Making the case for every fringe playoff team

The NBA season is halfway over, which means it’s time to start evaluating potential playoff teams.

The top four seeds in each conference are virtual locks, due to overall talent and coaching. The fifth-seventh seeds will do some changing around as teams jockey for their playoff seeding. Although, close followers of the NBA probably wouldn’t be surprised if the Pistons or the Trailblazers fell out of the playoff picture after overachieving slightly in the first half of the season.

As with any sport’s playoff, however, the most interesting storylines are the ones involving the teams on the bubble.

With that in mind, let’s look at each conference’s eighth seed and first two teams on the outside looking in.

Eastern Conference

Indiana Pacers (21-19, No. 8 seed)

The Pacers have been just fine without Paul George. Victor Oladipo has been playing close to his ceiling, although they’re still overpaying for him. The other piece of the trade that sent George away, Domantas Sabonis, has also been playing nicely. He’s two rebounds shy of averaging a double-double, and will probably end up setting career-high averages in every meaningful category.

While their offense has been clicking, their defense is some of the most below average in the Association. Not awful, just very mediocre. Their offense alone can win the Pacers enough games to keep them in the 8th spot. Lack of defensive consistency will have been their downfall if they fail to make the cut.

Philadelphia 76ers (19-19, first team out)

Philadelphia is one of the most exciting stories in the NBA this season. The “process” seems to have finally come to fruition, and we are finally seeing glimpses of what this long and arduous rebuild has wrought.

Even though the 76ers are a .500 team, don’t be fooled. They’re currently first in the league in rebounds per game, second in assists resulting made field goals, and sixth in points. A rested and re-energized team could ride that kind of momentum to a playoff spot after the All Star break. Plus, their first overall draft pick hasn’t even played five games yet.

NBA Playoffs

Embiid scores on Whiteside. (Photo by: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

What will keep them out of the playoffs is their youth and inconsistency in their game to game performances. As the season drags on, the young players might start to slow down, which will only exacerbate their inconsistency issues. Those red flags usually mean a .500 team will stay a .500 team, but playing in a weak conference will definitely help.

New York Knicks (19-21, second team out)

The Knicks are a force to be reckoned with in the paint on both ends of the court. They are ninth in points in the paint and second in points allowed in the paint. Yes, we’re talking about the New York Knicks.

The team is huge, size-wise. Porzingis, O’Quinn, Kanter and Noah are all either over or close to 7-feet. That length pays dividends over a long regular season, but could actually be a problem if they sneak into the playoffs. The East is full of jump shooting teams, which will stretch New York’s strengths too thin to make them truly effective.

Western Conference

New Orleans Pelicans (20-19, No. 8 seed)

New Orleans might very well be a better team than their record indicates. They’re second in points in the paint thanks to Anthony Davis and Demarcus Cousins. They’re also second in the NBA in assists per game thanks to some great guard play both from starters and off the bench. Not to mention they have the second toughest schedule in the NBA (according to 2016-2017 team records).

Team defense leaves a lot to be desired for the Pelicans. Bottom five in opponents points in the paint per game doesn’t make a lot of sense considering the front court they have. They also give up the third most points in the league per game.

NBA Playoffs

Davis and Cousins during a game against the Spurs. (Photo by: Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)

It’s an especially strange case on New Orleans’ part. The chemistry and coaching is clearly there, as evidenced by the assist totals. But the defense is nowhere near where it should be, in spite of Cousins and Davis. Remember that Alvin Gentry was brought on to be a defensive mastermind, and the roster has only gotten better since he came to town. Maybe look for a coaching shake-up if the Pelicans miss the playoffs.

Los Angeles Clippers (18-21, first team out)

Doc Rivers’ team is hurting out west. The Clippers have been a staple of the Western Conference playoffs for the past six years, but the days of Lob City have finally come to an end. Chris Paul’s departure marked a culture change for the Clips, and the team has not found its stride just yet.

Los Angeles still has a great 3-point game. Beverley, Williams, Rivers and even Griffin can all pull up from distance. They also have great personnel for man-to-man defense. Those two things are golden in NBA playoff basketball. But, yet again, team defense is going to be the main hurdle between them and their playoff streak.

Utah Jazz (16-24, second team out)

The new look Jazz are in a soft rebuild. After losing their number one scorer in Gordon Hayward, the Jazz were almost certainly take on a new identity. But picking up Ricky Rubio and finding a steal in Donovan Mitchell should have stopped the bleeding more than it has.

