It’s amazing what can happen when you get a chance to step out from under someone else’s enormous shadow. Kyrie Irving managed to regularly steal the spotlight while playing alongside LeBron James for three seasons, but that was because he had already firmly established himself as one of the league’s most capable offensive point guards prior to LeBron’s prodigal return.
And now that he’s shed whatever imaginary shackles he believed were still keeping him from reaching his full potential in Cleveland, we’re witnessing a wiser, more refined version of Irving rapidly ascending toward his individual peak.
Victor Oladipo‘s career has followed a very different trajectory. He isn’t the same kind of talent as Irving, but this season in Indiana, we’re finally getting a chance to see him showcase some of that potential that made him the No. 2 pick in the 2013 Draft. Oladipo was on a tight leash during his first few years in Orlando and then had the misfortune of being paired up with Russell Westbrook last season, who tore a path of destruction across the league the likes of which we haven’t seen in more than 40 years.
Oladipo played the good soldier while Westbrook chewed up all the scenery, never really distinguishing himself as a viable second option or even a modestly-formidable sidekick. It’s hard to find a rhythm when the primary option has a usage rate of 41.7 percent. So when the Thunder were presented with an opportunity to land Paul George – even if only on a short-term loan – they didn’t hesitate to package Oladipo with Domantas Sabonis and ship them out to Indiana.