Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Victor Oladipo's Strong Foundation

In midst of their rebuild, it appears as though the Orlando Magic found themselves a keeper in last year’s draft. While the draft class mostly disappointed this year, Orlando’s pick, Victor Oladipo, stood out above the rest. The resilient, hard working guard proved doubters from an early age, and continues to do so early in his NBA career. There are still questions to be answered about Oladipo, as is common with almost every player in the league, but one thing is for certain: he’s got himself a good foundation to get to his goal of “being one of the greatest to ever play the game.”

The electrifying guard was predominantly known for his defense coming out of college, and that was something he continued to showcase in his rookie season. He consistently wreaked havoc on that end, finishing the season averaging 1.6 steals per game, a defensive rating of 106 — good enough for a tie for fourth on the team– and the most defensive win shares on the team, finishing with 2.8.

The former Indiana Hoosier also ranks favorably on mySynergySports defensive statistics, giving up .81 points per possession, good for 61st in the league, while allowing opponents to shoot only 36.2 percent from the field. He finished 11th and 15th guarding players coming off screens and hand offs, allowing only .66 points per possession, and .67 points per possession respectively.

A big thing that allows Oladipo to be such a tenacious defender is his extremely high motor. Fellow guard and mentor to Oladipo Jameer Nelson praised the rookie for his exceptional motor, saying, “He just keeps coming, keeps coming at you at both ends of the court. He’s aggressive at both ends of the court and I think that’s going to separate him from a lot of guys.”

Oladipo showed some great signs on the other end as well. Despite having some less than stellar percentages, Oladipo possesses a nice pull up jumper from the elbow. If he’s able to develop better consistency with the shot and shoot a higher percentage from that area it will force defenses to play him tighter; which could open more driving lanes to the basket.

While he was able to get to the basket with general ease, he had some issues finishing, mainly with his left hand. According to vorped.com, Oladipo shot 52.7 percent at the rim going to his left, compared to 57 percent going to his right. Despite his struggles finishing with his left hand, Oladipo was able to shoot 55.4 percent from zero-to-three feet, according to Basketball Reference.

The former Hoosier will also need to work on protecting himself and the ball as he drives, as he had 90 field goal attempts blocked this season, which was the tenth most in the league. Many young guards struggle finishing around the rim early in their careers due to a lack of experience with strong rim protectors like many NBA teams have, yet are able to find ways to compensate and finish more consistently as their careers wear on. This is something that plagued All-Star guards Dwyane Wade and Russell Westbrook their first few seasons, so staying patient with Oladipo is a big key.

Year 1

Year 2

Year 3

Year 4

Wade

82

84

86

39

Westbrook

94

104

127

100

Oladipo

90

?

?

?

As you can see, both Wade and Westbrook struggled their first few seasons, but improved drastically going into their fourth. The question now arises: can Oladipo, who has been compared to both Wade and Westbrook, have the same path of improvement in getting his shot blocked less? If I were a betting man, I’d say he will due to his fantastic work ethic and desire to improve every day.

Another big area Oladipo will need to improve is his three-point shooting. The freak athlete struggled to find consistency from beyond the arc, shooting 32.7 percent on the season, while failing to shoot better than 40.0 percent in any month of the season. One area Oladipo could look at in improving his shooting from deep is focusing more on the corners, where he only took 24 attempts this season.

The final glaring area the Indiana product will need to improve is his ball handling. He was thrown into the fire this season by having to learn the point guard spot at the highest level, and it showed in his turnover numbers. On average Oladipo turned the ball over 3.2 times per game, but was able to see some improvement throughout the season. It’s one of many things he’s going to work on, as he said there’s “lot of room for improvement, lot of room for growth.

Even though he has a long way to go, Oladipo has himself an extremely strong foundation to continue to grow from. His struggles were well-documented, but none of them are surprising as many future stars go through the same struggles as rookies and are able to overcome them. With this foundation, his strong faith and his out of this world work ethic, Oladipo has a good start on his goal.

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