Victor Oladipo isn’t progressing like he should for the Orlando Magic. At look at the numbers tell us he might actually be the next Evan Turner.
For Victor Oladipo of the Orlando Magic, this season has already been an up and down one. In his third year as a professional, Oladipo was meant to lead the team into a bold new era of exciting, playoff-filled basketball. There were glimpses, but that plan never really got off the ground. Then a new head coach in Scott Skiles took over, and went so far as to bring Oladipo off the bench.
While that experiment seemed to work for a while, Oladipo is now back as a starter, but with the trade deadline looming, his position with the team is once again unclear. Running mate and fellow young player Tobias Harris has been moved to the Detroit Pistons, proving that no player is safe as this team tries to find a way to be a contender once more.
But with Brandon Jennings and Ersan Ilyasova joining the Magic, where does that leave Oladipo in the pecking order of leaders on this team? Jennings is the more experienced and diverse offensive threat of the two, and he may even take some of Oladipo’s minutes away as well.
Looking at how his career has gone so far actually reminded me of Evan Turner, and I’ve come to realize that the two may have a lot more in common than you’d think.
Beginning with the obvious, both Oladipo and Turner were second overall picks. Turner went after John Wall, the clear first choice that year. Oladipo was picked after Anthony Bennett, a guy who has struggled to stay in the league. Regardless of that difference, both Turner and Oladipo were met with open arms by their new fan bases, the Philadelphia 76ers and Orlando Magic.
Neither was expected to single-handedly turn the fortunes of their franchises around overnight, but many felt both could hit the ground running as professionals. Here the similarities continue, as both men had their moments, but ultimately didn’t do as much heavy lifting as they perhaps should have for their teams.
This is where the differences (for now) come in though, as Turner is three years further along in his career.
It’s not that he played badly with the 76ers, he just didn’t pan out like they’d expected and that organization decided to undertake arguably the most drastic rebuild in NBA history. That is still ongoing, but Turner was sent to an Indiana Pacers team that, because of injury to key personnel, was stuck somewhere between contending and hitting the reset button.
Turner would play only 27 times for the Pacers, starting in two of those games. From there he moved on to the Boston Celtics, and though they themselves were a rebuilding team when he got there, he finally appears to have found a situation that meshes with his talents.
Turner is not expected to be the best player on the court for this team, but rather he comes off the bench to provide play of real substance.
He’s played in every game so far this year, and is averaging 9.9 points, 4.7 rebounds and 4.4 assists in 27 minutes of action each night. That’s contributing in a variety of ways when he’s on the court, and under-the-radar play like that from a member of the second unit is the reason the Celtics are an exciting team with playoff ambitions. He adds depth.
What does any of this have to do with Victor Oladipo though? Well, like Turner before him, perhaps we want Oladipo to be something he was not meant to be for this team? As a second overall pick and the first young player of considerable hype the Magic drafted after Dwight Howard left town, we wanted him to be great for this team, so it clouded our judgment.
Don’t believe me? I’ll share an embarrassing story of my own to prove it.
Before the 2010 NBA draft, I thought Evan Turner was as good, if not better, than John Wall. I was so sure he was going to be a star in the league, and that he’d help propel whichever team drafted him to new heights. Even when it was clear that would not be the case, I still wanted to believe Turner was every bit as good as Wall.
I know now that he’s not, but when you want to believe something, you’ll try and think of any reason why it could be true.
That’s kind of like how it is for Oladipo with the Magic right now. We want him to morph into this great player who leads the Orlando Magic back to the playoffs. Three seasons in, is it time to admit that his ceiling might be lower than we want it to be? Even harder to contemplate, would it be better for both parties if they separated?
A look at Turner’s numbers from his third season also add weight to the belief that Oladipo is headed in the same direction. He started all 82 games, playing 35 minutes a night. He averaged 13.3 points, 4.3 assists and 6.3 rebounds, shooting 42 percent from the field and 36 percent from three point range. He took 12.8 shots a night.
For Oladipo, so far this season he’s played in 48 games, starting 28. In 31.3 minutes per game he’s averaging 14.3 points, four assists and 4.3 rebounds. He’s shooting 41 percent from the field and 34 percent from three point range, and is taking 12.5 shots a night.
Those numbers are very similar, although the argument could be made Oladipo would be doing more if he was playing as many minutes as Turner did.
Another difference is the fact Turner spent most of his time as a forward that year, which may explain how he was able to tack on more rebounds. Regardless though, it paints an uneasy picture for Oladipo’s future with this team. Also worth considering is how Turner excels coming off the bench these days, while Oladipo looked comfortable doing the same thing earlier in the year.
Victor Oladipo and Evan Turner are two players who you wouldn’t think have similarities in their output and career arcs. But when you put the two together, it’s clear that Oladipo looks like he could be headed in the same direction. It may be a case of being selected by the wrong team, as there’s no doubt Oladipo is capable of being a starter in the NBA.
Is he with the right team though, or will we see the best of him in the near future with a different team? With the trade deadline looming, we may be about to find out, if the right deal comes in.