Hoosiers In The NBA: Explaining Why Oladipo Was Traded To Oklahoma City

Welcome to offseason coverage of Hoosiers In The NBA! Today I am looking at an NBA Draft trade that has one former Hoosier going from a rebuilding team to one on the cusp of championship greatness. Please try to spread the word by liking it on Facebook or retweeting this on Twitter if you enjoyed it. Of course this is completely optional but it is greatly appreciated. Otherwise I hope you enjoy and for more coverage follow me on twitter at @QTipsForSports or just look for the hashtag #HoosiersInTheNBA:


On a night where neither Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell nor Troy Williams were drafted into the NBA, fans of professional Hoosiers received an even bigger surprise when the Orlando Magic traded Victor Oladipo to the Oklahoma City Thunder in arguably the biggest move of NBA offseason so far. In this article I will go over the details of the trade and why both teams agreed to the deal, what Oladipo’s role will be on the Thunder, and how it may determine one of the biggest plotlines of the NBA offseason.


The complete trade saw the Magic acquire power forward Serge Ibaka in return for the 11th overall pick (which became Domantas Sabonis), Ersan Ilyasova, and most importantly former Indiana Hoosier Victor Oladipo. I’ve seen some people on the internet question why this trade happened so let’s take a look at why both sides agreed to this swap:

Why Orlando Did It: The Magic have been looking to acquire a franchise player for years and management felt that Ibaka was its best bet. While that may seem ridiculous for some, Ibaka was an All-Star for the Thunder as a third-option so there is potential that he could flourish as the number one guy just like James Harden did when he went to Houston. Obviously the chances of that happening are slim but to the Magic it was worth the gamble, especially for a player who fits so perfectly with the current roster. (Even though both Ibaka and Aaron Gordon play power forward, I can see Ibaka moving to center in crunch time since Nikola Vucevic is a below-average defender)

Why Oklahoma City Did It: The Thunder need cap space moving forward, and it seemed that Ibaka wasn’t a good fit nor was very happy in Coach Billy Donovan’s system, finishing what amounted to a very disappointing season. All three players the Thunder received make a lot of sense as Sabonis offers depth behind Steve Adams and Enes Kanter, Ilyasova provides a cheaper alternative to the stretch-four or an easy buyout to help with the salary cap, and Oladipo offers a great defender for the starting lineup that can shoot better than Andre Roberson and makes retaining Dion Waiters less of a priority.

I’d also like to disprove the notion that the Magic “gave up” on Oladipo. You can bet that if Orlando GM Rob Hennigan had the option, he would love to have a starting five anchored by the defense of Ibaka and Oladipo. The fact is that Oladipo was Orlando’s most valuable trade chip and any potential trade for an all-star player would likely include the other team asking for Oladipo in return. The Magic also have plenty of depth at the position to swallow the loss of the former second overall pick as Mario Hezonja should improve and Evan Fournier will likely stay.


While the backcourt of Oladipo and Russell Westbrook sounds very exciting and over-the-top athletic, there will be some growing pains, especially for Oladipo. Used to being the guy in Orlando, Oladipo will quickly need to transition from being the main ball-handler to playing more off the ball. Gone will be the isolation plays and instead Oladipo will have to catch-and-shoot more.

Of course, there’s always the chance that the Thunder implement a rotation where Oladipo is allowed to take control of the offense for stretches of the game just like  Harden did back in 2012. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if Oladipo is used in the sixth man role, especially if Waiters isn’t re-signed. One thing we do know is that, at least for this upcoming year, Oladipo will be asked to be more of a three-and-D player than an offensive playmaker like he was in Orlando.


Of course the biggest question this trade brings up is how it will affect Kevin Durant?

While initially it looked like the Thunder were making this deal to help soften the potential blow of Durant moving on from Oklahoma City, this was clearly a move made to entice Durant to return.

Moving Ibaka signaled three things to Durant:

  1. There will be more cap space not only this offseason but also in the future
  2. Oklahoma City GM Sam Presti is not afraid to shake up the roster so as to stay young but also competitive
  3. The team is taking notice of who Durant would like to play with and have brought in a guy in Oladipo that Durant really likes.

