Victor Oladipo was regarded as a breakout candidate last season. He had shown flashes of his potential in his three seasons with the Magic, and being traded to the Thunder was seen as an opportunity for him to make his mark in a much more competitive environment. It helped that he was going to play alongside Russell Westbrook, who had the potential to unleash Oladipo as a secondary playmaker after he had been seemingly miscast as the primary option in Orlando.
The season didn’t go as planned. While Westbrook carried the Thunder into the playoffs, Oladipo never looked comfortable in his new role. Although he shot the ball better from both the field and the perimeter, his scoring and assist numbers declined. More worrisome was the fact that the Thunder were outscored by 46 points in the 532 minutes Oladipo was on the court without Westbrook. It therefore seemed unlikely that Oladipo would thrive on a Pacers team lacking star power, but he’s proved everyone wrong in the opening 29 games of this season.
Oladipo is averaging 24.4 points, 5.5 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game with the Pacers, doing so on 47.8 percent shooting from the field and 43.3 percent shooting from the perimeter. Based on those numbers, it should come as no surprise that the Pacers have been a completely different team with him in the lineup. They are currently being outscored by 5.2 points per 100 possessions with him on the bench and are outscoring opponents by 5.7 points per 100 possessions with him on the court. It makes Oladipo the front-runner for the Most Improved Player award and gives him a strong case to be named an All-Star for the first time in his career.
The biggest difference between Oladipo this season compared to last season is he’s getting an opportunity to run the show. Following a season in which he posted the lowest usage rate of his career, Oladipo is handling the ball as much as LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Westbrook. He had a high usage rate as a rookie and sophomore with the Magic, but he has improved significantly as a scorer and playmaker since then. Oladipo’s shot selection has changed across the board accordingly: