Greatest Moments from Victor Oladipo's Rookie Season with the Orlando Magic
Victor Oladipo is having an excellent rookie season. The Orlando Magic couldn't be happier with their young guard, who has made an impact from the get-go. With the NBA playoffs approaching, and Orlando's offseason about to begin, it is time to take a look at his greatest moments so far.
While many, including his fellow rookies, expected great things from the Indiana University product, it is still impressive to see just how well he fared. His intensity and willingness to learn are two very important reasons for his success.
Comparing the 21-year-old's performance before and after the All-Star break, we can see clear improvements in his efficiency. He recorded 0.8 more assists per game, and his shooting percentages increased from all areas of the floor. Most noticeably, his three-point field-goal percentage climbed from 30.3 to 37.1 due to better shot selection.
Oladipo is an outstanding competitor.
Some of the highlights include displays of his athletic abilities, while others concern statistical feats over the course of his first campaign as well as personal achievements.
Prologue: Oladipo's Explosive Baby Bottom
Yes, you read correctly.
You know you are doing something right when an NBA veteran compliments your game. In Victor Oladipo's case, teammate Jameer Nelson called him "faster than a hiccup," according to Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel.
And indeed, watching him sprint past other players makes fans inclined to agree with that comparison.
Oladipo also receives praise from commentators, people who usually have a way with words. Without doubt, Clark Kellogg takes the prize for the most unique metaphor. It is as funny and visual as it is disturbing. As highlighted by Matt Yoder of Awful Announcing:
I tell you what, Victor Oladipo is like a baby's bottom: smooth and sometimes...explosive!
These moments definitely are some of the great ones for Oladipo. After all, only the great players prompt people to come up with pictures to describe them because simple words wouldn't do them justice.
One can only wonder what Kellogg thinks of next. Whatever it is, here's hoping you are not one of the people who picture everything they hear.
Oh, and the reason why this is a prologue: This stems from Oladipo's college years.
No. 7: Oladipo Gets Drafted
Although the list is not going to be chronological, this just had to be the opener. After all, it is the very reason why you are looking at this slideshow.
When Victor Oladipo started his college career, few—if any—pictured him making a living playing basketball, let alone becoming a lottery pick. Even early on in his final collegiate campaign, an NBA scout rated him as "not even in the top 100 in the country," according to Tim Layden from Sports Illustrated.
Not only did VO get drafted, he became the No. 2 pick in 2013—and rightfully so.
Lacking offensive skills when he joined the Hoosiers, he forced his way in by playing a relentless and energetic style of basketball, focused on locking down opponents. He quickly became one of the nation's most feared perimeter defenders.
His tenacity earned him playing time. His work ethic and self-criticism translated into an improved offensive repertoire. Together they justified his meteoric rise in his final season at Indiana and his being picked second by the Orlando Magic.
Oladipo is proof that anything can happen if you simply don't allow yourself to fail.
No. 6: Oladipo's First NBA Game
Let's face it: The first of anything is always going to be special. Be it the first kiss, the first car or, in this case, the first game at the pro level.
Oladipo acknowledged that he had a wrong perception when he entered the league, according to NBA.com's John Denton:
I can’t say the things that I thought from far away or while watching it at home were (accurate). I don’t want to say that it was a rude awakening for me, but it definitely gave me a different perspective on the league. You have to be on your A-game in this league because you’re going against the best.
His first outing saw him score 12 points on 4-of-11 shooting, while pulling down three boards and recording two assists and one steal. In 22 minutes and 35 seconds, coming off the bench, he committed three turnovers.
And yet, from a personal point of view, it may have been his most important game. He had finally arrived in the NBA.
It is one thing to get there. It is another to let it sink in that this is not just a dream, that you really made it.
This was the night when Kehinde Babatunde Victor Oladipo officially became an NBA player.
No. 5: Oladipo's Steal from Deron Williams
The rookie's defensive prowess is remarkable.
He averages 1.6 steals per game and numerous deflections, both an indicator of his knack for defense—but even more so his intensity.
