Victor Oladipo doesn’t need to be a battering ram for the Indiana Pacers

SAN ANTONIO, TX - OCTOBER 24: Victor Oladipo #4 of the Indiana Pacers handles the ball against the San Antonio Spurs on October 24, 2018 at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas. (Photos by Mark Sobhani/NBAE via Getty Images)
SAN ANTONIO, TX - OCTOBER 24: Victor Oladipo #4 of the Indiana Pacers handles the ball against the San Antonio Spurs on October 24, 2018 at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas. (Photos by Mark Sobhani/NBAE via Getty Images) /

Victor Oladipo’s usage is up, but his scoring is down. The All-Star needs to share the ball more with his Indiana Pacers teammates.

The Indiana Pacers were 2-2 and there was a slight bit of panic in the air. Despite running back the same starters as a season ago, things weren’t going as smoothly as planned for Victor Oladipo and company.

In fact, one of those things is Oladipo himself. Oladipo is far from the only player that needed to improve some things, but as the team’s star player, he carries more responsibility.

He had been trying too hard to carry the weight of the whole team on his shoulders. He was attacking like a battering ram, but with worse results than a season ago.

That changed on Wednesday night once he let go and let the game come to him.

But before we look at what went right in the win over the San Antonio Spurs, let’s take a deeper look at what had been going wrong.

Victor Oladipo, the battering ram

In the first four games, Oladipo wasn’t playing like the All-Star that Indiana Pacers fans fell in love with a season ago.

His usage rate was up to 33 percent, nearly three points higher than a season ago, while his assist rate was down six percent, to 14.9 percent. This was all happening while he scored a point and a half less with a lower field goal percentage from a season ago.

Without getting bogged down in the numbers, he was keeping the ball in his hands more often and passing less. The result was fewer points for himself and the Pacers.

It was only four games in, but the eye-test confirmed what the stats told us: Oladipo was trying to do too much. There would be wide-open teammates even after he beat a defender (Jimmy Butler in the first clip below), but he seemed determined to drive toward the basket with reckless abandon.

Even after made baskets, Oladipo was trying too hard to create a fast break style basket.

Oladipo often drives to the basketball successfully, but this season he’d been taking a “Damn the torpedoes!” approach far too often.

More from 8 Points, 9 Seconds

Victor was playing heavy iso-ball and in the small sample size of four games and went from being assisted on a third of his baskets to a quarter of them. Oladipo had been getting away from what worked last year. Instead of creating space by making himself dangerous from anywhere on the court, he kept forcing his way to the basket and got tunnel vision on the process.

While his 3-point shooting improved from last year, his shooting from nearly everywhere else was headed in the wrong direction.

Part of the appeal of a star player creating gravity toward them on the floor is what it opens up for his teammates. When the gravity becomes too strong, however, it can form a black hole and collapse in on itself, dragging the team past the event horizon.

Before the win over the Spurs, Oladipo averaged three assists a game. In his time with the Pacers, they’ve posted a 17-15 record (a 53.1 win percentage) when he hands out three or fewer assists. Indiana is 34-13 (70.8 percent) when he registers four or more assists.

Is Victor Oladipo back on track?

But in San Antonio on Wednesday, we saw a different Oladipo. He obviously was passing the ball more as he dropped off nine assists in the game. He still scored 21 points to lead the Pacers, but it shows what happens when the ball keeps moving: The Pacers score points.

And a lot of them. The pace of the game stopped them at 116 points, but they were scoring 124.7 points per 100 possessions. Yes, that’s good.

Oladipo let San Antonio’s help defense open up the floor for his teammates. In both cases, he lets the defense make a small mistake before setting up his teammate for a 3-pointer. The center comes out and screens Oladipo’s defender, and the franchise player makes the right choices from there.

This will lead to more driving opportunities for Oladipo as well. Once defenders are forced to defend the long-range shots, that means cleaner looks for Oladipo. It was just one game, but his usage rate dropped down to 22.4 percent in the game.

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Oladipo will need to be the battering ram at times for the Indiana Pacers, but he and the rest of the Pacers are better off when he doesn’t take that approach to start with.