Rookie review: Victor Oladipo

  • 06/12/2014 12:31 pm in

“Rookie review” is Inside the Hall’s in-depth look at the debut NBA season for Indiana’s 2013 NBA draft lottery picks, Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo. We’ll recap the rookie season of both players as well as look to the future both from a team and individual perspective. Next up: Oladipo. (Previously: Zeller)

Prior to his junior season at Indiana, you couldn’t find Victor Oladipo on many 2013 NBA draft boards and when you did, he was listed as a second round pick at best.

So when you call the rise to where he ended up last June “meteoric”, there’s little exaggeration. Oladipo was the No. 2 overall pick to the Orlando Magic, which was a reward for a brilliant junior season in Bloomington. It wasn’t  that Oladipo didn’t have an impact or a national profile over his first two college seasons, but his third season saw his game elevate to another level.

After last June’s draft, Oladipo found himself in the midst of a major overhaul in Orlando, a situation he compared to the one he faced his first season at Indiana. The Magic were coming off a trade of Dwight Howard to the Lakers about 10 months earlier. And still held captive by the albatross contract of Gilbert Arenas, the franchise had little choice other than to place hope in the pieces it acquired for Howard and rebuilding through the draft.

The numbers

– Regular season: 13.8 points, 4.1 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 1.6 steals, 0.5 blocks, 41.9 FG%, 32.7 3PFG%, 78.0 FT%, 13.64 PER, 31.1 minutes in 80 games.

Orlando entered the 2013-2014 season without any realistic playoff aspirations, so putting its young core on the floor for major minutes was a major focus. In terms of minutes played, five of Orlando’s top seven players were 24 or younger, with Oladipo (21), Harkless (20) and Tobias Harris (21) all in the top five.

Predictably, the Magic finished 23-59, which was the third worst record in the NBA. For Oladipo, however, the circumstances dictated that he play major minutes from day one. He started 44 games, had a triple-double, six double-doubles and also became the first Magic rookie since Howard to average more than 30 minutes per game.

As is the case with many rookies, turnovers were a problem (256 in 80 games) and Oladipo’s shooting percentage still needs work, but his overall numbers suggested he was as ready as any rookie to contribute from day one in the league. That was evident as he was considered one of two primary contenders for the league’s Rookie of the Year award all season, a distinction that was eventually earned by Philadelphia’s Michael Carter-Williams.

“The amount of minutes he played were pretty good for a rookie,” Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said after the season. “He showed that his body could take some pounding. That was a part of his indoctrination into the league.”

A look to the future for the Magic and Oladipo

Still in the midst of an overhaul, the Magic have a pair of lottery picks in this month’s draft — No. 4 and No. 12 overall — and now have the ridiculous $22.6 million salary of Arenas off of their books, which means the team could also be a factor in free agency.

The Eastern conference is wide open after the top couple of teams, so the opportunity for the Magic to make a jump exists, but recent comments by team founder and executive VP Pat Williams suggest that the team may continue to be conservative in its approach.

At the end of the season, general manager Rob Hennigan used phrases like “not skipping steps,” being “methodical” and “strategic” when describing the organization’s approach to improvement next season.

Oladipo, for his part, is saying the right things as he enters his first offseason as a professional.

“I just need to continue to get better,” he said in April. “I feel like if I do that, I can definitely help my team win. It’s all a process, everything is a process.”

As for how his role could change next season, a lot of that could depend on what the Magic do later this month in the draft. With two lottery picks, the team will be looking for a pair of players who can come in and play right away, which may lead to a more defined position for Oladipo.

For example, if the team takes a point guard like Dante Exum or Tyler Ennis, Oladipo could play more as a two after spending time as a rookie bouncing back and forth between both guard positions.

Hennigan, however, says the franchise still views Oladipo as a player who will fill multiple roles going forward.

“I think our stance on the infamous question remains the same,” Hennigan said in an interview at the end of the season. “He’s a guard. He may play some one, he play may some two. We feel he’s best served as a guard.”

Filed to:

  • Rie

    When Victor played shooting guard for the Magic this season, he was an absolute stud. I understand MCW winning rookie of the year, but his stats were highly inflated due to being the only option on the worst team in basketball and the pace at which the 76ers play. In the long-run, I have no doubt Victor will be the best player to come out of this draft class.

    Considering they have two lottery picks, I believe they should hold off on pulling the trigger on Exum, unless they are absolutely infatuated with him. I think Vonleh would be their best option to take at four, that way they will have a great paint pairing, especially for a team in the East. Vucevic was the best thing to come out of the Dwight trade in retrospect; the Lakers and Nuggets no longer have Dwight and Iggy, respectively, and the 76ers obviously did nothing with Bynum and Richardson.

    Next, I feel they should trade up some way, either through the normal process or by dangling Afflalo out there. Regardless of whether they trade up or not, a good point guard should still be on the board at the twelfth pick, at least a point guard that grades out better than the remaining power forwards.

