Orlando Magic: Bittersweet Feelings On Victor Oladipo

Feb 19, 2016; Orlando, FL, USA; Orlando Magic guard Victor Oladipo (5) looks on as he makes a three pointer against the Dallas Mavericks during overtime at Amway Center. Orlando defeated Dallas 110-104. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 19, 2016; Orlando, FL, USA; Orlando Magic guard Victor Oladipo (5) looks on as he makes a three pointer against the Dallas Mavericks during overtime at Amway Center. Orlando defeated Dallas 110-104. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

Victor Oladipo’s career nights for the Orlando Magic only serve to remind fans of his limitations with this team.

With this season coming to a rough end for the Orlando Magic, fans have been trying to find positives despite the fact the franchise is all but out of the playoff race. Another likely trip to the lottery this summer will at least bring with it more young, cheap talent to the roster. On top of that, some of the players currently on the team have come along nicely, such as Aaron Gordon.

For a team that is trying hard to turn their draft picks and young assets into actual on-court success that it can point to as proof the Magic are moving in the right direction though, there hasn’t been a ton of that, which is what makes the play of Victor Oladipo over these last couple of weeks especially infuriating.

Oladipo was meant to be the player that brought this team back to relevance. Instead, his teasing performances as of late have come to mirror the play of this organization as a whole. Some nights the guard can look irresistible, in much the same way his team can look like a fun, up and coming bunch.

Other nights it’s all too pedestrian from Oladipo, and oftentimes the performance of the team as a whole reflects that mood.

You may think the timing of this criticism is odd. After all, only last week Oladipo had himself quite a night, scoring a career high 45 points, along with five rebounds and three assists, in a superb individual performance in an eventual loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

On that night, the former Indiana University standout looked every inch the player the Magic selected with the second pick in the 2013 NBA Draft.

He made 16 of his 22 shots from the field, and a Splash Brothers-esque six of seven from three-point range. Oladipo was on, and for periods during that game the Dwyane Wade comparisons of before didn’t seem so foolish, especially as he was shooting the ball from beyond the arc better than his Miami Heat counterpart ever could. The temptation then was to gush about how Oladipo had finally arrived in the NBA.

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I decided to wait though, to bide my time and see if this level of play would continue. I knew he wasn’t likely to have another monster effort like that one, but building on that performance as the season winds down would have been about as good as it gets for the Magic at this point. Too often before we’ve seen flashes of what Oladipo can do, whether it be as a starter or off the bench, but he’s never been able to truly sustain that level of play.

Unfortunately, that trend has once again continued, and it’s wearing quite thin. If we knew what Oladipo’s ceiling was, then we would have accepted his limitations by now.

We’d have understood that he is not the franchise player the Orlando Magic need to truly move on from the Dwight Howard breakup, but a valuable piece to the puzzle nonetheless. But just as we’re about to embrace the flaws in his game, he comes up with a performance like was saw against the Cavaliers.

Rather than rejoice in the fact that Oladipo appears to suddenly “get it” in his third season in the league, outbursts like that are soured by what will likely follow: underwhelming and undercooked performances. It wasn’t evident right away on this occasion, as he followed up that big game against Cleveland with two solid outings against the Toronto Raptors (21 points, six rebounds) and Boston Celtics (25 points, eight rebounds).

It must be noted though, that Oladipo shot 25 percent from three-point range over the course of those two games, making two of his eight attempts. Despite this, I held out hope. The Magic are currently riding a five-game losing streak, but the blame didn’t rest at the door of Oladipo.

He was doing everything he could on both ends to put his team in a position to win, even if he was being inefficient with the ball at the same time (combined 10 turnovers over the three games). I still couldn’t shake the feeling that he was slipping back into old ways however, and that hunch was proved correct in the Magic’s most recent loss to the Detroit Pistons.

Oladipo had 14 points, sure, but he again shot 1-for-4 from three-point range and this time took his inefficiency back to dangerously low levels we’ve witnessed before, as he went five of 18 from the field, a terrible 27.8 percent. The old Oladipo, the guy who gives his all but appears to be forcing things to happen on the offensive end, had returned. Really that small sample size has been how much of his career in the pinstriped blue of the Magic has gone, and it has grown tiring.

This is why I took Oladipo’s career night with a pinch of salt, and I was glad I did. Going forward it may be better to treat anything substantial he can give this team in certain games as a bonus. Year three is when the truly elite players take a considerable leap forward, with Paul George and Derrick Rose being prime examples in years past.

Oladipo is capable of hanging with those guys in terms of production and star power for a couple of games, before reverting back to the guy who more closely resembles Evan Turner. It’s not his fault either. After all, this is his game and it is worthy of being in the NBA, no question.

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When he breaks out those classic performances though, where he piles up the points and the highlight reel plays, I wince, because I think about what might have been. To witness those games, truthfully, it tastes bittersweet.