There is very little going on in Magic world right now as we await for the conclusion of the FIBA World Cup and the beginning of training camp at the end of September. That gives us about a month to kill.
And a month to look earnestly into the future.
The Magic future for the 2015 season is tied completely with Victor Oladipo‘s continued improvement. There is no other way around it. No pressure, Victor.
Oladipo has noted throughout the summer that he expects to take on a bigger leadership role this year. That is asking a lot of a second-year player. Even if he was the No. 2 overall pick.
The opportunity is undoubtedly there though. The Magic traded away Arron Afflalo and let Jameer Nelson walk in free agency. The veterans who might have demanded the ball are gone. The constant theme for the 2015 season will be how the Magic’s young core handle the added attention and handle the responsibility of being the leaders of the team. Expect some bumps in the road as the team matures.
The question is can he step into this role?
That is a really hard question to answer. Predicting the future is hard and the growth a player makes from his first to his second year can be rather dramatic. Players understand the challenges ahead of them after one time through the league and have some experience to go off of in dealing with the crazy back to backs and intense schedule. Going from about 30 games to 82 games is a huge step up. Not to mention the increase in talent level and skill.
It is really rare when a rookie hits the ground running without any learning or growing pains. Those will continue even as Oladipo continues to improve.
But can Oladipo make this humongous jump from precocious rookie, able to make his own offense and score in flashes, to high-usage star player?
Oladipo has obviously done that. He did it at Indiana when he helped guide the Hoosiers to being a top seed in the NCAA Tournament and into the Sweet Sixteen. Here is how his numbers looked from his junior year at Indiana to his rookie year.
Interestingly, Oladipo’s numbers stayed pretty much in line with some slight improvements from his final year in college. His usage rate went way up (a product of turnovers perhaps, which saw a slight uptick that would be expected as a rookie). But otherwise, it seems Oladipo continues a major rise as he improves his basketball skill and confidence.
So what does that leave in store for Year 2?
First, expect an improvement in his field goal percentage. Oladipo knew his 3-point shooting would be an issue and his outside shot had to continue to improve. Again, the pace of the game and the quality of the defenders took a big jump. It was somewhat expected to see Oladipo struggle a bit.
If you look at the shot chart below, you see a lot of blue. Oladipo struggled to score as he went through those growing pains.
You will see a lot of shots at the right elbow. Oladipo got better and better at that dribble pull-up at the elbow. It became his pet move when he could not get to the basket. He was also pretty good at getting himself around the rim. That is a positive sign moving forward.
Oladipo also grew as the season went on. He did not hit the “rookie wall” and finished the season on a pretty solid kick.
His shooting remained a roller coast (as you can see in the table below). There were not any statistical changes, it seemed, in Oladipo’s play as the season progressed. That suggests he still has a lot of work to do to improve his jumper and his efficiency. And that, to some extent, he is a little bit predictable.
Take a look at how his field goal percentages progressed as the year went on:
Pretty amazing how Oladipo’s numbers remained so steady, especially starting in the middle of the season. He really began to find his stride. His efficiency predictably increased as he took fewer shot attempts. The future is indeed bright.
That growth from the first to the second year is expected and will be key for Oladipo in his continued development.
So what can we expect then? For this I want to turn to two comparisons.
The first is the unfair comparison — Dwyane Wade.
Entering the Draft, everyone compared Oladipo to Wade because they played for the same coach (Tom Crean) and had similar playing styles. Namely, bury your head and get to the basket. Take a look at Dwyane Wade’s shot chart in his first two years:
Lots going on in the paint. And that elbow sure looks familiar. How about his sophomore year:
Again, still a lot in the paint, maybe a little less. But that shot from the left elbow got significantly better. It was a shot Wade knew he had to add. Also bringing Shaquille O’Neal in did not hurt.
A look at the raw numbers:
Wade made quite a leap from numbers pretty similar (a little better, but still similar) to Oladipo’s in his second year. But this is Dwyane Wade. He is one of the best shooting guards in NBA history. His early years were absolutely stellar. It is impossible to compare Oladipo to someone like him or to expect him to make a 49 percent increase in points per game in one season (at least, not without Shaq).
It is possible for Oladipo to make something of a jump like this. With a small improvement in his shooting — like Wade at that left elbow from his rookie to his sophomore season — his efficiency and scoring will improve. Oladipo would potentially become a better playmaker if teams have to respect that shot and he is able to get it into the paint more and cause the defense to collapse. Mastering that jump shot will be absolutely key to unlocking Oladipo’s potential.
Then again, we cannot exactly say what Oladipo will be at this point.
We only know he will continue to improve and continue to get better.