The Thunder 2016 summer featured many changes, one of which was the addition of Victor Oladipo to their roster. Oladipo is tasked with making up for the talent lost in the Serge Ibaka trade that sent the big man to Orlando on June 23rd. Billy Donovan had originally planned to add Oladipo to the Westbrook-Durant tandem, which would've formed an unstoppable back-court. Those plans were laid to waste when Durant signed his contract with Golden State, an event that only elevates Oladipo’s potential impact.
Fortunately for both the Thunder and Oladipo, not all the pressure falls onto him. The two recent Thunder signings (including Westbrook's extension), were high priority for OKC. However, by also locking up Stephen Adams for four years, The Thunder are now taking a more balanced approach, no longer relying on one superstar to get the job done. Come playoff time, the Thunder will be glad to have made moves to form a well-rounded roster.
The Marylander started his basketball career playing for DeMatha High School. During his senior year, he blossomed into averaging 11.9 points, 10.3 rebounds and 3.6 blocks per game. Victor was added to the list of Top 50 Point Guards and placed within the Top 200 overall of his graduating class by the hands of Rivals.com and Scout.com, respectively. Oladipo would eventually go on to Indiana University, turning down key offers from Maryland, Notre Dame, and Xavier. Victor played only 18 minutes per game his freshman year, but still averaged 7.4 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 1.1 steals all while shooting 54% from the field.
Oladipo shined brighter during his sophomore and junior years. He continued his superb shooting percentage and averaged 12.2 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 1.8 steals while playing 27.5 minutes per game. At the end of his junior season, Victor was named National Co-Defensive Player of the Year and Sporting News Men's College Basketball Player of the Year. The Hoosier was unanimously picked to the All-Big Ten first-team and was named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the year.
In April 2013, Oladipo officially made the announcement to forgo his senior season at Indiana and enter the 2013 NBA draft. The Orlando Magic selected Victor with the second overall pick in the draft, marking the beginning of his professional career. During his rookie year, Victor managed 13.8 points, 4.1 assists, 4.1 rebounds, and shot 42% from the field. Victor only improved over the course of playing for the Magic, completing 4% more free throws, and averaging 4 points more per game during his second year (17.9 PPG, 4.1 APG, 4.2 RPG). These three seasons playing for the Magic would make an impression on the Thunder, motivating them to trade star forward, Serge Ibaka, for Oladipo.
Oladipo has started in all of the Thunder’s games this season, giving us insight to how exactly his strengths will benefit the team. This last Monday facing off against the Miami Heat, Oladipo went 6/9 from the floor, scoring 17 points in 33 minutes of game play. With Westbrook getting limited minutes, letting the youngsters boast their skills, Oladipo certainly gave fans an insight into what the rest of the season could turn out to look like. In addition to this, Oladipo managed to provide more proof of his capability of controlling the back-court without Westbrook by his side, a clear-cut positive for OKC.
As far as the future concerns, Oladipo could no doubt be a long-term prize to the Thunder’s starting lineup. It’s no secret that Victor is developing a chemistry with Westbrook as well with the rest of the organization. Coach Billy Donovan has already gone as far as praising Victor’s large amount of experience despite being so young and fresh to the league, as well as extensive effort and motivation to win. His work ethic certainly fits with his teammates, thirsty for a title, and eager to be the absolute best in the league.
Though he has struggled finding his shot early in games, Oladipo has showcased the skill set necessary to fill some of the void that Kevin Durant has left behind, with his three-point shooting and reliable defending. Humbly, Oladipo admits his need to develop on both sides of the court rather than trying to replace the former Thunder superstar offensively. Victor hopes to become a well-rounded player and a star point-guard that the Thunder organization and his teammates can rely on.