he decides he really does not want to be in Indiana. And there are tons of viable trade options for Vic, and the Pacers could get a very healthy return for him.

But at the end of the day, all of these Antetokounmpo to Miami rumors are just that, rumors. Nobody knows what Giannis, Vic, or any of the other free agents are going to do next summer, except the players themselves.

One thing that I do know is if Giannis does end up in Miami, the market for Victor Oladipo gets a bit smaller and Indiana’s chances of bringing him back look a little brighter.

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