Their defense is some of the best in the NBA, all around. In fact, the Jazz are top 10 in almost every meaningful defensive category under Quin Snider. Against the trend, the offense is what will probably keep Utah out of the playoffs this year. Although, again, this is a new look team. And offense almost always comes together more quickly than defense. If they can keep up the defensive dominance, they won’t be out of the playoff picture for long.

 

Featured image by ANTHONY GRUPPUSO-USA TODAY

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2018 NBA All-Star game starters

Predicting the NBA All-Star starters

NBA All-Star weekend is a great time for players to get some rest, have fun and entertain. Being the best at your job is always sought after, just like being an All-Star in the NBA is.

This season, there are many different combinations that are worthy of being starts for the All-Star game on both the East and the West. With the Western Conference having the majority of last year’s All-Stars, the Eastern Conference could potentially have some new faces in their starting lineups.

Eastern Conference

2018 NBA All-Star game starters

2017 NBA All-Star game (Photo from Clutchpoints.com)

There is a little bit of difference here.

2017 starters: Kyrie Irving, DeMar DeRozan, LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jimmy Butler.

Obviously Butler is now a member of the Western Conference, so he will be replaced. Like every year, the big man has been taken out of most starting lineups due to the NBA trying to increase scoring and excitement. The five that seem most likely to get the call include a new face who was previously in the Western Conference.

Irving, DeRozan, James, Antetokounmpo and Victor Oladipo seem to be the most deserving. This would obviously put Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid on the outside looking in, but they would be reserves.

Oladipo has proven that he can be a No. 1 for a surprising Indiana Pacers team. Oladipo’s numbers read as 24.8 points, 4.1 assists and 5.3 rebounds per game. He is averaging well over his career average in every statistic previously listed. He is shooting nearly six percent better than his career average and has a player efficiency rating over 24. He is more than deserving of a starting spot in a weak Eastern Conference.

Oladipo is the second leading scoring guard in the East only behind DeRozan. Oladipo is shooting the exact same from the field per game as Steph Curry. Oladipo is shooting just over 49 percent on almost 18 attempts, which is the same as Curry exactly.

Oladipo is having his best statistical season of his career. His stats match up against all other Eastern Conference guards. In comparison to someone like Joel Embiid, Oladipo has played in more games, averaged more points, played more minutes and as of right now, the Indiana Pacers have a better record than the Philadelphia 76ers. The Pacers have overachieved based on rankings, and that is why Oladipo’s been so important.

Western Conference

The Western Conference is home to the league’s best big men.

2017 starters: Steph Curry, James Harden, Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard and Anthony Davis.

This year there doesn’t seem to be too much difference.

This year’s starters could have some parody. There are three point guards in the West all deserving of a spot. Curry, Harden (I guess we can officially call him a point guard now) and Russell Westbrook.

Durant seems like a sure thing, and the final spots seem to be between the Pelican big men. In the end, I think the lineup for the West has to be Curry, Harden, Durant, Davis and DeMarcus Cousins.

Last year, in Russell Westbrook’s MVP season, he didn’t start in the All-Star game. This season, he has less impressive numbers and has more help. He is still the third best guard among that trio. It does not help that the game is being held in L.A., which means that Curry is put ahead of him.

It’s hard to pick between the two Pelican big men. They both have solid numbers and compliment each other well. In the Western Conference, the two are fourth and fifth in the voting, and they are both more than deserving for a spot in the frontcourt.

The argument for getting both of the Pelican big men to the starting lineup starts with this: DeMarcus Cousins is averaging 25.8 points and 12.5 rebounds per game. Anthony Davis is averaging 25.8 points as well and 10.3 rebounds per game. The two are averaging double-doubles in the same frontcourt. They both have a player efficiency rating over 23.7. A guy like Kawhi Leonard being hurt opens the door for both big men.

Karl-Anthony Towns is another guy averaging a double-double and is up over 23 in his player efficiency rating. He plays the exact same minutes as Cousins. The only difference is he is averaging just over 20 points per game which is nearly 20 percent less than both Cousins and Davis, and they are on the same team.

Ultimately, the last two spots in the Western Conference starting lineup are likely two of the three previously listed players. Davis and Cousins have made strong cases as All-Star starters, and they share the same frontcourt.

The hometown guy

Kyle Kuzma will find his way on a roster here. He has put up great numbers and at times has been the most important piece for the Lakers. It seems like the voters love to have a hometown guy, and Kuzma, at this point, seems to be the most deserving.