    Sorry for writing a book, but I honestly think Victor is a special talent and the Magic could be a great team in the future if they nail this draft. Either way, Victor will be a successful player no matter how the aforementioned pans out.

  • Gregory Spera

    What if they reversed that and went point guard at four (Exum or Marcus Smart?) and power forward at twelve (say… Adreian Payne?) Is that better than Vonleh and any point they could get later, like Ennis or Napier? This NBA draft is a puzzler.

  • Rie

    I personally like the Noah first route, but I am obviously biased. I do think the depth of the point guard position across the first round is deeper than the power forwards. Basically, I think Noah, Randle and Gordon are in a class of their own and the drop off from that is substantial. Whereas the drop off from Exum and Smart to Ennis and Payton is not as much.

    I will give the copout answer to your question though: Rob Hennigan is a good GM and ultimately what he decides is probably the right decision. Exum is such an intriguing option that it will be hard to not love the prospect of pairing him with Victor. Their defense in the back court would be awesome, especially if they retain Afflalo. On the other hand, I am a big believer in paint duos, especially in regards to their effectiveness in the East, which is why I personally would prefer Noah. It all comes down to the Magic’s big board and what Hennigan’s plan is in free agency and what not.

  • DeeLyle

    Weird picture to select. Vic’s hand looks like he’s grabbing the Pacer (Ian Mahinmi, probably) by the family jewels.

  • Ole Man

    Although Exum is still a bit of a mystery, he may be one of those “immediate impact” players. If so, it would be very hard to not take him.

  • calbert40

    Personally, I prefer both Ennis or Napier to either Exum or Smart. I’d rather have a combo of Vonleh/Napier than Exum/Payne. That said, I’d be ecstatic to have any of those four PGs playing for the Pacers, so any combination of PG/PF will help the Magic out considerably.

  • Outoftheloop

    Interesting analysis.

  • Outoftheloop

    Another interesting comment.

  • Outoftheloop

    Of the 5 that you talk about, I sort of dislike Smart. The times I saw him play he definitely monopolized the ball to an extreme and was not a great assist man (as opposed to Ennis/Napier). Vic is a better player than Smart and he should not have to “fight” for touches. On the other hand I love Payne’s game and think that he will be a real player in the NBA with his range, his athleticism and size, his jumping ability and his attention to defense (the Izzo factor).

  • Outoftheloop

    Man, everyone is sharp today!

  • Michael R

    Victor, please come back to Bloomington this summer and show these young Hoosiers how to work. We need to bring that energy back to Cook Hall and Assembly Hall, a visit from you would go a long way.

  • I’m not sure it would be a miss either way, considering that they have enough money to strengthen their roster in free agency. It would be cool if Noah and Victor were both lotto picks in back to back years for the same team. Does anyone remember the point in time where the thought of having Noah back for his sophmore year and Dante Exum possibly joining him? How awesome would that have been.

  • I think if you would have seen Exum play more than you were able to see Smart and Ennis, you may change your tune. Exum was the 1 player that was unstoppable at the FIBA U19’s. Going to be hard to pass on a guard that has his size and skill. Not one of those guards you listed can guard Exum effectively and Exum can guard each and every one of them and most likely shut them and their brother down. Kid is very special for his position.

  • hgdownunder

    I’ve *seen* Exum play, and although he may be able to play as a man among boys at U19s, he only played 5 minutes against the Tall Blacks (not the world’s most imposing basketball team) and didn’t cover himself with glory.

  • TomJameson

    You know there’s been a lot of ink about HS kids coming into college being unproven, and an unknown factor, etc… What about Exum? I admit I haven’t seen much of him play at all, but really, from HS to NBA …. Is he really that good that some even call him an “immediate impact” player? Honest question. 🙂

  • marcusgresham

    Devan Dumes-style!

  • marcusgresham

    Will there be a rundown of how the other guys did in their respective pro leagues? Is Derek Elston still terrorizing the island of Malta?

  • calbert40

    You may be right, and if I was a GM of a team drafting in the top 5, he’d be on my radar. However, my personal views on drafting (regardless of sport) is that GMs get themselves fired by shooting for the moon and missing. Exum has a lot of talent and an incredibly high ceiling, but he also has a low floor.

    Unless I was convinced he was special, I’d be more inclined to draft a player like Ennis or Napier…a player who may have a lower ceiling, but his *bust* rate is lower, in my mind, than Exum’s.

  • calbert40

    I have always bristled at the notion that Smart is a PG. He may play that position, but he isn’t a PG. He isn’t a distributor or creator, IMO. That’s the problem the Pacers have right now. They have a PG who really isn’t a PG.

    And I also think Payne will be a great pro. He reminds me a little of Rasheed Wallace (game only not off court). My reason for liking the Vonleh/Napier combo over the Exum/Payne combo is more about the PGs instead of the PFs. I think Vonleh and Payne are fairly close despite their different styles.