• Kory Waldron

Victor Oladipo: New & Improved

A trade that was mocked and ridiculed is now a trade that seems as equal if not more in the Pacers favor. June 30th, 2017, Pacers fans saw the end of an era, the Paul George (PG-13) era. In return for sending out Paul George to the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Indiana Pacers as we know received Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis.

Following this trade, many (including myself) predicted the new Pacers being a lottery team. To quote myself, I said, “At best the Pacers are a 32 win team.” Now look at the standings today. Well, the Pacers are 5th in the Eastern Conference at 33-25. One time where being wrong is perfectly okay to me. Yet, how could so many be wrong and way off on the Pacers? The answer is the Victor Oladipo affect.

Today, Victor Oladipo is an NBA All-Star for the first time. Not only that, but he’s become the best player on the Indiana Pacers and is currently a top 10 player in the Eastern Conference.

Victor Oladipo in his 5th NBA season is no stranger to the state of Indiana . Oladipo spent his college career playing for Indiana University. Prior to his return to Indiana, Oladipo was known as an athletic defender. A raw talent, not likely to ever be a star.

Let’s look at Oladipo the last four seasons, between three years in Orlando and last year in Oklahoma City. He posted his career high in points per game 17.9 (2014-2015) along with highs in steals, 1.7 and assists 4.1. His career high in shooting came last year along Russell Westbrook, where Oladipo shot, 44.2 FG% and 36.1 3P%.

{Victor Oladipo Triple-double highlights vs Oklahoma City Thunder}

I’m not much for advanced statistics, there’s so many, and I do believe the eye test is still the best way in measuring a player. However, nothing backs an eye test for me more than four advanced stats in particular; true shooting percentage, player efficiency rating, win shares and box plus/minus. So these are his career highs prior to this season, 53.4 TS%, 16.7 PER, 4.9 WS and a 1.8 BPM all in the 2015-2016 season.

Now for the all-star season Victor Oladipo is having this year. Where did this jump come from? Well, it began this offseason prior to being traded, basically right after the season ended for the Thunder. Oladipo got into the gym and started transforming his body, where he dropped 10 pounds in just three weeks. Then we saw this new body Oladipo during his performance in the 2017 NBA Africa Game where he won MVP.

{Victor Oladipo transformed / NBA Africa Game highlights}

Currently, Victor Oladipo is averaging career highs (a jump in career highs may I add) in points per game(24.4), rebounds per game (5.3), and steals per game (2.1) . He is also posting career high shooting numbers with a 48.4 FG% and a 38.1 3P%. Plus, career highs in my favorite advanced stats, 23.8 PER, 58.9 TS%, 6.1 WS and a BPM of 4.4.

Now we’ve officially moved past the part of this where I load you up with stats. Now watching Oladipo this year, there’s a few things that stick out as his game evolved. First it’s his jump-shot, Oladipo this year is shooting career highs because of his ability to create separation. Whether that be through pick and pops or by using his step back to drain shots.

Any steal or rebound grabbed by Oladipo becomes an instant fast-break, somewhat like a guy Oladipo played alongside aka Russell Westbrook. I watched a load of Westbrook last year as he broke the all-time record for triple-doubles. During this all-star weekend Victor Oladipo sat down with Yahoo Sports to talk about what he learned alongside Westbrook.

{Oladipo at All-Star weekend}

From watching Westbrook last year, to watching Oladipo this year, I’ve noticed something, and it’s how similar Oladipo’s game looks compared to his former teammate. The intensity is the first thing that sticks out, that drive to win is clear. Especially, when Oladipo does his new classic, “This is my house”. That kind of fire just wasn’t seen from Oladipo even when he was the face of the Orlando Magic.

If there's one thing I've loved about Oladipo is his ability to run the floor. This is where Oladipo has become deadly, it's a domino affect watching it unfold. He pulls down a rebound or quickly has the ball passed to him, once this happens we see that Westbrook mentality. In which Oladipo pushes the tempo, stops on a dime for an elbow jumper. Oladipo has been money from the mid-range and especially on this pull-up shot.

Best part is there's a another possible route Oladipo can take if he chooses. That's attacking the rim, attacking the rim often and efficiently. Although Oladipo is shooting career highs, his 3-point shot has cooled down from his red hot start. Yet, his numbers haven’t dipped too far due to his new found ability to attack the basket. The best way to show how he gets to the rim, is by the number of fouls he has drawn this year, the amount of AND-1’s he has had and dunks.

So this year, he has already thrown down the most dunks of his career at 47, previously it was 45. The most fouls Oladipo has ever drawn in a year is 134 which occurred during his first two years in Orlando. Well, this year he is already at 108 fouls drawn. For AND-1’s, his rookie season he had a career high 25, he already has 21 this year. This type of attacking the basket mentality sounds similar because it's another part of Westbrook's game. Like any great player ever, they watch other guys and they take parts of their game that fit. Oladipo has hijacked some of Westbrook's game. Both guys are very athletic, and Oladipo was able to see first hand how to use speed and athleticism as an advantage effectively.

{Victor Oladipo All-Star reserve highlight video}

In just 6 months, Oladipo has become the face of a franchise. When Paul George was traded the feel around the Pacers was this was going to be a low period while Myles Turner blossomed. Now instead of a rebuild, it's become a retool. Now Domas Sabonis has also been a great reason why the Paul George trade was so even. The future of the Pacers is bright.

Following all-star weekend, Oladipo and Pacers sit at 5th in the Eastern Conference and as bizarre as it sounds in my head, there’s a serious chance for the Pacers to secure home court advantage. It’ll take the new Victor Oladipo at this level of play for that to happen, but it's in reach. Keep an eye on the, Most Improved Player of the Year race because Oladipo will be in the conversation.

#nba #Pacers #Basketball #NBABasketball #KoryWaldron