 

Featured image from basketinfo.com.

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NBA takeaways

Eight thoughts about the NBA season minus LeBron James

The NBA is off to a wonderful, yet somewhat surprising start. The Celtics have won 16 straight games, the Pistons are third in the Eastern Conference and the Oklahoma City Thunder are under .500 despite building a super team in the offseason. Here are a few early season takeaways.

1. Is Lonzo Ball going to be good?

Going into the draft, the Lakers knew they were not drafting Lonzo Ball for his scoring ability, but his shot has been just awful. On shots from 0-3 feet from the basket (essentially layups), Ball is shooting 45.5 percent. His abysmal 22.8 3-point percentage is the worst in the NBA.

NBA takeaways

Hopefully Lonzo can figure out the whole shooting thing (Photo from ClutchPoints)

Instead of panicking, let’s look at some other famous guards. Russell Westbrook shot 47.6 percent from 0-3 feet, and 27.1 percent from three during his first year with the Oklahoma City Thunder. John Wall shot 40.9 percent from the field as a 20-year old in Washington, which is not as poor as Lonzo’s 31.3 percent, but is still weak.

Now for the positives. His assist-to-turnover ratio is pretty solid, and he already has two triple-doubles. Only 12 other guards have eclipsed multiple triple-doubles during their rookie seasons. That list consists of Jason Kidd, Michael Jordan, Chris Paul, Walt Frazier, Tim Hardaway and Kevin Johnson. It also includes Michael Carter-Williams, Jamaal Tinsley, Art Williams and Elfrid Payton.

Long story short, he could be great, but he also could be a major bust. He appears somewhat passive, and walking away from a fight that involved his teammates makes me question his toughness. Only time will tell, but in BBB we trust. Through 17 games, Ball is averaging 7.1 rebounds and 7.1 assists. The only other rookies to average at least seven boards and seven assists were Oscar Robertson and Magic Johnson.

2. Ben Simmons is super talented

You can already tell that, barring injury, Ben Simmons will be in the Hall of Fame. He is a lock for NBA Rookie of the Year, averaging a ridiculous 18.7 points, 9.2 rebounds and 7.6 assists per game. The only other rookie to average at least 18-8-7 was the great Oscar Robertson. He is the modern day Magic Johnson, and NBA fans should be ecstatic.

The kid can do it all. He is special in half court, full court, open court, heck, he would probably be good in a court of law. The best part is a guy who has no jump shot is shooting 52.3 percent from the field. Simmons dominates inside, shooting 73.5 percent from 0-3 feet. I pray each and every day that he stays healthy for the remainder of the season.

3. Joel Embiid is so fun for the NBA

On Monday night, we watched Embiid swat Utah’s Donovan Mitchell, then proceeded to talk trash while Mitchell was down. This prompted Mitchell to shove Embiid, who flopped and drew a technical foul as he fell down to the floor.

In a game against the Clippers, Embiid had 32 points and 16 rebounds, while taunting Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. The following night, Embiid put up his historic 46-15-7-7 stat line and proceeded to taunt Lonzo and LaVar Ball on social media.

Embiid is a national treasure, and like his teammate Simmons, needs prayers every night to stay healthy. He has a chance to be an all-time great, both on and off the court.

4. Brad Stevens is a magician and Kyrie Irving is special

The Celtics are off to an amazing start at 16-2, but the MVP of their team is not on the court. He is patrolling from courtside and calling out the plays.

Head coach Brad Stevens is the obvious choice for Coach of the Year and rightfully so. Without Gordon Hayward, Boston is riding a 16-game winning streak, and sits atop the Eastern Conference. Their defense has been phenomenal, ranking second in opponent field goal percentage, third in opponent threes allowed and fifth in total steals. Offensively, Boston is first in total rebounds and third in free throws made.

NBA takeaways

16 and counting (Photo from NBA.com)

When the Celtics were sitting at 14 straight, Stevens, in a postgame interview, noted “We gotta play a lot better.” That is a clear sign of an elite coach.

Kyrie Irving is shooting worse from the field, from three and from the line compared to last season. Luckily, Irving looks to be back on track after two dominating performances. Against the Hawks, Irving had 30 points while shooting 10-12. On Monday, Uncle Drew had his best game as a member of the Celtics. In an eight-point win against Dallas, Irving had 47 points (16-22), six assists and was +21 for the game.

He is also the most clutch player in the NBA. In the final five minutes with the score within five, Irving, in 38 minutes, has 65 points (24-39), 10 assists, zero turnovers, and a plus-minus of +40. Momma there goes that man.