It’s no coincidence that the Thunder traded for Oladipo. Durant has always been really high on him, even once stating that the former Hoosier reminded him of a young Dwyane Wade. If Durant really believes that statement, I don’t see how he doesn’t come to the conclusion that Oklahoma City gives him the best chance to win and returns next season.

Advertisements

Hoosiers In The NBA: How Noah Vonleh Fits In Portland

NOTE: Hello everyone and welcome to a new edition of Hoosiers In The NBA on its new site! Please try to spread the word by liking it on Facebook or retweeting this on Twitter if you enjoyed it. Of course doing this is completely optional but is greatly appreciated. Otherwise I hope you enjoy this latest edition and for more coverage follow me on twitter at @QTipsForSports or just for the hashtag #HoosiersInTheNBA:

Welcome to part 2 of the inaugural edition of Hoosiers In The NBA! If you missed part 1, which detailed how the 2015 NBA Draft affected teams that currently have former Hoosiers on the roster, you can click here to read about it. Unlike prior editions this one will be structured a little bit differently than usual as we are only focusing on one Hoosier, Noah Vonleh. These will take a more traditional column approach and will be announced ahead of time usually on my regular Monday column. Without further ado, let’s dive into Vonleh’s new situation and try gauge how it will work out:

(EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was written Wednesday night so a couple of things have changed since then, such as some players having signed with other teams.)

Things in Portland are in flux. After two seasons of being legit title contenders in the brutal western conference, the Trail Blazers might be thinking that their window has closed at least for their current group of players. The trade that brought Vonleh to Portland, and sent Nicolas Batum to the Charlotte Hornets, was the first domino. Now with LaMarcus Aldridge, Wesley Matthews, Robin Lopez, and Arron Afflalo all free agents and all garnering interest from other teams, there is a real possibility that next season’s Blazers will be radically different from the team of the past two seasons.

Now could some or maybe all of them return to Rip City? Probably unlikely considering the moves the Blazers have or are on the verge of making. In addition to trading for Vonleh, the Blazers have also acquired Gerald Henderson (part of the same trade as Vonleh), Mason Plumlee and Pat Connaughton via trade. They’ve also already signed small forward Al-Farouq Aminu to a four-year $30 million contract. Add in the fact that Portland is close to giving their young and promising point guard Damian Lillard the max contract and it’s quite easy to see that the Blazers are looking to the future.

All of this sounds really promising for Vonleh, who is looking for a chance to bounce back after a lost rookie season. Vonleh spent most of last year sitting at the end of the bench, only getting to see the court if the game was a blowout. Hornets Coach Steve Clifford called Vonleh “too raw” to be on the court. Yet his most-developed skills (rebounding and three-point shooting) were so valuable that the Hornets had to have him on the roster when their big men started getting injured one after another. I know at times last season it sounded like I was criticizing the Hornets for their usage of Vonleh but the reality is they were forced due to unfortunate circumstances. If Al Jefferson, Marvin Williams, and Cody Zeller never got injured, Vonleh would have played 30 minutes a night in the NBA D-League getting valuable playing time and developing his in-game skills. Sometimes you’re drafted into the wrong situation and what you need is a do-over. Portland is Vonleh’s do-over.

What’s most exciting about Vonleh being a Blazer is him partnering up with Lillard in the pick-and-roll game. Lillard is an awesome pick-and-roll ball-handler, being able to drive and shoot threes at a high level. This versatility matches Vonleh’s, who has a decent post game and a developing jump shot. Lillard’s also able to accurately find the screener while drawing in two defenders, making Vonleh’s three-point attempts become uncontested or his layup attempts easy buckets. Vonleh could also form a good inside-out combo with Plumlee down on the block. One switch on the baseline and Vonleh has a slow-footed center trying to close out on three-point attempt or Plumlee can bully a smaller defender to the basket.

However, while the path to the starting power forward position looks clear now, there are many obstacles ahead and by the time the season starts we may see Vonleh as the backup. If there is one free agent from the four I listed that Portland really wants to return, it’s Aldridge. Not only do they want Aldridge back, they want to pair him with free agent Greg Monroe. Monroe visited the Blazers Wednesday and by all accounts the meeting went well. General Manager Neil Olshey’s plan seems to be a front court of Monroe and Aldridge with Plumlee and Vonleh as their respective backups. Honestly, if Vonleh has to play backup this season it might be for the best. Vonleh will be just 20 years-old by the start of the season, and getting to learn behind Aldridge and/or Monroe could be called a best-case scenario.

