Hoosiers In The NBA: Oladipo Will Look To Turn His Luck Around With The Pacers

Victor Oladipo has had a very unlucky start to his career.

It started right from draft night in 2013, when the Cleveland Cavaliers drafted Anthony Bennett with the first overall pick. In a parallel universe somewhere, Oladipo would have played with Kyrie Irving and LeBron James in the last three NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors. However, more than likely he would have just replaced Bennett in the trade package the Cavaliers sent the Timberwolves in 2014 for Kevin Love.

The Orlando Magic happily picked Oladipo up with the second pick as the best player available. It wasn’t a position of need considering the Magic already had a pretty good shooting guard in Arron Afflalo, who along with Nikola Vucevic were the key pieces the Magic received from the Dwight Howard trade just a year prior. So to compensate, the Magic tried to have them share the backcourt with Oladipo as the point guard, which returned mixed results at best.

As a result, the Magic traded Afflalo to the Nuggets and drafted a point guard to play alongside Oladipo in Elfrid Payton. While this did end up being Oladipo’s most prolific scoring season (17.9ppg), the Magic remained a cellar dweller in the east and management finally gave up on head coach Jacque Vaughn and switched to James Borrego during the final third of the season.

Despite the team slightly improving, the Magic became anxious to start winning now and signed veteran coach Scott Skiles to become Oladipo’s third coach in three years. While Skiles did help unlock some of Oladipo’s defensive potential which had surprisingly been missing the first two seasons, Skiles’ abrasive personality didn’t mix with the team and after recommending several roster moves that caused the team to go backwards, he too was gone.

Oladipo’s fourth coach was to be Frank Vogel, someone who would get the best defensively out of Oladipo and would be a welcome change as a “player’s coach”. Yet fate intervened yet again as the Magic traded Oladipo to the Oklahoma City Thunder in another win-now trade for the services of Serge Ibaka.

While unfortunately Oladipo would no longer be part of Orlando’s building process, this looked like it would work out great. The Thunder were trying to keep Kevin Durant from leaving so they traded for the guy Durant once praised by calling him a young Dwyane Wade. Under his newest coach Billy Donavan, Oladipo would fill in the gap left behind from the disastrous James Harden trade and would form a new big three in OKC with Durant and Russell Westbrook.

That never had a chance to happen as Durant instead signed with the Warriors and motivated Westbrook to become only the second player ever to average a triple-double during an entire season. Westbrook’s MVP season did let Oladipo get his first taste of the playoffs but just like in the regular season, Westbrook’s monopoly of the ball relegated Oladipo to being nothing more than a three-point shooter or an occasional alley-oop parter.

Now in an attempt to keep Westbrook from leaving Oklahoma City, the Thunder have traded for a Durant replacement in Paul George and with limited trade assets were forced to move Oladipo to the Indiana Pacers. There he will play for his fifth coach in five seasons in Nate McMillan (sixth if you count Vogel even though he never played for him) and play for a team that is looking towards the future with star big man Myles Turner leading the way.

Oladipo does deserve some blame for his inconsistent career up to this point (the turnover problems and surprisingly average defense during his first few seasons as well as his still streaky outside shooting), but after looking at all the circumstances he had to go through it’s actually a little bit surprising that Oladipo has been as successful as he’s been to this point in his career with averages of 15.9 points, 4.4 rebounds, 3.7 assists, and 1.5 steals per game. Here’s to hoping Oladipo finally finds his place in the NBA now that he’s back in the state of Indiana.

Hoosiers In The NBA: Breaking Down Oladipo’s 45-Point Game Vs Cleveland

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It was just your average week for the former Hoosiers playing in the NBA. Eric Gordon didn’t play because he’s injured, Noah Vonleh is playing a little better but not well enough to warrant minutes for a playoff-caliber team, Cody Zeller recorded a double-double then got injured but was good enough to start the next game, and Victor Oladipo set a new career-high for points against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Wait a second, what did Oladipo do?

Almost as if trying to inspire his alma mater on the night before they faced the Kentucky Wildcats in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, Oladipo played against the NBA’s equivalent of the Wildcats (LeBron James’ Cavs) and although his Orlando Magic lost he did finish with a career-high 45 points against the Eastern Conference leaders.

Because this is such a monumental performance, I really wanted to go in-depth on how Oladipo caught fire this past Friday night. So this week’s edition of Hoosiers In The NBA will be all about that one game. I’ll still have the players’ game logs for all who are still interested as well as their season stats. Now let’s break down Oladipo’s best scoring performance of his basketball career:

 


March 18th, 2016: Cleveland 109, Orlando 103

Oladipo’s Boxscore: 45 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals, 2 blocks, 3 turnovers, 3 personal fouls, 39 minutes.

Oladipo’s 45-point game is awesome enough if all you knew was that he scored 45 points in an NBA game. However once you start dissecting all the details, it becomes more and more impressive.

Take the opponent for instance. Scoring 45 points against an abysmal team like the Philadelphia 76ers, who have a record of 9-61, would still be cool but would feel inflated because of the level of completion. Yet in this instance Oladipo went off on the Cavaliers, who have an Eastern Conference best 49-20 record and are one of four teams who have already clinched a playoff spot. Also, it’s not like their best players took the night off as James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love all played and James and Irving played 35+ minutes each.

