Is Victor Oladipo Already a Lock to Win 2013-14 NBA Rookie of the Year?
Oladipo sure picked a good time to blossom into a well-rounded guard. With few of his draft classmates prepared to take on full-time NBA duties, Oladipo is in great shape to receive and ultimately pounce on an early opportunity.
It sure doesn't look like the physical transition will pose much of a challenge to the 6'4", 215-pound Oladipo. He hasn't been overwhelmed or fazed by the bigger size and strength of opponents in preseason.
Oladipo looks comfortable and confident out there, taking on in-game responsibilities he was never even given at Indiana. Athletically superior and mentally aware, he just fits naturally into the NBA game.
He's improved and expanded his skill set with every year since 2010, and it doesn't appear a new level of competition is going to kill that trend. Better fundamentally than he was eight months ago, Oladipo is your most NBA-ready rookie in the 2013-14 class.
Doesn't Need to Score, Doesn't Need the Ball
Multidimensional isn't an adjective typically used to describe rookie guards. Usually, they're hit or miss—if shots aren't falling, their presence isn't felt. At least not in a positive sense.
But Oladipo doesn't need to rely on making shots in order to impact a game. His athleticism, motor and instincts allow him to contribute in other areas, whether it's rebounding, passing or defending.
Through six preseason games, he's averaging 6.2 boards, 4.8 assists and 1.7 steals in only 25.8 minutes of action a night. Oladipo's activity level is tremendous, whether he's putting up points or not.
This is where he'll have the edge over Ben McLemore, a more potent scorer but less dependable contributor. Unlike Oladipo, McLemore should be more vulnerable to inconsistency, given how much his performance is measured by shooting accuracy.
While I wouldn't rule out McLemore being the better long-term prospect, it's Oladipo who's currently the more complete overall player.
One of the things that makes Oladipo a Rookie of the Year lock is that he projects as an every-night contributor. Consistency will be the hurdle for every other rookie in the field. But Oladipo? He's resistant to disappearing or putting up a dud.
Oladipo has gotten to this point in his career thanks to the ability to make things happen when his number isn't called. He's not a guy who requires the ball or his jumper to fall to be effective. Whether it's a putback dunk, spot-up three-pointer or a backdoor cut, Oladipo can contribute offensively without needing to dance around with the rock.
However, despite the impact he can make as an off-ball contributor, it's the progress he's made as a ball-handler and playmaker that's raised his ceiling and rookie expectations.
In the past, Oladipo has relied on making plays without the ball in his hands. Though it remains a strength, it's no longer something he's limited to.
Oladipo has dramatically improved his command of the ball to the point where he can use the dribble to power his offensive production.
He's become a one-on-one threat, something you wouldn't describe Oladipo as back in college.
The ability to beat his man off the dribble has been a game-changer for him. Though it's just preseason, he's already had a nine-assist game against New Orleans and a seven-assist game against Detroit. With a point guard's first step, a better command of the ball and the awareness and willingness to pass, he's become a solid source for breakdown penetration and table-setting for shooters or finishers.
He's also refined his off-the-dribble scoring arsenal. While his outside shooting accuracy has been an obvious improvement, his perimeter shot creativity is what's really been the bigger story.
Oladipo has developed into a legitimate scoring option, even to the point where Orlando is letting him create the last shot of a quarter or shot clock. No longer just a threat attacking the rim north and south, he's become a more adept scorer with the pull-up and step-back jumper in the mid-range.
There isn't a rookie out there who can impact a game in more ways than Victor Oladipo. The argument over his position seems irrelevant—whether he's got the ball or not, he's capable of making things happen as a scorer, playmaker, rebounder or defender.
Oladipo might not lead all rookies in scoring, but the effect he's likely to have on his team will go unmatched among fellow rookies.
Great Opportunity, Few ROY Competitors
If there's one thing for sure, it's that the Magic will give Oladipo the opportunity to win the award. He's one of few rookies in the field with guaranteed minutes lined up. Considering the team's desire to play Oladipo at point guard, it's clear it wants to maximize his talent and presence on the floor.
In terms of competition for Rookie of the Year, there are really only a few with a true shot. Trey Burke, Otto Porter, Nerlens Noel and C.J. McCollum are dealing with injuries, while Anthony Bennett is stuck in a crowded frontcourt. And I just have trouble believing that Kelly Olynyk and Cody Zeller will challenge for the honor.
To me, it's either Oladipo or McLemore, but like I mentioned earlier, McLemore is a little too hit-or-miss at this stage in his career.
Expect Oladipo's consistent efforts across the statistical board to keep him atop the rookie pyramid throughout the year. Between the progress he's made, his NBA readiness and a lack of threatening competition, this could really end up being a one-man marathon race.
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