The problem is the potential logjam in the front court if this happens, particularly Meyers Leonard. Leonard, who will be entering his fourth year removed from Illinois, is also a former lottery pick who has slowly developed his game and has become a serviceable backup big man. Fairly similar to the situation in Charlotte when Clifford had to decide between Vonleh and Zeller, Blazers Head Coach Terry Stotts will potentially have to decide between Vonleh’s upside and Lenoard’s stableness.

Overall I think being traded to Portland was really good for Vonleh. Sure there may be potential obstacles but Vonleh will love playing under Stotts, who loves to have his players constantly moving around. Add in the fact that he and Lillard make an excellent pick-and-roll combo and the sky is the limit for Vonleh as he is now in a situation that can showcase his true talent.

Hoosiers In The NBA: Vonleh In Rip City And How The 2015 NBA Draft Affected Former Hoosiers

NOTE: Hello everyone and welcome to a new edition of Hoosiers In The NBA on its new site! Please try to spread the word by liking it on Facebook or retweeting this on Twitter if you enjoyed it. Of course things are completely optional but are greatly appreciated. Otherwise I hope you enjoy this latest edition and for more coverage follow me on twitter at @QTipsForSports or just for the hashtag #HoosiersInTheNBA:

A lot has changed since the last edition of Hoosiers In The NBA: The Golden State Warriors are the new NBA champions, I started a new blog, the 2015 NBA Draft took place, and Noah Vonleh just moved from the Atlantic to the Pacific. As you can see there is a lot to catch up on so I will be breaking this into two parts. Today I will go over how the NBA Draft affected current Hoosiers playing in the NBA and Thursday I will give a more in-depth look on how Vonleh will fit long-term with the Portland Trail Blazers. However, I will go over how the draft affected Vonleh in this part. Buckle up as we dive into four teams’ drafts and then analyze how the new kids on the block will affect four former Hoosiers:

Noah Vonleh: Forward, Portland Trail Blazers:

2014-2015 stats (Charlotte Hornets): 3.3ppg, 3.4rpg, 0.2apg, 0.16spg, 0.36bpg, 0.4tpg, 0.8fpg, 39.5% FG, 38.5% 3FG, 69.2% FT, 10.3mpg. (25 games)

I’ll save most of what I have to say about Vonleh for part 2, but his new team made a very interesting move during the draft. After drafting Rondae Hollis-Jefferson with the 23rd pick, the Blazers packaged him with veteran guard Steve Blake and shipped them to Brooklyn for the 41st pick (which became Pat Connaughton) and center Mason Plumlee. While initially this looked bad for Vonleh, after further consideration I think this may work out very well. With current center Robin Lopez an unrestricted free agent, Plumlee slides right into the starting lineup and avoids having to play power forward (which is the only position Vonleh can play at this time).

I’ll get more into the LaMarcus Aldridge situation on Thursday but the short version is that Vonleh’s playing dramatically increases if Aldridge leaves, with the outside chance of Vonleh even getting to start. Plumlee’s low post play makes him a great match to Vonleh’s shooting range, making them a promising high-low combo. Connaughton provides Portland with another shooter and someone to space the floor so Vonleh can have more wide-open looks from deep. Vonleh’s situation in Portland just looks better and better with every move the Blazers make.

Cody Zeller: Forward, Charlotte Hornets:

2014-2015 stats: 7.6ppg, 5.8rpg, 1.6apg, 0.56spg, 0.79bpg, 1.0tpg, 2.5fpg, 46.1% FG, 100.0% 3FG, 77.4% FT, 24.0mpg. (62 games)

While it was a shame we never really got to see him play with Vonleh, Cody Zeller really benefitted from Vonleh’ s departure and was set to be a lock at starting power forward next season (the newly-acquired Spencer Hawes being more of a versatile big man off the bench capable of playing either position and Marvin Williams usually played much better when he was coming off the bench).

