The Victor Oladipo point guard experiment

Fernando Medina/Getty Images/USA TodayLast week at the Southwest Airlines Orlando Pro Summer League was about experimenting with the Magic's second overall pick, Victor Oladipo.

The Magic drafted him to be a strong wing defender and be a workhorse for the Magic behind the scenes. He embodied the values the Magic wanted to instill in their team and was part of the foundation the team wanted to build.

Now, where Oladipo actually fits in to the Magic's future is the question the team will try to answer in the next year. Is he a shooting guard? Is he a point guard? Or is he just a guard?

"I wouldn't call it an experiment," James Borrego said of the team's decision to have Oladipo play the point during Summer League. "It's just more let's see what we have and let him grow at both positions. At the end of the day, we'll find out where he's at. There's no rush with him. We've got time. He's young, he's hungry. I think the qualities that he has puts us in line to be successful. We don't need to find out in five days from now what he is. We have time. We'll let him live in this world a little bit and see where it goes."

The "guard" label is what Rob Hennigan and the Magic are pushing after experimenting with Oladipo at the point guard position. In one week's worth of games, perhaps the Magic liked what they saw. Oladipo was named to the Orlando Summer League's First Team after he averaged 19.0 points per game, 5.0 assists per game and 3.0 steals per game (ignore those 4.8 turnovers per game for the moment).

While he struggled with handling on-ball pressure against the Celtics and Heat, Oladipo seemed to acquit himself fine at the point guard position.

"[The biggest challenge is] playing through my mistakes," Oladipo said after his first game at point guard last Sunday. "I think I did a pretty good job of that today. Make sure I don't get too frustrated, especially bringing up the ball when they start pressuring me. It's all a learning process.

"Once I get used to that, I think I did a pretty good job playing through my mistakes today. I've got to keep growing so I don't make the same mistakes over and over. They're patient with me, but sometimes I'm not patient with myself because I want so much of me so I can help my team win. I'm going to continue to keep learning and credit my teammates."

Oladipo is an incredibly humble guy as we have found out — even after hitting a game-winning basket against the 76ers on Thursday, he credited his teammates for trutsing him and putting him in a position to have that moment. He recognizes that there is a lot of learning and growing for him to do.


Oladipo said he had never played point guard at any level before this past week with the Magic. You could tell there were some bumps in the road. Oladipo struggled dealing with pressure from opposing point guards in the Miami and Oklahoma City games in particular. He also had to teach himself how to manage a team in the half-court set, deciding when to be aggressive and look for his own shot and when and how to get others involved. This is what coach James Borrego said would be the most difficult thing for Oladipo to learn.

Even Oladipo would admit that he did some good and some bad as he learned when to be aggressive and when to get others involved. He admitted to struggling down the stretch of the Oklahoma City game as he had to learn when to look for his own shot and be aggressive or get others involved and initiate the offense. The Magic famously lost a 10-point fourth-quarter lead before Jeremy Lamb drained a game-winning jumper with about five seconds left.

It was just another week in a learning process that is going to take some time for him.

Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel/Sports Illustrated"I'm a week more comfortable," Oladipo said. "Just trying to learn every day. Slowly, but surely learning that. Just trying to take every aspect of the point guard position and trying to perfect it. Limit my mistakes and learn when to be aggressive and when to find my teammates as well."

It is that constant learning and evolution that appears to have piqued the Magic's interest in Oladipo more than anything else. And quite possibly that is what spurred the itnerest in running the point guard experiment to begin with. Oladipo is such a hard worker and devourer of basketball knowledge that it probably does not matter, it will only make him work harder.

And that was the biggest takeaway from the week in Orlando. Oladipo is a guy that is going to play hard and constantly work at his game and improve. He did not seem to take any mistakes hard, but kept attacking and getting after the game to help his teammates further.

"I don't think it matters [what position Victor plays]," Borrego said. "He's just a competitor. He's just a flat-out competitor. he can guard the ball. He can guard off the ball. He's versatile. He can make shots whether he is at the 1 or the 2. He can drive it whether he is at the 1 or the 2.

"In today's NBA game, those point guards that you see, they're not natural point guards. They didn't grow up as a typical 1 and now they're playing 1 throughout their entire career. They come in as an athlete, as an aggressive two in college, and some have converted into a 1 and that has been very effective at the NBA level. I could see him as a 2 or a 1."

So maybe Oladipo can be like George Hill or Russell Westbrook and make the transition from college shooting guard to NBA point guard. It is something that has been done before with success.

Borrego said Oladipo has similar qualities to fill the role of point guard in the NBA today. Specifically, his ability to create havoc and change an entire game on both ends of the floor suggest that his label as plainly a "guard" is apt for now.

"This week gave us a little better idea of what we have," Borrego said. "I think he handled himself well at the one. I don't think that necessarily makes us our future one. Can he continue to develop in that area and become it? I think he has a chance."

Philip Rossman-Reich

About Philip Rossman-Reich

Philip Rossman-Reich is the managing editor for Crossover Chronicles and Orlando Magic Daily. You can follow him on twitter @OMagicDaily