5. Victor Oladipo looks like an All-Star

After being the punchline in the Paul George trade, the former No. 2 overall pick is having quite the season in Indiana. Oladipo is averaging 22.9 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 3.8 assists, while shooting 44.7 percent from long range. All of a sudden, Oladipo is an offensive threat, and has the Pacers above .500.

6. Dwight Howard is a Hall of Famer

On Monday night, Howard had 25 points and 20 rebounds in a win over the Minnesota Timberwolves. This was his 49th 20-point, 20-rebound game, which is the most of any player since 1983. Yes, that is more than Charles Barkley, Hakeem Olajuwon and Shaquille O’Neal.

NBA takeaways

Dwight Howard will be inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame (Photo from USA Today)

This past March in an interview with Marc Spears of ESPN’s The Undefeated, Howard was asked about whether or not he thinks he will be the Hall of Fame. He responded by saying, “No doubt. It’s kind of got swept under the rug because the perception of all the things that happened in Orlando. All of the media stuff. If you look at basketball itself, and I don’t ever talk about myself, but winning three Defensive Player of the Year trophies has never been done. Leading the league in rebounding six straight years. All that kind of stuff, I think that deserves it.”

Although he actually has only led the NBA in five total seasons rather than six straight, the eight-time All-Star should walk into the Hall of Fame with ease. It’s so funny because he has had such an awkward career, from dominating in Orlando, to flopping with the Lakers and bouncing from the Rockets to the Hawks and now the Hornets.

Yes, he has probably underachieved, but Howard’s numbers will put him up with the all-time greats when all is said and done.

7. What is going on in OKC?

Of course it takes time to adjust to playing with other All-Stars, but this Thunder team is sketchy. They are 7-9, and Russell Westbrook is shooting worse from the field and free-throw line than last year. He also has less assists per game despite having more talent around him.

Carmelo Anthony is shooting 42.2 percent, which would be the worst field goal percentage of his career. They are constantly letting teams back into games after the first quarter, and have now lost two straight despite being ahead by 20 points in both contests. Hopefully this team figures it out and can compete with Golden State come June.

8. James Harden is the MVP at this point in the season

Harden leads the league in points and assists per game. He is shooting 45 percent from the field, 40.4 percent from deep and 86.4 percent from the line.

Houston leads the Western Conference at 13-4, and Harden was dominating without Chris Paul, the team’s second best player, who was dealing with an injury. He dropped 56 points against Utah, and another 48 against the Suns.

 

Featured image by SlamOnline.com

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Oklahoma City Thunder 2017 NBA Draft profile

On day 19 of NBA Draftmas, the Oklahoma City Thunder’s draft needs and targets will be analyzed.

SUMMARY

Russell Westbrook (Photo by: thebiglead.com)

The Thunder had a solid season, qualifying for the playoffs as a six seed, which is especially impressive given the fact that Kevin Durant left in free agency. Russell Westbrook took over and had a historical season, becoming the second player ever to average a triple double for a season. While they do have some other solid players on the roster, the focal point of the Thunder moving forward is going to be getting Westbrook some help.

Oklahoma City ranked 11th in the NBA in points per game and ranked 16th in points allowed per game. The biggest strength of the Thunder is rebounding, as they led the league in rebounds per game. The area that needs the most improvement is three point shooting. Oklahoma City ranked dead last in three point shooting percentage and needs to acquire players that can help spread the floor for Westbrook.

Signing Westbrook to a long term deal will be the biggest necessity, since superstars don’t grown on trees. Getting players who can shoot and spread the floor will help make the Thunder into a better contender. They do have some nice pieces in Victor Oladipo, Enes Kanter and Steven Adams, but more is needed to compete in a very tough Western Conference.

Oklahoma City Thunder DRAFT PICKS & NEEDS

Oklahoma City has one pick in the 2017 NBA Draft and will need to make the most of it. 

First Round: No. 21

As stated earlier the biggest need for the Thunder is a three point shooter that can spread the floor. If they can find one that can log minutes immediately it would help the team start winning more games.

Another area of need is a backup point guard. Westbrook is one of the best players in the league, but they don’t have much behind him. Cameron Payne was shipped to Chicago. Norris Cole was a stop-gap signing for the end of the year and likely won’t be a great option for next season. Semaj Christon is frustrating to watch and hasn’t fully developed into a great option to play behind Westbrook.