Then the Hornets drafted Frank Kaminsky with the ninth overall pick.

Now we’re back in the same situation we had a week ago but this time substitute in Kaminsky for Vonleh. Kaminsky may have played center at Wisconsin but he won’t be playing any other position than power forward in the NBA. Which begs the question: who is the odd man out? Unlike Vonleh, the “too raw to play” argument doesn’t fit Kaminsky and with pressure to win now he will probably be forced to play so management can validate his selection. Al Jefferson is the team leader and franchise player so he’s not going anywhere in the near future and they just acquired Hawes. That leaves Zeller and Williams and I hate to say it but the signs point toward Zeller. Before Vonleh was traded, it was Zeller that management was shopping in order to get a sharpshooting wing. Obviously players get shopped around and remain on their current teams all the time but the drafting of Kaminsky almost seemed like a message. It was a message that Zeller hasn’t proven he has enough range to play power forward for the Hornets.

I really hope I’m wrong because the idea of a Zeller/Kaminsky inside/outside combo in the future sounds very intriguing and is actually plausible when you consider Zeller’s vast improvement on defense and the mismatches he could have against opposing centers because of his athleticism. I just don’t think the Hornets have the patience to keep them together.

Victor Oladipo: Guard, Orlando Magic:

2014-2015 stats: 17.9ppg, 4.2rpg, 4.10apg, 1.67spg, 0.26bpg, 2.8tpg, 2.60fpg, 43.6% FG, 33.9% 3FG, 81.9% FT, 35.7mpg. (72 games)

Don’t let the fact that both Orlando Magic draftees Mario Hezonja and Tyler Harvey are listed as shooting guards fool you: Victor Oladipo’s starting spot is not in danger. In fact, both of them make his life easier for different reasons.

Hezonja is an excellent shooter and immediately becomes one of the Magic’s best three-point shooters. It will take a couple of games for opposing teams to adjust but when they recognize him as a threat from deep it will create wider driving lanes for Oladipo and fellow guard Elfrid Payton. While both (especially Oladipo) are improving their shooting range, their best offensive weapon is their ability to get to the basket. Hezonja will immediately become a great pick-and-roll partner for both guards, especially Oladipo as Hezonja is also really skilled at getting to the basket thus letting them switch between roles on multiple pick-and-rolls. Also, because he is 6’8” and athletic, he should be able to slide into the small forward position and play right alongside Oladipo.

As a late second round pick, Harvey never posed a threat to Oladipo’s starting spot but he may end up helping Oladipo a lot. Oladipo averaged 38.5 minutes per game after the All-Star break, putting quite a few unnecessary miles on his legs. While Oladipo is always in fantastic shape, you could tell by the end of the season he was running out of gas as his shooting percentage went down (40.2% during the final 10 games) and his turnovers increased (averaged 3.4 turnovers over the final 10 games). If Harvey can provide some scoring while Oladipo is on the bench, it should be able to keep him fresh enough over the course of the season to let him finish the season strong and even maintain his performance level if the Magic are able to make the playoffs.

Eric Gordon: Guard, New Orleans Pelicans:

2014-2015 stats: 13.4ppg, 2.61rpg, 3.8apg, 0.82spg, 0.23bpg, 2.0tpg, 2.4fpg, 41.1% FG, 44.8% 3FG, 80.5% FT, 33.1mpg. (61 games)

The New Orleans Pelicans had only one draft pick, thanks to the Omar Asik trade, of which they used on Branden Dawson. However that was short-lived as Dawson was trade away to the Los Angeles Clippers for cash. While a future draft pick would have been nicer, trading away Dawson for cash was a decent deal for the Pelicans. New Orleans is in win-now mode with Anthony Davis ready to make his claim as the best player in the NBA and roster spots should be reserved for veteran role players that can help Davis lead this team to a deep playoff run.

One of those guys is former Hoosier Eric Gordon, who earlier this month opted-in to the final year of his contract which is worth 15.5 million. The decision was a no-brainer for Gordon but to the Pelicans it will be seen as bad news financially. However, if Gordon plays all of next season at a similar level to how he performed in the playoffs, I’m sure all will be forgiven.