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.