Victor Oladipo’s Shooting is a Welcomed Surprise for OKC
Victor Oladipo is finally starting to show Oklahoma City Thunder fans his true potential. Acquired in the offseason from the Orlando Magic, the fourth-year guard was supposedly going to create a dynamic backcourt that would aid in another deep playoff run alongside Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant. Alas, Durant departed and Oladipo was left to lead a team, with Westbrook, into uncharted territory as a team that was no longer a championship contender.
The integration of Oladipo’s game has not been a smooth coalescence. Oladipo often looked tentative and struggled to find a footing in the flow of the offense. In the first five games of the season, he posted two games below 30% from the field and two games below or at 40%.
The shooting percentages didn’t completely tell the story of his beginning tenure with the team. The lack of comfort and confidence was almost palpable. Oladipo, known as an attack guard, has attempted shots at the rim at a surprisingly low rate this season. His shots at the rim through the team’s first ten games were, in a phrase, consistently inconsistent. He averaged 3.5 attempts at the rim, and converted on an underwhelming percentage of 42.
This should have been expected from a player whose role has vacillated so much during his time in Orlando. From being a starting point guard to off-guard to being relegated to a bench role, nothing was set in stone for him. Not to mention various coaching changes and changes to schemes. It was always going to take some time for him to find his role in the Russell Westbrook Show.
Victor has now seemed to find his groove while also upping his play in an impressive fashion. Oladipo came to the team touted as an attack guard much like Westbrook. The question mark on his game was his shooting—mainly from the outside. But that has seemed to have subsided as he has become one of the team’s better outside shooters.
At 41% from 3, this is by far the best percentage of his career. His five attempts per game are the most he’s shot from three in his first three seasons in the league. His true shooting percentage has also increased since the move to Oklahoma City as well, sitting at 56%.
The increase in shooting performance hasn’t been out of the character of the offense or an example of a player hijacking an offense. This season marks the lowest usage rate of his career. Clearly, playing alongside Westbrook, one would have expected his usage to drop. However, Oladipo has found a way to provide the team what it desperately needs to survive, while also taking a backseat to a player the likes of Westbrook.
Westbrook’s passes also seem to find Oladipo quite a bit. That brings up a certain caveat: Does this stretch mainly derive from the presence of his point guard? Oladipo is receiving more passes from Westbrook than he has from any other player on the roster by a significant margin—14 per game.
However, he has become quite the catch-and-shoot player during this stretch. His percentages on catch-and-shoot shots have him top ten in the NBA among guards.
Additionally, when receiving a pass from Westbrook for a three point shot, Oladipo is converting at a healthy 44%.
Just because Oladipo has found his stroke doesn’t mean he has neglected his interior scoring. In the last ten games, he has averaged a little over three attempts a game, but hit them at ultra-efficient 74%. Doubly so, he attempts 4 shots in the restricted area a game and converts those on a 60% clip.
Victor Oladipo is contributing at a level that is only going to help this Thunder team moving forward. As the number two overall pick in the 2013 draft, there appears to be a plethora of untouched potential embedded in his game. For now, he has looked to unlock his perimeter shot. Seemingly, the next question is what are we going to see improve next?