With few things going right for the Orlando Magic this year, one of the truly bright spots has been Victor Oladipo. The second overall pick in last year’s NBA draft out of Indiana, the combo guard has had a memorable year filled with more highs than lows. Unlike other pieces that may try and convince the reader or sway them towards one way of thinking, this piece will serve only to give you the facts and observations from watching him play. From there you can decide if Oladipo deserves to be Rookie of the Year and let us know by getting in touch.
Oladipo has played in 64 games this season, starting 37 of them. He has missed occasional games through niggling injuries, but has had no serious issues so far with his health. Although often overlooked when talking about players, simply staying healthy and hungry to learn is a key component for rookies who want to kick on in year two of their careers. Another interesting factor for Oladipo, id the fact he has spent time playing the point guard position for the Magic, who still feel he can be the long term solution here. Predominantly a shooting guard in college, asking a rookie to adjust to the pros and play an unfamiliar position is a big ask, and initially it did show. Oladipo’s play at the point was forced and looked like he was a square peg trying to be put into a round hole. He is averaging 3.1 turnovers a contest, with a lot of these lost possessions coming while he played at the 1. Recently however he has looked more fluid when asked to play in role, learning how to use his athleticism in a positive and influential way from that position. He is averaging 13.9 points and four assists this season. There have been the breakout games as well though, the statistical statements that all of the great rookies post during the year. Against the New York Knicks in late February, Oladipo posted 30 points, 14 assists and nine rebounds in a double-overtime win over Gotham’s finest, a game that made everybody sit up and take note. With things going this well, surely Oladipo is a shoo-in to be named Rookie of the Year then?
Well not quite, because there are two other guards who are having impressive maiden campaigns in the league. The first is Michael Carter-Williams of the Philadelphia 76ers. His star shines brightly as well, particularly after helping his team to a 3-0 start and knocking off the defending champion Miami Heat in the process. Carter-Williams is long and unfazed, and even though his team are beyond poor right now, on a personal level his play has been above that of most other rookies. He has spent considerably more time out injured however, although some conspiracy theorists out there have suggest that Philadelphia is not playing him simply so they can successful tank this season. If that was to be true, it really shows the influence this young rookie has already over this team. Carter-Williams set an NBA first when he recorded a triple double earlier this year in a game where another rookie also recorded a triple double. The other rookie in question? Victor Oladipo. So now we can begin to see that separating these two is not so easy.
The other player worth considering is Trey Burke of the Utah Jazz. Having a poor season themselves, make no mistake that this young team is building something out West, and an eye should be kept on them going forward. As his team is slightly better than Oladipo’s and Carter-Williams he has a tendency to maybe look a little bit better. His higher assist average than Oladipo, 5.4 per game, reflects this. His team able to finish more plays that he provides. His scoring is down slightly on Oladipo’s though. Carter-Williams trumps both with personal statistics however, averaging 16.8 points and 6.3 assists. Recording over five rebounds a game as well shows you that his length at the point guard position has already come in handy. So if we are going with personal stats, which in a way the rookie of the year is all about, perhaps Carter-Williams should get the nod over the other two.
This figures to be one of the closest contests to crown the top rookie in the league in some years. Given that there was no clear choice first pick in the draft, in a sense there is no benchmark with which to try and surpass. Anthony Bennett of the Cleveland Cavaliers, the actual first pick last year, is not even in the conversation. That shows you how open a draft and rookie race this has been. If we’re looking at the young careers of the three players discussed, you would probably have to think that Carter-Williams has shaded it to this point. Oladipo has been a little streaky, oftentimes punctuating personal performances with massive games like he had against New York earlier in the year. Carter-Williams has been more consistent though, that is when he is playing. Burke is the dark horse, but in a season where the Phoenix Suns are pushing for the playoffs and Joakim Noah is the unquestionable face of the Chicago Bulls, nothing should surprise us anymore. Who do you think should be named rookie of the year though? One of the three mentioned, or somebody else entirely? Leave your opinions in the comment box below.