Now there are a couple of ways to score 45 points. There’s the James Harden-way where you get to the free throw line 20+ times and make 80% of them, then you combine that with a regular 20-point game. There’s the Stephen Curry-way where you make 10 three-pointers and add in some free throws and two-point baskets. Then there’s the “hero ball” way where you take an exuberant amount of field goal attempts (I’m talking about in the high 30s and maybe the 40s) and you make about half of those plus some three-pointers and a couple of free throws.

Yet Oladipo’s path to 45 points doesn’t categorize into any of those. To put it simply, he fits into a different category, one where a player just can’t miss and so they keep shooting. By the time the final buzzer went off, Oladipo had attempted 22 field goals and had made 16 of them (72.7%).

These weren’t all just layups either. Here is a breakdown of all 22 shots attempts:

  • 6 layup attempts, of which he made 5 (83.3%)
  • 9 two-point jump shot attempts, of which he made 5 (55.6%)
  • 7 three-point jump shot attempts, of which he made 6 (85.7%)

The three-pointers really stand out, especially for someone who’s a career 33.8% three-point shooter. The reason he was able to effectively hit from behind the arc was due to his confidence. Oladipo only attempted two deep balls in the first half (he made both), but after going 8 for 11 on field goal attempts before halftime he decided to let it fly and was rewarded by going 3 of 4 in the third quarter. It’s worth noting he made his first five three-pointers before his first miss from deep.

If you’re wondering why the math isn’t adding up, it’s because I haven’t gotten to the free throws. Sometimes being forced to be stationary can throw off a player’s rhythm because most of their baskets have come while they’ve been on the move. Well it didn’t affect Oladipo as he made 7 of his 8 foul shots.

By the end of the game, Oladipo may not have been able to help his Magic  beat the Cavaliers (they did lead a few times during the game thanks to his efforts), but he did join elusive company by becoming the second Magic player ever to score 45 points, grab five rebounds, and make at least five three-pointers in a loss. The other was Magic-great Tracy McGrady.

 


Victor Oladipo: Guard, Orlando Magic:

Vs Denver (W 116-110): 23 points (9-16 FG)(5-6 FT), 4 rebounds, 6 assists, steal, 2 blocks, turnover, 4 personal fouls, 39 minutes.

@ Charlotte (L 107-99): 25 points (10-18 FG)(3-4 FT), 5 rebounds, 3 assists, steal, 3 blocks, turnover, personal foul, 42 minutes.

Vs Cleveland (L 109-103): See Breakdown Above

@ Toronto (L 105-100): 21 points (9-19 FG)(2-2 FT), 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 blocks, 2 turnovers, 3 personal fouls, 42 minutes.

 


Noah Vonleh: Forward, Portland Trail Blazers:

@ San Antonio (L 118-110): 8 points (4-7 FG), 4 rebounds, turnover, personal foul, 11 minutes.

@ New Orleans (W 117-112): 6 points (2-2 FG)(1-1 FT), rebound, turnover, 4 personal fouls, 12 minutes.

@ Dallas (L 132-120 OT): 0 points (0-1 FG), 3 rebounds, 2 personal fouls, 14 minutes.

 


Cody Zeller: Forward, Charlotte Hornets:

Vs Orlando (W 107-99): 13 points (5-7 FG)(3-4 FT), 13 rebounds, block, turnover, 2 personal fouls, 29 minutes.

@ Miami (W 109-106): 6 points (3-6 FG), 3 rebounds, personal foul, 14 minutes.

Vs Denver (L 101-93): 10 points (3-6 FG)(4-6 FT), 2 rebounds, 5 blocks, 3 personal fouls, 29 minutes.

 


Eric Gordon: Guard, New Orleans Pelicans:

@ Golden State (L 125-107): DNP – injury

@ Sacramento (W 123-108): DNP – injury

Vs Portland (L 117-112): DNP – injury

Vs Los Angeles Clippers (W 109-105): DNP – injury

 


Season averages:

Victor Oladipo: 15.9ppg, 4.8rpg, 3.9apg, 1.47spg, 0.67bpg, 2.1tpg, 2.3fpg, 43.7% FG, 34.8% 3FG, 82.6% FT, 32.7mpg.

Noah Vonleh: 3.7ppg, 4.0rpg, 0.4apg, 0.35spg, 0.28bpg, 0.6tpg, 2.1fpg, 40.7% FG, 23.8% 3FG, 74.4% FT, 15.8mpg.

Cody Zeller: 9.0ppg, 6.2rpg, 1.0apg, 0.74spg, 0.80bpg, 1.0tpg, 3.0fpg, 51.3% FG, 10.0% 3FG, 74.5% FT, 24.7mpg.

Eric Gordon: 15.2ppg, 2.2rpg, 2.7apg, 0.96spg, 0.31bpg, 1.6tpg, 2.2fpg, 41.8% FG, 38.4% 3FG, 88.8% FT, 32.9mpg.