The 2017-18 NBA season has ended for six of the eight former Indiana Hoosiers that registered statistics in the league this year. Today marks the sixth in a series of more in depth reviews of their respective seasons as we discuss former Hoosier All-American Victor Oladipo.
Victor Oladipo came to Indiana in 2010 without much fanfare. He was a 3-star recruit with a reputation for being a good athlete. Three years later he would leave as an All-American and an NBA lottery pick. Along the way Oladipo earned a reputation as a tireless worker, and the results showed it. For each of his three seasons at Indiana, he showed improvement in just about every statistical category.
It all came together for Oladipo during the 2012-13 season. He was named the Sporting News Men’s College Basketball Player of the Year, the National Co-Defensive Player of the Year, and a first-team All-American by the USBWA and Sporting News.
After all of his success during the 2012-13 season, his decision on whether or not enter the NBA Draft became rather obvious. Oladipo was selected with the second pick of the first round of the 2013 draft by the Orlando Magic. He played three seasons in Orlando before being traded to Oklahoma City and playing one year there with the Thunder.
On July 6, 2017, Oladipo was traded, along with Domantas Sabonis, to the Indiana Pacers in exchange for Paul George. A Hoosier fan favorite would be returning “home” for the 2017-18 season, and he would do it with much of the country believing that he wasn’t nearly as good as George:
Thanks for the tweets reporting the "theft" of Paul George by @okcthunder.
Our investigative findings: totally legal & very savvy.
— Oklahoma City Police (@OKCPD) July 1, 2017
You don’t want to doubt Victor Oladipo. It was time for the tireless worker to roll up his sleeves.
OLADIPO’S 2017-18 SEASON
Oladipo got off to a hot start right out of the gate, and the Pacers started the season 6-3. Eyes were opening, as it appeared the 6-foot-4 guard might have incrementally improved yet again.
But it was an early December stretch of games that really got the national media’s attention. First, Oladipo hit a game-winning 3-pointer to put Indiana over Chicago.
Only two days later, Oladipo put up 33 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists to lead Indiana to a victory over Cleveland, breaking the Cavs’ 13-game win streak in the process. Once again, it was late game heroics from Oladipo that iced the game.
He wasn’t finished. A couple days later he scored a career-high 47 points in an overtime win over Denver. Now there was a buzz in Indiana surrounding the Pacers that had been missing for a while — and Oladipo was leading the charge.
Games/Games Started – 75/75
Points – 23.1 (career high)
Rebounds – 5.2 (career high)
Assists – 4.3 (career high)
Blocks – .8 (ties career high)
Steals – 2.4 (LED NBA, career high)
FG% – .477 (career high)
3FG% – .371 (career high)
FT% – .799
The Maryland native never really slowed down all season. As we discuss below, his efforts took him to the NBA All-Star game and he led the Pacers to the NBA Playoffs.
He led the NBA in steals with 2.4 a game. When the NBA announces its awards next month, he is on the radar for the Most Improved Player and Defensive Player of the Year.
Clifton Brown of the Indy Star had this to say regarding Oladipo’s candidacy for Most Improved Player:
If Oladipo doesn’t win this award, there should be an investigation. He should either be a unanimous choice or close to it. He is averaging career highs in points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks. But look beyond the stats. Oladipo is the lead player on a team that will win nearly 50 games, a team that few expected to win even 40 games. And remember, the Pacers are 0-6 when Oladipo doesn’t play. He doesn’t just compile stats. He makes plays that win games, both offensively and defensively.
It is interesting to note that his points per game were (we believe) the most he has averaged in a season at least going back to before high school.
NBA ALL-STAR GAME
Oladipo become the first Hoosier since Isiah Thomas to be named an NBA All-Star. He paid a special visit to Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall in January for the Purdue game to be honored for being named an All-Star. He stuck around and watched the game from the front row, further energizing an already raucous crowd.
Oladipo played 15 minutes in the 2018 NBA All-Star game. He shot 3 of 8 from the field overall and 1 of 6 from 3-point range. He finished with 7 points and added 3 assists, 3 steals and 2 rebounds. He tied two other players for th most steals in the game.
The game would mark the first time Oladipo’s father ever watched him play in person.
NBA SLAM-DUNK COMPETITION
The competition didn’t go as he hoped, but he found a way to energize the crowd nevertheless. Oladipo donned a Black Panther mask for several of his attempts. You can watch all of his dunks here:
Indiana made the 2018 NBA Playoffs as a 5th seed and played none other than LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Oladipo had a rollercoaster series, with terrific games 1, 2, 6 and 7. He hit a shooting slump in the middle of the series and struggled in games 3 through 5.
For the series, Oladipo shot 41.7% overall and 40.4% from 3-point range. He averaged 22.7 points, 8.3 rebounds, 6 assists, and 2.4 steals per game.
Cleveland won the series 4 games to 3.
As we said at the outset, Oladipo has earned a reputation for being a tireless worker. Reportedly just minutes after the game seven loss to Cleveland, Oladipo texted his trainer to discuss when they were going to start getting ready for next year. There is probably no one at this point that will be surprised if he makes additional strides next season and progresses even further into the ranks of the NBA’s elite guards.
That text to his trainer wasn’t just idle words sent in frustration after a tough Game 7 loss. Oladipo was at the team’s training facility Monday morning after Sunday’s loss to Cleveland. Reports indicated that he put up 200 shots and worked out in the weight room.
The Pacers’ front office has noticed that tireless work ethic as well, and they expect it will rub off on the entire team. Pacers General Manager Kevin Pritchard had this to say about Oladipo in a season-ending press conference:
“If every player on our team knows we have a great human being, who’s our greatest worker, but also our greatest player, you better fall in line or you don’t look right,” Pritchard said.
Indiana Hoosier fans know this all too well, and we can’t wait to see what’s next.
You can follow us on Twitter: @daily_hoosier
Find us on Facebook: thedailyhoosier