Sometimes greatness hides behind time and circumstance. Or is it that greatness is a victim of time and circumstance? Whatever the case may be, avid sports fans understand that greatness rarely shows up on day one. Sometimes it takes half a season, one, or maybe even a couple of seasons. In the case of Victor Oladipo, that long awaited ascension to greatness is happening before our very eyes.
The road has been long for the former Hoosier, indeed. Oladipo spent three years in college, playing for Indiana head coach Tom Crean, and showing marked improvement each season. As Victor showed growth and eventually carved out a featured role, the team’s success skyrocketed. Playing alongside stellar big man, Cody Zeller, the Hoosiers enjoyed a 29-7 record in his sophomore season. His collegiate career culminated in another 29-7 campaign, and a run to the Sweet 16, fueled by his own red-hot shooting effort. After shooting the lights out in his junior season, NBA scouts caught on quickly.
Any player with a three point percentage over 44, the ability to create their own shot, and two-plus steals per game, should expect to be drafted in the top 5 of their class. Victor Oladipo was no exception, coming off the board in the 2013 NBA draft, with the second overall pick. The Orlando Magic were all-in on Oladipo, plugging him into a prominent bench role, and eventually starting him in 44 games. The result? The young guard delivered a very strong rookie season, producing 13.8 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 4.1 APG, 1.6 SPG, 41% FG, 33% 3P, 78% FT, earning himself a 2013-14 All-Rookie 1st Team selection.
The following season, the Magic traded away their starting shooting guard, Arron Afflalo, placing the scoring and playmaking burden squarely on the shoulders of young Victor Oladipo. Again, the young stud came through, posting strong numbers across the board:
2014-15: 17.9 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 4.1 APG, 1.7 SPG, 44% FG, 34% 3P, 82% FT
And again, the following season:
2015-16: 16 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 3.9 APG, 1.6 SPG, 44% FG, 35% 3P, 83% FT
Solid seasons appeared to come easy, for Oladipo, yet he wasn’t quite breaking through that next ceiling. He wasn’t considered a star, in his young career, nor was his team succeeding. Then came the summer of 2016, and a bombshell. Kevin Durant shocked the sports world and jumped ship, chasing the championship lure of Golden State. This meant the Thunder desperately needed to place another playmaker next to Russell Westbrook. Exit Serge Ibaka, and enter Victor Oladipo.
After the Magic and Thunder exchanged the two players, Oladipo was expected to take off, playing alongside the electrifying Westbrook. The Thunder, after all, had come within minutes of knocking off the defending champion Warriors in the Western Conference Championship, just the previous year. Many believed the change of scenery was exactly what Oladipo needed. Some projected that he would finally reach his star potential. Sadly, those hopes and dreams fell flat on their face, that season. The Thunder never really looked as good as they should have been, and Oladipo just could not get comfortable in his new role. Though he finally got a taste of the postseason, his numbers were woefully underwhelming, compared to what many hoped they would be:
2016-17: 15.9 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 2.6 APG, 1.2 SPG, 44% FG, 36% 3P, 75% FT
Sensing the impending exit of another superstar, the Oklahoma City management decided to go “championship or bust” during the next offseason, trading for two bona fide Eastern Conference All-Stars. small forwards Paul George and Carmelo Anthony were on their way in, bringing star power back to OKC, and effectively putting Oladipo out in the cold… literally. In exchange for George, the Indiana Pacers received Oladipo and promising big man, Domantas Sabonis. Those who had not abandoned the former Hoosier guard, hoped this second change of scenery would spark something in their man.
The Indiana Pacers presented a unique opportunity for Victor. He joined largely defense-first, fellow starters Thaddeus Young and Myles Turner, as well as newcomers Darren Collison and Bojan Bogdanovic. Collison, being a pass-first point guard, and Bogdanovic mostly a catch-and-shoot off-guard, the heavy lifting of playmaking genius naturally fell upon Victor. At this point in his career, he had the experience of being the only real offensive talent in Orlando, as well as playing alongside the triple-double machine himself, Russell Westbrook. The time for taking the reins and steering his own destiny was at hand.
And then it happened. Oladipo got off to a hot start in the 2017-18 season, torching the Pacers’ October opponents to the tune of 24 PPG, while shooting 49% from the field, and 46% from three. November and December could not cool off the four year veteran, and January’s production vaulted Oladipo to his first All-Star selection. What’s more, the Pacers were entrenched in the race for the postseason from the get go, thanks to the brilliance of their rising star guard. Oladipo and company continued to grind on, clinching a playoff spot, and placing themselves in position to possibly challenge as high as the three seed.
The most important team in my life? My family.
— Victor Oladipo (@VicOladipo) March 27, 2018
It appears that Victor Oladipo has finally found the right home, in his return to Indiana. Watching him on the court, one can’t help but feel happy, seeing the freedom he now plays with. His confidence is at an all-time high and his basketball IQ is paying huge dividends. In finding his home on the court, he has found the confidence that he needs to succeed. The once-serious point guard has allowed his personality to shine through, and in doing so, has set himself free to be the best player he can be. The rise of Victor Oladipo has truly resembled that of a mid court shot, always anticipated – but never certain. Hopefully, for his sake, the recent catapult into stardom will continue. Superstardom may be a stretch, but Oladipo certainly possesses the requisite skill set necessary for completing the journey.