The Indiana Pacers took LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers to game 7 in the first round of the 2018 Eastern Conference playoffs and Victor Oladipo played a major role in that series.
Cavs v. Pacers: Game 1 highlights
Oladipo Soars To New Levels
Victor Oladipo revitalized his career in Indiana. He went from an afterthought in Oklahoma City to an All-Star in Indiana. Last season Oladipo was named to his first All-Star team, named to the All-NBA Third Team, All-Defensive First Team, and was named the NBA’s Most Improved Player of 2018. These awards are all well-deserved as Oladipo was a man on a mission last season. Oladipo averaged; 23.1 points, 4.3 assists, 5.2 rebounds, 2.4 steals, shot 47% from the field and 37% from 3-point range. Averaging 2.4 steals a game made Oladipo the 2018 steals leader in the NBA. Oladipo was almost guaranteed to win Most Improved Player considering the change from his forgettable time with the Thunder to his electric, high flying displays in Indiana. This was no coincidence, Oladipo worked extremely hard and pulled off one of the most impressive body transformations the NBA has seen in recent years.
Oladipo spent the summer of 2017 in Miami training. He worked out 2-3 times a day and completely changed his diet. No fast food, no refined sugars, nothing that wasn’t from mother nature. This lifestyle change combined with his obsession with improvement and talent will set Oladipo up for a long and fulfilling career. Pacers coach Nate McMillan has high praise for the new Oladipo, telling NBA.com “He has Wall and Westbrook speed.” Oladipo has been asked about the summer transformation and stated “I invested in me, I invested my time, invested my body, invested my mind, and it’s paying off.” This impressive investment impressed 3-time NBA Champion Dwayne Wade. Wade was in Miami last summer with Oladipo and said “He transformed his mind.” Oladipo has taken his game, both physical and mental, to a new level. Just how high will Oladipo climb? Nobody can be certain, but as they say “History repeats itself.” Oladipo’s career path, playstyle and work ethic closely match another shooting guard from the Midwest …. Jimmy Butler
The obvious difference between Butler and Oladipo is their draft positions. Oladipo went 2nd overall and Butler went 30th. Butler won Most Improved Player and was named to his first All-Star team in 2015, at the age of 25. Oladipo won Most Improved Player and was named to his first All-Star team in 2018, at the age of 26. Butler has been on the All-Defensive second team 4 times. Oladipo was just named to All-Defensive first team. Butler has been on the All-NBA third team twice and Oladipo was just named to his first All-NBA third team. If you’re still not convinced check out the table below and the two almost-identical stat lines.
The Rest of the Squad
Oladipo’s impressive play brought the Pacers into the playoff picture last season and they hope to build on top of that. Myles Turner is another young player with a high ceiling. Turner can be an All-Star in years to come but hasn’t had the production expected by those who were high on Turner going into the 2015 Draft. Turner anchors a defensive just about as well as any other center in the NBA averaging 1.8 blocks a game last year. Turner has a solid offensive skill set but just hasn’t gotten to the next level yet. Turner has turned his dedication to basketball up a notch over summer. Turner has improved his diet, dropping his body fat from 14% to around 8%. Turner has also been partaking in yoga. These changes to his training will relieve pressure on his joints, reducing injury/soreness, and increase his explosiveness. Turner himself acknowledged the positive effects of his training changes when he said “I know I feel different, just my movements on the floor … I feel more, I don’t think ‘majestic’ is the work for it, but I feel better, not as wobbly. I feel a lot stronger overall” If this offseason diet and training change can have the same effect Oladipo’s had on his game, the eastern conference could be in trouble. Looking at the rest of the centers in the east, Turner can possibly be named an All-Star reserve this season. Let’s hope the yoga pays off.
Tyreke Evans was a great addition for the Pacers. He will be able to handle the ball and take some of the offensive pressure off of Oladipo’s shoulders. Aaron Holiday may be the point guard of the future for the Pacers, but for now, they have Darren Collison. The Pacers have enough talent to win a first-round playoff series and maybe even a second-round series as well. Given all of this, I do not expect the Pacers to be playing in June. They have time, tons of young talent. Can’t wait to see what’s next for this franchise.