TARGETS

Pick #21: Luke Kennard, SG, Duke

Luke Kennard (Photo by: si.com)

Kennard fills the three point shooting void for the Thunder. He shot a great 43.8% from deep last season at Duke. He also improved his ability to drive and create plays for others. Kennard won’t ever be a star in the NBA, but at pick number 21 could be a great pick and have a solid career.

He will fit into the Thunder well, because he hits open shots. When Westbrook drives to the basket and finds open teammates, Kennard will be one of the few that will be able to hit them more often than not. Just having that extra weapon on offense last year would’ve helped them win a few more games.

The reason that Kennard is likely to slide to the middle of the first round at the earliest is his defense. He will be a defensive liability in the NBA. He had a defensive rating of 104.4 at Duke and he doesn’t have too much more room for improvement in this area of his game. With Kennard on the floor he will give up a lot of points, but he will also score a lot too.

CONCLUSION

The Thunder need to get someone who can help Russell Westbrook get back to the top of the Western Conference. A player coming from this draft pick likely isn’t going to be a star, but they could get a solid player who helps them get back to competing in the West. Oklahoma City will need to get another star before they can really be considered a team capable of winning a championship.

Thanks for checking out the Oklahoma City Thunder 2017 NBA Draft profile and tune in tomorrow for day 20 of NBA Draftmas to see what the Brooklyn Nets are going to do.

Day 18: Atlanta Hawks

Day 17: Indiana Pacers

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Hiding in Plain Sight: Domantas Sabonis is Found Money for OKC

Domantas Sabonis, the Oklahoma City Thunder’s rookie, is a malleable piece for the team and the Thunder are molding him into a fine player.

The much talked about trade between the Orlando Magic and the Thunder involved an undervalued component. The Thunder received the 11th pick from the Magic and Sabonis made his way to OKC. The rookie player wasn’t expected to produce much, but in his unforeseen role he isn’t shying away from the challenge.

At 20 years old, Sabonis didn’t come in wide-eyed and bushy tailed. Playing professionally for Lithuania in this past year’s Olympic Games, and of course being the son of Hall Of Famer Arvydas Sabonis, the game doesn’t seem to be too big to handle for the young forward out of Gonzaga. Not to mention, getting the starting nod from head coach Billy Donovan seems like an underrated part of his development.

Only averaging a little over 20 minutes a game, this a win-win situation for the team going forward and for Sabonis’s maturity. He’s rarely ever on the floor without Westbrook or another starter – he’s logged more than 500 minutes of his time on the floor with Westbrook, upwards of 85% of his floor time. That much time on the court with the starters helps in his improvement of good habits and poise.

He is only averaging about one turnover a game, another by-product of Donovan’s sublime deployment of Sabonis.

When he is on the court he’s effective. Sabonis is averaging ten points, two assists, and six rebounds per 36 minutes — shooting 44% from the field and 42% on three-point shots. In two years at Gonzaga, Sabonis attempted all of 14 threes. He’s had 13 attempts already in December in only six games. This further shows how the Thunder are using Sabonis’ potential to mold him into the much coveted factotum power forward.

Sabonis’ confidence in his shot and his role is steadily growing. His six shots per game usually come in the flow of what the Thunder are doing on offense. His relatively low usage percentage indicates that as such.

Interestingly, every three point shot made by Sabonis has been assisted by another player.

Sabonis, however is going to have to begin to take more shots in the post. His predecessor at the starting four spot, Serge Ibaka, never was really able to gain a reliable post game that the Thunder could go to when the offense was stale. Sabonis is taking less than one post shot a game. With 65% of his shots coming from 10-16 feet, adding an arrow into his offensive quiver would be wise.

The lefty Sabonis would also be wise to develop the ability to use either hand to some degree. It seems as if he has an obvious affinity for his left side. That can lead to a pretty simple scouting report.

The Thunder have an important piece going forward in Sabonis. With his skill set and level of potential, Domantas has the rare chance of being a special player. It’s up to the front office, coaches, and teammates to make sure that his development doesn’t hit any snags and progresses smoothly. The onus is also on Sabonis to take advantage of his potential and his opportunity to add his name to Sabonis folklore.

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%.

Victor Oladipo shooting

Victor Oladipo has gotten more comfortable in OKC’s offense. (Photo: Alonzo Adams, Associated Press)

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.

Victor Oladipo shooting

Victor Oladipo has brought a great offensive skill set to OKC. (Photo: Daniel Ochoa de Olza, AP)

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?