Love/Hate series: Victor Oladipo

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - FEBRUARY 06: Victor Oladipo /

The Indiana Pacers hope shooting guard Victor Oladipo gets back to being himself this season.

Do you remember that one time in Dayton, Ohio? That time when Temple was seconds away from escorting a thoroughly embarrassed IU out of the NCAAs? That time when Victor Oladipo planted himself behind the tippy-top of the arch, caught a Cody Zeller pass, and let fly? Did he make it? Of course. The crowd in crimson erupts. The Hoosiers’ season saved, for the moment.

I remember it. That play crossed my mind when I was brainstorming this article about Indy’s new two-guard, and old friend.

Oladipo’s star was effervescent then, finding a way to outshine all comers, even Zeller.

His star is not nearly as bright nowadays, but the opportunity is there. With all due respect to Myles Turner, Oladipo will have a shot to be both the Pacers’ number one scoring option and closer this season. The Pacers better hope he seizes it.

Love: Victor Oladipo can shoot

Our friend Ben Gibson has already written about Oladipo’s shooting. But for those of you too lazy to click on the hyperlink: Oladipo is coming off a career year in every shooting category, except points and free-throw percentage.

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Actually, his15.9 ppg was the lowest of his career. Take that with a whole shaker of salt, Oladipo spent last season standing around while Russell Westbrook posted the highest usage total in NBA history.

This goes deeper though, Oladipo didn’t just post career highs in most meaningful shooting categories (effective field goal percentage, three-point percentage, and field goal percentage), Oladipo has posted a career year, in those categories, every single season he’s been in the NBA.

Here’s how he compares with Dwyane Wade and Joe Dumars over comparative stretches in their careers.

Oladipo22 (2015)23 (2016)24 (2017)
Wade22 (2004)23 (2005)24 (2006)
Dumars22 (1986)23 (1987)24 (1988)

Unlike the more esteemed Dumars and Wade, Oladipo has consistently improved each and every season. Dipo has also seen his turnover percentage fall (19.2 in ’14, 14.3 in ’15, 12.4 in ’16, 10.6 in ’17) each season too. Combine those sets of numbers and they say that, since he’s turned pro, he’s shot better each season and turned the ball over less. Not too shabby.

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One of the biggest differences that separate Oladipo from Dumars and Wade is success, which isn’t totally Oladipo’s fault. While Oladipo’s spent his first four seasons on teams that won .396 of their games and zero playoff series. Dumars and Wade’s teams won an average of .629 of their games, 17 playoff series, and three titles.

Wade spent the dawn of his career having a roster built to compliment him. Dumars’ skills harmonized with both Isiah Thomas and Bill Laimbeer. Oladipo has not been given such luxury. Even in OKC he was forced onto the same roster with Westbrook who, in no way, complimented him.

That won’t be the case in Indiana. For the first time, he’s partnered with a player who can compliment him both defensively and offensively in Myles Turner. For the first time, he’ll play with fellow perimeter defenders that are his caliber (Lance Stephenson and Cory Joseph).

In Indiana, Oladipo has found an environment that will finally allow him to marry his natural attacking abilities with his improved shooting. It doesn’t take too much imagination to see Oladipo take the increased opportunity mix in increased space to work and score around 20 ppg.

Hate: The uncertainty

Another difference that separates Oladipo from Dumars and Wade is that we know how good the latter two were/are. We don’t know if Oladipo will take the increased opportunity and run with it. We don’t know if the increased usage and field goal attempts will result in increased production.

If he follows through on the promise of the moment, the Pacers netted themselves an all-star and the Pacers road to contention will be very, very short. If he stays as a 16-a-game scorer, then not so much. The variance there is huge.

Next: Love/Hate Series: Cory Joseph

Hate may be too strong a word, but it’s not enjoyable for a franchise to bank their future on something that is far from a certainty. But that’s where the Pacers are in the summer of 2017. The Pacers think they’re on to something. The national chatter would disagree. One side will be proven right, Oladipo will have a say in the matter every time he lines up a three from the tippy-top of the arch.