A stranger to the casual NBA fan who only tunes in once the playoffs start, Victor Oladipo was the best player on the floor on a Sunday afternoon in Cleveland. For someone with a limited playoff resume and no playoff resume as the man, Oladipo pretty much shut everyone up who said his regular season was just the regular season and he couldn’t reproduce his dominance in the playoffs. Oladipo scored a career high (playoffs) 32 points and in the 4th when the Cavaliers were trying to get back in he just shut the door with back to back jumpers that had the Cavs limping their way through the rest of the quarter, giving LeBron James his first game one playoff loss. It was Oladipo who was the hero. It was Oladipo who said afterwards, “I don’t care what they think” meaning fans who are new to his stardom and have questions about his ability to keep it going. Stardom has knocked on the Vic Oladipo door and he has answered without flinching.
NBA GM’s can take a lot of grief for their big time misses (Anthony Bennett, Greg Oden, Hasheem Thabeet) but they had it right all along five years ago when Victor Oladipo was at the top of the 2013 NBA Draft. Number two picks are supposed to dominate and be All-Stars and in the playoffs do some things.
Oladipo, who was drafted by the Orlando Magic, was traded before the Magic could offer him an extension. The Magic didn’t quite know what to do with Oladipo. He was traded to the Thunder and was mediocre when Russell Westbrook took his rest. He couldn’t provide a similar energy. He was traded for Paul George and by his own admission spent most of the summer getting his conditioning together but the key wasn’t the trade to Indy but what happened afterwards. Coach Nate McMillan called Oladipo up and let him know he was going to be the star of the offense, he was going to be what the Pacers centered their game around. McMillan trusted Oladipo before he played one game as a Pacer. Oladipo said, “no one ever believed in me”.
|Who Was Better in 2017-18?||Points||FG%||3-Point %||# of 30+ Point Games|
|Paul George (Thunder)||21.9||43.0%||40.1%||11|
|Victor Oladipo (Pacers)||23.1||47.7%||37.1%||12|
Oladipo had the best year of his career. He made the most shots he ever made, 8.5 per game. He launched the most shots he ever jacked up (17.9). He shot 47% for the first time ever. He took more threes and he made more of them. His steals were way up, a career high 2.4 per game. And so were his turnovers, a danger sign. Oladipo was the 9th highest scorer in the league, a shocking turn of events for a player who entered the 2013 NBA draft as a defensive player who was still working on scoring efficiently. Frankly, if MVP means without that player you are toast, than Oladipo deserves some votes.
|Most Improved Oladipo||Points||FG%||3-Point %||Offensive Rating||Real Plus-Minus (SG)|
Impressively, Oladipo excelled when measured against himself. Still, he is always a little salty when you bring up the Oladipo-George trade criticism and Cavs owner Dan Gilbert’s response. In the summer of 2017, Gilbert thought he had a three team deal with the Nuggets and Pacers with Paul George coming to the Cavs. At the last minute the Pacers dealt George to OKC. Glbert’s quote that Indy didn’t get enough for George had more to do with the trade he had put together that was nixed than it had to do with Oladipo himself. In 2013, when Oladipo was high on the draft board Gilbert wanted him but was overruled. Regardless. Dan Gilbert shade is a good Oladipo chip on the shoulder, something fake to get mad at. And hey, it’s working.
Still, it doesn’t feel as if this is all new for Oladipo, the world revolving around him. He was generally stoic and emotionless after beating the Cavaliers which was a big deal but Oladipo wanted to make it out like it wasn’t a big thing at all. It was just game one.
Until this season, Oladipo has never been given the green light. In Orlando, the coaching staff wasn’t sure who exactly Oladipo was, what his identity was, and as a young player Oladipo wasn’t sure either. The best thing that happened to Oladipo was his apprenticeship behind Russell Westbrook, a fearless, emotional, confident shot maker and ball player. That level of alpha male (absent taking 25 shots a game) is what the Pacers needed this season as they figured out how to fill in the gaps in order to make the playoffs given the young talent they have. All they were missing was a star.
The regular season has bled into the postseason with the Pacers all over the court on defense, pushing the pace and Myles Turner and Oladipo scoring at will.
The Pacers are the obvious underdog in the series with the Cavs because their opponent is LeBron James, who if he wanted, could go old school Magic Johnson and play all five positions. But look at what the Pacers accomplished this season.
- 3rd: Steals.
- 5th: 3-Point Defense.
- 6th: Field Goal Percentage.
- 9th: Opponent Points, 3-Point Percentage.
The Pacers excel guarding the three. The LeBron offense is shooting the three. Something is going to give. Furthermore, in the matchup between former players who are now coaches, Nate McMillan wins. He was a defensive monster when he was in the league and all his teams resemble his tough grittiness, particularly in mental approach.
Oladipo could have been full of himself after game one and the clinic he put on. Without words he told the East his game has to be reckoned with. You must stop him. He has entered the star zipcode. No one would have blamed a little cockiness on his part or I told you so. But he played cool. There he was suave and stoic in his suit, not afraid but not high five-ing himself either. One more game like Sunday and Cleveland will be in Vic Oladipo trouble.