Losers of four straight, a teetering Oklahoma City Thunder squad tread unenviable territory Wednesday night opposite the circling Houston Rockets. In the four games prior, ineffective two-way execution dashed Oklahoma City’s competitive hopes. As the once 6-1 Thunder free-fell into an 0-4 abyss, the ineffectual performances of new acquisition Victor Oladipo embodied the team’s crestfallen tenor.
Welcomed as part of a draft-night trade for mainstay Serge Ibaka, Oladipo’s acclimation process has at best been an arduous experience. The fourth-year guard sat within basketball purgatory as his team fell from the league’s early elite to the ranks of its middling scrum.
From Nov. 9-14 (All OKC losses) Oladipo shot just 36% from the field while posting 14.3 points on 15 shot attempts. More so, Oladipo’s peripheral statistics of 3.3 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 60% FT, and -2.3 plus-minus all served to accentuate Oklahoma City's tailspin.
During this period, however, Oladipo’s most egregious transgression was a career-low assist rate of 7.5%. In 362 minutes of action prior to Wednesday night, VO5 tallied a minuscule 17 assists — or 2.3 apg per 100 possessions.
Victor Oladipo is 22-of-60 from the field during OKC's four-game skid. On the season, Oladipo's apg total has dropped to 1.5-- or 2.3 p100p— Joshua Broom (@BroomSports82) November 15, 2016
Certainly, these diminished playmaking numbers are a troubling sign for a player who, throughout his career, has averaged four assists per game while manning the point guard position on roughly 30% of a total 7,801 minutes played.
As Oklahoma City’s setbacks have coincided with Oladipo’s recent status as a ball-sticking offensive debt, the frustrations of Thunder Nation have compounded.
Entering Wednesday night, clamors of censorious disapproval toward Oladipo’s performance, along with faint grumblings to perhaps replace him in the Thunder starting lineup, became undeniable.
Yet, amid the nadir of Victor's brief OKC tenure, an irrepressible supernova of on-court radiance materialized for the embattled guard opposite James Harden and the Houston Rockets.
Plays such as this gem emerged from the reinvigorated basketball consciousness of Victor Oladipo. Here Oladipo finds a streaking Andre Roberson for a textbook finish to the three-on-two fast break. Note how Oladipo forces his man to over commit with a hard bounce before serving Roberson on a silver platter.
While Oladipo rediscovered his overall rhythm opposite Houston, (12-of-18 shooting, 29 points, ten rebounds, five assists) he, more importantly, became an active playmaker within (40-84 FG, 25 assists) a fluid Oklahoma City offensive set.
With his reputation — and OKC’s wavering psyche — in the balance, Oladipo stormed forth in a proactive mission to involve his fellow Thunder. During this well executed secondary break, Oladipo draws three Rocket defenders to him by driving hard, which enables the former Indiana Hoosier to skip a pass to the wide-open Steven Adams for an uncontested floater.
As Oklahoma City ultimately prevailed 105-103 vs. Houston, thus evading what would have been a harrowing fifth-consecutive loss, the Thunder’s three-point accuracy (12-of-25) served as a devastating weapon.
On the night, Oladipo assisted on three of Oklahoma City’s twelve converts from deep. None were more important than this reversal to an uncontested Jerami Grant following a Steven Adams brush screen. From this point, the Thunder closed the contest on a decisive 25-13 run.
While Oladipo's emergence has entailed just one game, that one game could become an edifying epiphany for the upward mobility of this season's Oklahoma City Thunder iteration.