Indiana Pacers guard Victor Oladipo is playing for his third team in three seasons. However, he looks like a potential offseason steal.
The 25-year-old combo guard was the centerpiece of a trade that sent Paul George to the Oklahoma City Thunder during the summer. George will face Oladipo and his former team this evening, Oct. 25, but Oladipo is already surging as a breakout star for the Pacers.
He spoke about his desire to take that leap before the season began (via Sports Illustrated):
“I’m preparing for my role as a leader, I’m preparing for my role on the team and I can’t wait to embrace that role … I just want to go out there and dominate. I was to pick everybody up, lead and make everybody better, and at the same time try to do something special.”
So far, his transition to the face of the franchise in Indiana has gone surprisingly well. During his most recent outing, he had 28 points (11-for-16) in 28 minutes. He averages 23.8 PPG with 4.5 RPG and 3.5 APG.
During 2015-16, Oladipo averaged 0.96 points per possession in an iso-based offense. This year, he has improved to 1.33 ppp. and he is among the league leaders in isolation field goals.
On his new team, as he suggested above, the biggest change has absolutely been his role as a leader for the offense. During his final year in Orlando (22.9 percent) and his sole season for Oklahoma City (21.4 percent), Oladipo had a secondary usage rate.
Especially playing on the same court as Russell Westbrook, it was rare for Oladipo to take over the game. But for Indiana (32.2 percent) he has become their first option.
As far as other improvements, he is particularly more effective in the restricted area for the Pacers (65 percent accuracy) this year than he did with the Thunder (58.9 percent accuracy) or he did in his last campaign with the Magic (56.0 percent).
Tom Crean, his former college basketball coach at Indiana, believes the guard can become NBA 1st-team All-Defense.
If he keeps up his progress on the other side of the ball, too, Oladipo will be one of the most effective players in the game. While still early, he has indeed improved his steal percentage from 1.7 percent last year to 3.8 percent this season. He is among the league leaders with 2.5 steals per game.
Especially considering some thought the Pacers did not get much value for George, it’s fascinating to see the development Oladipo has already shown on his new team.