When you’re the second pick in the NBA Draft, certain expectations await you. Some want to see you helping your team almost immediately, while others expect you to automatically take up a starting role. Of course going from playing in college to the NBA isn’t as seamless as that, otherwise we’d all be doing it. However, the Orlando Magic’s Victor Oladipo did a very good job in his rookie year of coming in and making an impact almost immediately, something that bodes well for his personal future and that of this franchise.
Let’s just jump right in there, Oladipo has been a real positive for this team. If you’re asking this writer (who is not biased, but readers won’t believe him), Oladipo should win the Rookie of the Year award. He won’t, it will go to Michael Carter-Williams of the Philadelphia 76ers. A sound choice of course, and one that more than 90 percent of people will make. Yes, Carter-Williams led all rookies is scoring (16.7), assists (6.3) and rebounds (6.2). For this reason he should be the obvious winner, and again that is a valid and tight argument. However, Oladipo wasn’t too far behind in those statistical categories, with 13.8 points, 4.1 assists and also 4.1 rebounds. He only started 41 games to Carter-Williams’ 70, but overall Oladipo played in 80 games, 10 more than Carter-Williams. Also the Philadelphia 76ers lost 26 straight games, can you really reward a player who is a part of that catastrophe? Yes, Carter-Williams played well during that period, but when a team is so clearly trying to tank, it diminishes his effect on the court. In a losing environment like that, he looks a lot better.
We’re not just here to argue Oladipo’s Rookie of the Year case though. Away from that he has had a positive effect on this team. Starting nearly exactly half the games he played versus the games he came off the bench, this balance showed that he was capable of affecting this team in a positive manner no matter what way he was used. Spending time both as a point guard and in his more natural shooting guard role, he actually did a lot of different things in his first year in the league, whether it be asked to set the table for teammates or take on the scoring burden himself. This diversification of how he was used shows both the talent he has now and the potential within him to really improve as time goes on. Consider this; Evan Turner was the second overall pick in the 2010 draft, and there are many out there who feel Oladipo has already had more of an impact than Turner did with the team that drafted him, the 76ers. So has Carter-Williams for that matter.
We can’t talk about the rookie year of Oladipo without mentioning the two standout moments of his season. The first was puttingup a triple-double against the 76ers, on a night when Carter-Williams did the same as they became the only two rookies in NBA history to post triple-doubles in the same game. The second was his breakout performance against the New York Knicks in a come-from-behind victory before the All-Star break. He posted 30 points and 14 rebounds in the win at home, becoming the first rookie since the 1985-86 season to do. A lot of great players have been rookies in that time, which shows you what kind of talent this guy is capable of producing when the team needs it. Even more impressive, in that game which went to double-overtime, he had started poorly and through the first three quarters had only shot 3-of-10 for 11 points before heating up and leading the team to the win. Now that is confidence.
Of course it can’t all be good, and if we’ve spoken about Carter-Williams Rookie of the Year campaign being smeared by those 26 losses, we must speak about the Magic’s ugly road record too. Orlando won only four games away from home all year, and Oladipo must take some of the grief for that, he is a part of this team after all. His Player Efficiency Rating of 13.6 is also below the league average of 15, and so he could be doing more to help this team get wins. The 3.2 turnovers a game aren’t great, either, but when you’re learning how to play the point guard position on the fly in the toughest basketball league on planet earth, these things are going to happen. For the most part though it has been good news for the Magic, with Oladipo being everything that was advertised.
It wasn’t billed as being a particularly strong draft, but still Victor Oladipo has emerged as one of the early success stories of his rookie class. That can all change in an instant of course, but right now it is clear that he was a positive for an Orlando Magic team that needs to get back onto the playoff track sooner rather than later. Expectation grows around these parts next season, and Oladipo needs to grow with them. For now though we’ll let him have his moment, it has been a really great maiden campaign for the former Indiana University player.