Thursday, March 27, 2014

Victor Oladipo: The Best Rookie Even Without the 'ROY' Award

This piece was meant to be a celebration of Victor Oladipo and his rookie supremacy over his draft class. However, I now find myself having to defend Oladipo. Victor is still behind Michael Carter-Williams in the title and award race for Rookie of the Year. Me typing out this piece is a 'white flag' in the 'ROY' race, but not in regards to who the better player is now and will be in the future. MCW is on a Sixers team that's been one of the few in the NBA that have been worse than the Magic. Inflated stats or not, Victor can't overcome the perception that MCW has already locked up the award. 

Percentages (instead of numbers) don't lie, Oladipo has been better. The world needs to be more exposed to Oladipo further from Hoosier Mania or the Rising Stars exhibition or a botched skills competition at All-Star Weekend. It didn't help that the Magic were not on one nationally televised game this season. 

Anyone that's watched and analyzed this 2013 draft class knows that Oladipo has been the best rookie this season. I have zero regrets about who Rob Hennigan chose with his #2 selection and I'm confident Oladipo will remain the best in his class as the years progress and his Magic responsibilities grow larger. I got my wish in Orlando drafting Victor Oladipo. With that said, in my amateur opinion, Victor is best at shooting guard and I can't wait to see him team up with Dante Exum, Marcus Smart, or Tyler Ennis. Oladipo still has done quite well for a man not playing his natural position and that's a testament to his outrageous athleticism and work ethic. 

This rookie point guard experiment is invaluable to Vic's career moving forward. I look at it the way I did with Dwyane Wade's point guard rookie career. And both are/were Tom Crean guys. When you compare them (I've also added rookie Russell Westbrook for fun since he's a scoring guard), you see vast similarities. Especially on a per 36 minutes basis. Now we know 'Henny' and Coach Jacque Vaughn don't like getting specific with positions. They'll look at 'Dipo as a "guard" or a "ball handler", but no more detailed than that. There's no evidence that Oladipo won't be the PG next season, but I'm telling you the team is more than open to putting Vic back at SG. 

So here’s a fun fact: Over the last 15 years only two #2 overall draft picks have scored 10+ points in each of their first 5 regular season games. Those gentlemen are ‘Dipo…and Kevin Durant. Good company to be in except Durant actually won ROY. Michael Carter-Williams is shooting below 40% from the field. If that holds, MCW would be the first player since 1958 to solely win the award. Oladipo at just over 41% isn't much better, but that's what LeBron James and Allen Iverson shot as rookies.

The shot charts show Oladipo is much more comfortable on the perimeter than MCW.



That's a lot of blood for the Sixers rookie. Oladipo's shooting hasn't been brilliant either, but there's a balance to it. Plus, Victor will be much better once he hoists up fewer Gilbert Arenas 'YOLO' jumpers. I'm actually surprised how much better Victor is at the rim than MCW considering Oladipo has on numerous occasions attacked the rim at will against multiple defenders at once.

Look at MCW's season splits. He's been declining since the All-Star Break. Look at Oladipo's splits and you notice that Vic's improved since All-Star Weekend. MCW has played only slightly better in wins than losses. Victor shoots over 46 FG% and 37.2 3PT% in 20 Magic wins so far while averaging 15.0 ppg, 5.1 apg, and 5.1 rpg. That's outstanding. 

Victor has only had FOUR GAMES all season where he's played 40 minutes or more. Yes, 2 of the 4 came against Philadelphia. 3 of the 4 (including one against Philly) were in overtime outings. Meanwhile, Michael Carter-Williams has also played over forty minutes 4 times this season. On the one hand, it's great that the coaching staff hasn't burned Oladipo out. On the other, he's 21 and needs as many minutes as possible experimenting with lineups and moves and styles. So let's take a peak at what those guys have averaged in their four 40+ minute games:

Oladipo: 27.3 ppg, 9.3 apg, 6.5 rpg, 53.9 FG%, 23.5 3PT%, 85.2 FT%, 62.0% True Shooting
MCW: 18.8 ppg, 9.0 apg, 10.3 rpg, 44.4 FG%, 31.3 3PT%, 46.2 FT%, 48.3% True Shooting

Whoa. More 40+ games for Victor please. 

Head-to-head, Oladipo would've prevailed in a landslide had he not laid an egg on that March 2nd matchup. Remember, MCW averaged 4.5 more field goal attempts in those duels. Still, the Magic won the season series 3-1 and I wish that held more weight. Also, Oladipo having WAY more highlights than MCW should give him a clear edge in the entertainment quotient as well, right? With eurosteps, takeover games, blocks, speedy lay-ups, flashy flushes, and stealth-like steals, I dare you to reject those for what MCW offers. Oladipo's confident swagger - never to be confused for cockiness - combined with his relentless effort makes for a player impossible not to adore. 

Victor may not win Rookie of the Year, but it doesn't matter. Dwight lost 'ROY' to Emeka Okafor and Ben Gordon in '05 when we all knew Howard was the better player. Tyreke Evans beat out Steph Curry in 2010. So Magic fans know what they're witnessing. Oladipo-mania is running wild in Central Florida, and it's not about to slow up following this season. 

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