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The Victor Oladipo Question NBA Teams Need To Ask Themselves

Victor Oladipo is on the trade market.

The 28-year-old reportedly is looking to move on from the Indiana Pacers this coming offseason, according to Jared Weiss from The Athletic. That’s the opposite direction of signing him to a contract extension, which otherwise was the main topic surrounding the relationship between the All-Star and the Pacers.

Oladipo, who has been named a two-time All-Star and made the All-NBA team in 2018, is a defensive-oriented wing who in the 2017/2018 campaign upped his offense considerably, to the tune of 23.1 points per game, catapulting him to stardom after years of flashes sprinkled in with inconsistency.

That stardom, which Oladipo has yet to mimic since rupturing a quad tendon in his right knee, is what teams will hope to see return if they trade for him.

And that leads me to asking an uncomfortable question which, hopefully, Oladipo himself will screenshot a year from now with the hashtag #Motivation. It’s a question potential suitors also need to ask themselves before pulling the trigger on any deal:

Was his first year production in Indiana in fact a statistical anomaly?

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As great as Oladipo was that year, becoming a premier two-way player, and giving LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers a fight in the playoffs, it’s fair to wonder if that blip was just that.

That’s not to downplay Oladipo’s career. Defensively, his work ethic and understanding of how to disrupt opposing offenses is a legitimate tool. He’s great at anticipating plays, and has routinely played the passing lanes well, even if he did gamble a substantial amount in his early years. Most young players do.

Offensively is where question marks begin to enter the conversation.

Over the first four years of career since landing in Indiana, Oladipo shot 57.3 percent within three feet of the basket. In his 17/18 campaign that increased to a whopping 69 percent, just as he saw spikes elsewhere.

His long-range shooting got a bump in both efficiency and volume (in large due to an insanely hot start of the season, where he hit 42.3 percent from deep on 6.5 attempts per game), and for the first time in his career he hit over 50 percent on two-pointers, increasing his efficiency by a considerably 3.7 percentage points.

Was that a result of natural development, or a one-year shooting spike that warrants a closer examination?

We won’t find an answer to that until Oladipo is back on the court, fully healed from a long two-season period wherein he played a limited amount of games. It’s quite simply unfair to use the numbers he posted after the injury against him.

Players are, of course, entitled to hot seasons. Arguing otherwise is pointless and foolish. But in the NBA trading game, data and information is crucial. Most teams will naturally lower their offers to Indiana due to Oladipo’s injury and inactivity over the past 20 months, but whatever trade value he has will also have prior play as an indicator.

Put in simpler terms: Teams making calls to Indiana will need to understand what type of player they’re trading for, and gauging that 17/18 season accurately will be a part of a more wholesome picture.

It stands to reason Oladipo did get better in his first season in Indiana. After all, he is a former second overall pick, and had just turned 25 when the Pacers acquired him from the Thunder.

The challenge is trying to identify which areas are sustainable. His three-point percentage fluctuated between 42 percent in 2017 and 32 percent in 2018 of that season, which could be the difference in him being an All-Star and a legitimate All-NBA guy.

Also worth noting is whether that type of inconsistency could affect how teams perceive his offensive upside.

As such, determining Oladipo’s trade value could prove more difficult than one might think. There are lot of factors to consider. First and foremost, his health. How his knee will hold up long-term will the first priority to take into consideration. Then of course there’s his contractual situation as his contract expires in 2021, which also affects how much teams would be willing to fork over in any trade.

But in the middle of that is the entire point of trading for him: How he will fare on the court, and what the realistic expectations are.

If a team trades for him hoping he’ll become their primary player and a sure-fire All-NBA player again, there might be reason to hesitate. But if they trade for him to play a certain role where defensive is prioritized, and his offensive production is more of an afterthought, that might be a better plan that incorporates the concern that 17/18 Victor Oladipo might have been a slightly inflated version of what he truly is.

Or, maybe Oladipo will in fact return to that level and ridicule me for suggesting otherwise. Let’s hope for that instead.

Source: Forbes – Business

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