Victor Oladipo is doing big things in Indiana.
I’m sure of two things so far this NBA season:
1). LeBron James is on his way to MVP No. 5.
2.) Victor Oladipo LOVES the state of Indiana.
The latter of the two is what is most surprising….
Many Indiana natives and fans are familiar with Oladipo’s success playing 3 seasons with the Indiana Hoosiers from 2010-13, so this is no new revelation. A National Player of the Year award and back-to-back Sweet 16 berths later to show for, Oladipo left college and headed South. Chosen No. 2 overall by the Orlando Magic where things never really got going for the athletic wing. Combined with playing in the shadow of a Russell Westbrook MVP campaign last season, it’s been a mediocre three years until . . . this season.
Oladipo or “Dipo,” as the kids say, was able to arrive full circle back to Indiana. This time with the Indiana Pacers after being dealt in a trade with Domontas Sabonis that sent superstar Paul George to Oklahoma City to team up with Westbrook. During the offseason, only a small minority might have actually predicted that the Pacers would be the winners of the deal.
On all accounts through 29 games, they are.
Oladipo went from The Assembly Hall to the Fieldhouse in four years total and “there’s no place like home,” or in this case, Indiana, to Oladipo . . .
Through 29 games played by Oladipo, he is posting career highs in points per game (24.4) and three-point percentage (43.3) and carrying the Paul George-less Pacers to an early No.5 spot in the Eastern Conference as Christmas draws near. Oladipo is doing all of this while posting a career-high in minutes played (34.5) and all aboard a team of “average Joes.” When you look at the current landscape of superstars in the NBA, what Oladipo and Head Coach Nate McMillan are accomplishing is very admirable in a town that loves their basketball.
While the season has been a marveling feat of sorts for Oladipo and the Pacers as far as success goes, much of the same elements are visible in his game. Wreaking havoc on defense dating back to days with the Hoosiers, Oladipo leads the charge on defense for the Pacers averaging 1.8 steals per game and continues to affect players with his athleticism combined with elite defensive IQ for the lack of size he might possess in some matchups.
Known for his ability to get to the rim, flashy dunks and being the slasher, Oladipo has morphed into the leader for this smorgasbord of talent in Indiana. Oladipo can get to the basket still and get his shot at a high clip––– according to Synergy Sports, Oladipo plays in isolation for 10.2 percent of possessions with 52.9 percent of those ending in a score. Currently ranking in the 80th percentile of the NBA, when the Pacers need a bucket, he’s their man, something they need in order to deter/limit those Lance Stephenson rogue possessions when Lance goes “Full Lance.”
An added benefit to Oladipo’s game this season that should have teams on notice is what he can do when the game slows down. From Synergy Sports, as the primary pick-and-roll ball handler in 32.5 percent of possessions this season, he has 211 points ranking in the 75th percentile and posts an adjusted field goal percentage of 54.1 percent. Being able to score in the half-court and still run the break has added a Westbrook-feel to Oladipo’s game as the straw that now stirs the drink in Indiana.
When defenders are guarding Oladipo in P&R, he is making them pay in space more than ever before, as defenders fight under picks guarding him, he is shooting 73.7 percent with an (aFG%) of 94.7 percent, which is ultimately one of the biggest improvements that have helped his three-point percentage increase as a Pacer. Using space from defenders lacking respect for Oladipo’s shooting, he is still using his speed in critical situations to help out his team. Oladipo is scoring on 72.2 percent of baskets when defenders go under the pick using a dribble(s) off a teammate’s screen, in this subset of P&R, Oladipo ranks No.1 according to Synergy Sports.
What to expect
As we near Christmas Day games and the “official” start to the NBA season in some eyes, Oladipo looks like an NBA All-Star in his fourth season. With a career-high 47 points this season against the Denver Nuggets and his enhanced role with the Pacers, Oladipo checks all of the boxes for the NBA’s Most Improved Player award and represents the most exciting storyline to watch this season. As the Pacers climb through the ranks of the weakened Eastern Conference, look for Indiana to lock Oladipo on a contract for years to come or possibly use his success as trade bait for draft picks and future prospects.
Victor Oladipo is having a stellar season and it’s about time we start to notice what’s happening in Indiana. The hope for Indiana and company moving forward is to compete and earn a spot in the playoffs at season’s end and to stay healthy–––so far, so good. The Pacers will face off against the Celtics, Hawks and Nets this week as they have won their last six out of ten games played.
Oh, and by the way, Oladipo is doing all of this with an R&B single on the charts these days. Listen here.