Biggest Challenges Victor Oladipo Faces in Transitioning to Point Guard
Victor Oladipo made a historic rise up draft boards in 2012-13. After looking like a four-year college role player, he emerged as the top shooting guard prospect in the country, which led to the Orlando Magic selecting him with the No. 2 overall pick.
But with Arron Afflalo cemented into the rotation, along with the three years and roughly $23 million left on his deal, there's currently a logjam at the wing and off-guard position.
The Magic didn't use a high pick on Oladipo for him to back up Afflalo. Instead, they plan on experimenting with Oladipo by letting him test drive the point guard position. This way, he can play alongside Afflalo, as well as behind him.
Magic GM Rob Hennigan: "We are going to play @VicOladipo at both guard spots ... we see that as the future of the league."
— Orlando Magic (@Orlando_Magic) September 12, 2013
Oladipo will have to make a number of adjustments, both mentally and fundamentally, to overcome the challenges of transitioning to point guard. He flashed some promise in summer league, but this is clearly more of a long-term project.
There are three areas of the game that Oladipo will have to improve or adjust in order to successfully make the transition from shooting guard to point guard.
Think about today's NBA point guards, from the smaller ones like Ty Lawson and Kemba Walker to the bigger ones like Derrick Rose and John Wall. While they each have different strengths, all of them share one that allows them to play the point guard position—a tight, creative handle.
You won't find an NBA point guard, whether they're the starter or last guy off the bench, who isn't an adept ball-handler.
The dribble is what allows point guards to do what they do—navigate through traffic and manipulate the defense in order to create scoring opportunities. Whether it's pick-and-rolling, drive-and-dishing or pushing the ball for a fast-break bucket, the dribble is the motor that powers the point guard's threat to a defense. And Oladipo's needs work.
It's much-improved since his early days at Indiana, but he's still more of a line driver than a guard who can shake and change directions.
To make the transition, Oladipo will have to become more elusive off the dribble, particularly in one-on-one situations.
High-Ball Screen Offense
NBA point guards see a ton of ball screens. The ball screen gives the ball-handler three options—hit the screener on a pick-and-roll, use the hesitation dribble and attack the rim or pull up in space over the screen.
For Oladipo to maximize the threat he poses with the ball in his hands, he'll have to excel in all three areas. During summer league, he flashed potential in each one.
Here's Oladipo dribbling over the ball screen and pulling up in space:
Being able to pull up in space will increase Oladipo's scoring opportunities. Instead of being forced to attack 7-foot rim protectors, the pull-up is a more balanced look. Why try and score in traffic when you can stop and pop before it?
And because of the space a ball screen creates, pull-up jumpers are frequently available to point guards.
If Oladipo wants to maximize his scoring opportunities as a point guard, he'll turn that pull-up jumper into an automatic weapon.
He also showed during summer league he's got the awareness, vision and ball skills to hit the screener on a pick-and-pop:
The last high-ball screen option is one that Oladipo excels at executing. He's just so quick, explosive and slippery when attacking the basket. Oladipo should pick up plenty of buckets by using the ball screen to open up a driving lane.
Recipient/Finisher versus Distributor/Play-creator
As a shooting guard at Indiana, Oladipo spent most of his time off the ball on the wing. He was a guy who got buckets by slashing, finishing in transition and spotting up around the arc.
As a point guard, Oladipo will be the guy initiating the plays—not the one finishing them (at least not as many). Formerly the recipient of most alley-oops and open-floor dunks or layups, now he'll be the guy who sets them up for his teammates.
You could argue that putting him on the ball takes away from his strengths as an off-ball playmaker. Oladipo has been a guy who makes things happen without needing his number called.
But with the way he's evolving as a player, it's not out of the question that his strengths completely shift. When you compare the tape of Oladipo playing summer league ball with the tape from his junior year at Indiana, it's like looking at two different players.
There's great reward if the Magic can turn Oladipo into a point guard. And given this team will likely be fighting for position in the lottery and not the playoffs, a failed experiment shouldn't cost very much.
With some work on his ball-handling and high-ball screen offense, Oladipo could be Jameer Nelson's long-term replacement.
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