In this case, he showcases his skill as a one-on-one lockdown defender and his strength when the contact between him and Deron Williams occurs. Oladipo then displays his speed and athleticism on the breakaway 360 dunk.
All of these abilities, together with his willingness to compete hard any given night, make him such a success. They also help explain why the 6'5" combo guard is so popular with Orlando Magic fans.
As you can imagine, someone who is said to be as smooth and explosive as a "baby's bottom"—come on, you knew that particular Clark Kellogg sound bite would be mentioned again in this slideshow—makes many impressive plays.
Still, this one was special.
No. 4: Oladipo's Block Versus Damian Lillard
This is one of the greatest moments for several reasons.
On the one hand, it defines Oladipo's determination.
After his bad pass, he immediately sprints back to protect the basket. While many players throw their arms up in the air in desperation when the play is lost, he never gives up on it. Just like the great ones never did.
On the other hand, it displays the rookie's athleticism and defensive awareness.
There are very few athletes capable of running back that fast, reading the situation and reacting to what goes on. Oh yes, and then there is the vertical leap and body control. To not commit a foul and successfully block Damian Lillard was very unlikely, yet he pulled it off as if it was business as usual.
And for him it is.
This was clearly one of the highlights this year for the combo guard, and one that shows his character.
No. 3: Oladipo's 14 Assists
On February 21, Oladipo scored 30 points and collected nine rebounds in a double-overtime victory over the New York Knicks.
Even more impressive, however, were his career-high 14 assists combined with just three turnovers.
For a guard who averaged four assists and 3.2 turnovers per game before the All-Star break, a performance like this is a testament to his willingness to share the ball while at the same time taking care of it.
More importantly, the rookie showed that he has the ability to read game situations and deliver the orange to the right man at the right time.
While VO will never become a pure point guard, this outing showed that he can be the team leader of the future. You want to fill that role with someone who plays tenaciously on defense, likes to make others around him better and has the ability to light up the board with all sorts of stats.
Victor Oladipo certainly has it in him.
No. 2: Oladipo's All-Star Experience
Every player remembers his first All-Star weekend.
For many, their first experience comes after several seasons in the league. Ever since the Rookie Challenge in 1994—with Anfernee Hardaway taking the MVP—a handful of young players have the opportunity to be part of the prestigious event each year.
Victor Oladipo competed in the BBVA Rising Stars Challenge for Team Webber, scoring 13 points, as well as in the Skills Challenge, where he and Michael Carter-Williams lost to Damian Lillard and Trey Burke by one-tenth of a second.
The most important thing about the weekend wasn't that tenth, nor that Team Webber lost to Team Hill. It was the fact that he was rewarded for a great rookie season and experienced a great atmosphere with some of the very best players in the NBA.
His statistics after the All-Star break have improved across the board and he has displayed better leadership. In the forefront of the weekend, he announced that he felt he was "no longer a rookie," as reported by John Denton.
Being part of the event certainly boosted his self-confidence, but it also helped him understand more of what goes on behind the scenes. And it gave him the opportunity to connect with some of his rivals on a more personal level.
No. 1: Oladipo's Triple-Double
On December 3, the rookie recorded his first triple-double in the NBA.
He scored 26 points, pulled down 10 rebounds and dished out as many assists in the narrow double-overtime loss to the Philadelphia 76ers. The wonderful thing about Oladipo is that he most likely would have gladly ended the game with 10-5-5 instead and taken the W.
Be that as it may, he displayed a passion that lasted through the entire 51 minutes and 35 seconds that he was on the floor. He played great defense, came up with three steals and wouldn't accept defeat without a fight.
Neither would Michael Carter-Williams, who also recorded a triple-double. However, Oladipo's tenacity on D was to blame for several of MCW's seven turnovers, which helped make this such a tight contest.
In short, Victor Oladipo applied for Rookie of the Year that very day.
You can follow @KurtJonke for more on the NBA in general and the Orlando Magic in particular.