Hoosiers In The NBA: Recapping The Opening Week Of The NBA Season

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A new season in the National Basketball Association has tipped off and thus another year of Hoosiers In The NBA has begun! Now entering it’s fourth year, I’ve gone from covering just Victor Oladipo and Cody Zeller to now keeping tabs on eight former Hoosiers.

Every week I’ll go over the biggest stories regarding our roster of former IU players and have their season averages at the end of the article.

This week we have a lot to go over as the start of the season has been a very intriguing one for our former Hoosiers so let’s waste no more time and dive right in:


Things Clicking For Oladipo Back In Indiana

It took very little time for Victor Oladipo to feel at home back in the Hoosier state.

Oladipo is off to the best start of his career and it’s not even close. Here is a look at the first four games of each season by Oladipo:

2013: 13.8ppg, 43.8% FG, 30.0% 3FG
2014: 12.3ppg, 34.8% FG, 25.0% 3FG
2015: 15.8ppg, 35.3% FG, 25.9% 3FG
2016: 15.0ppg, 32.8% FG, 23.8% 3FG
2017: 23.8ppg, 47.1% FG, 38.1% 3FG

There are numerous reasons as for why this season has started off better than any of his prior seasons, from just being more accustomed to the NBA game to being the focal point of the offense and getting more touches.

Yet the thing that stands out most to me is that Oladipo is going to the basket more aggressively and drawing more fouls than he’s ever done before. He’s already averaging 6.8 free throw attempts per game, almost double his career average of 3.6 free throw attempts per game.

This has led to an improved shooting percentage, always a weakness for Oladipo, as defenses are starting to respect his ability to drive past them to the rim and are thus giving him a little more shooting space.

It would be important to note that three of these games have been without the Indiana Pacers other young star Myles Turner so it will be worth monitoring Oladipo’s numbers when Turner returns as we find out who the offense will run through when both are healthy.


Gordon Continues Scoring Pace From Last Season

Eric Gordon was rejuvenated last season, there’s no other way to put it.

After five injury-riddled season with the New Orleans Hornets/Pelicans, Gordon played in 75 games (second most games he’s played in a season) during his first season with the Houston Rockets and became one of the NBA’s best sixth men and dangerous three-point shooters.

However the acquisition of Chris Paul likely meant that Gordon’s numbers would decline and we would start to see him more as a role player who would have the occasional throwback game instead of the second scoring option he was the year before.

Yet an unfortunate injury to Paul has Gordon not only back to being the secondary scorer again, but Gordon kicked it up a notch with three 20+ point games in his first four and, like Oladipo, a renewed interest in drawing fouls and going to the free throw line.

Gordon is averaging 7.8 free throw attempts through the season’s first four games, which contrasts greatly with Gordon’s last three seasons where he averaged under three attempts per game all three years.

This large amount of free throws will no doubt dwindle as the season goes along, but even half as many as he is averaging right now would mark a huge step forward for Gordon as he continues to transform his game in the second stage of his career.


Zeller Is The Back Up For Now
The offseason acquisition of Dwight Howard made Cody Zeller’s role on the Charlotte Hornets a bit of a mystery heading into the season.

After battling Al Jefferson for three years over the starting spot, Zeller finally won out and got his chance to be the starting big man last year and didn’t disappoint with career-best numbers in almost every stat category.

However he missed 20 games (tied for the most he has missed in a season) and the Hornets went a ghastly 3-17 in those games because of the lack of depth behind him at the position.

Enter Howard, who reunites with Head Coach Steve Clifford, one of his former coaches back in his Orlando Magic All-NBA years. Despite Zeller being the better player last year as well as six years younger, Howard has been awarded the starting spot mainly based on the fact that he’s a future Hall of Famer.

While this arrangement might work for now (Howard is averaging 12.7 points and 17.3 rebounds during the opening week while Zeller has only played in one of his team’s three games), history says Zeller will be the starter again by midseason. Although a bone bruise to start the season and two missed games may push that timetable back a bit.


Ferrell Is Still In The Starting Lineup
From a 10-day contract to a two-year contract and an All-Rookie 2nd team nod, Yogi Ferrell had quite the adventure during his first season in the NBA.

Looks like things will be just as crazy in year two. Ferrell, who was slotted to be the backup point guard, has started in all four of the Dallas Mavericks’ games so far this season and has been fairly impressive, especially from behind the arc where he’s shooting 52.6% from deep.

The reason Ferrell has been in the starting lineup is because of injuries.

The Mavericks used the ninth pick in the NBA draft on Dennis Smith Jr. who they have high hopes will be their franchise point guard. Unfortunately he has missed two of the Mavericks’ four games. In addition to Smith, Seth Curry has yet to play this season due to a leg injury.

Yet Ferrell has made the most of his playing time (34.5 minutes per game) and I still expect around 20 minutes a game when he eventually goes back to the bench, especially after the way he has performed this first week.


Anunoby Already Starts His Rookie Campaign

The fear of maybe missing his entire rookie season caused OG Anunoby to fall all the way to number 23 on draft night where the Toronto Raptors happily picked him.

Anunoby has repaid the Raptors’ faith in him as surprisingly he was able to participate right away in the first game of the season.

While he hasn’t done anything too special, it is fun to note that his first career points were a dunk over Quincy Pondexter and that he finished with nine points in his first NBA game.


Season Averages:

OG Anunoby: Forward, Toronto Raptors:

5.3ppg, 2.3rpg, 1.7apg, 0.33spg, 0.00bpg, 0.0tpg, 2.7fpg, 42.9% FG, 28.6% 3FG, 100.0% FT, 15.7mpg (3 games)

Thomas Bryant: Center, Los Angeles Lakers:

N/A

Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell: Guard, Dallas Mavericks:

13.8ppg, 2.8rpg, 3.0apg, 1.00spg, 0.00bpg, 1.3tpg, 2.5fpg, 39.5% FG, 52.6% 3FG, 93.8% FT, 34.5mpg (4 games)

Eric Gordon: Guard, Houston Rockets:

23.5ppg, 2.5rpg, 3.3apg, 0.25spg, 0.50bpg, 2.0tpg, 2.5fpg, 41.4% FG, 25.0% 3FG, 83.9% FT, 30.5mpg (4 games)

Victor Oladipo: Guard, Indiana Pacers:

23.8ppg, 4.5rpg, 3.5apg, 2.50spg, 0.50bpg, 2.8tpg, 3.5fpg, 47.1% FG, 38.1% 3FG, 85.2% FT, 30.8mpg (4 games)

Noah Vonleh: Forward, Portland Trail Blazers:

N/A

Troy Williams: Forward, Houston Rockets:

2.0ppg, 1.0rpg, 0.0apg, 0.00spg, 0.00bpg, 0.0tpg, 1.0fpg, 25.0% FG, 0.0% 3FG, 0.0% FT, 4.0mpg (1 game)

Cody Zeller: Forward, Charlotte Hornets:

8.0ppg, 9.0rpg, 0.0apg, 0.00spg, 1.00bpg, 2.0tpg, 2.0fpg, 60.0% FG, 0.0% 3FG, 100.0% FT, 23.0mpg (1 game)

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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.