Who Should Orlando Magic Pair with Victor Oladipo in the Backcourt?

D.J. Foster@@fosterdjContributor IApril 10, 2014

Jan 15, 2014; Orlando, FL, USA; Orlando Magic shooting guard Victor Oladipo (5) drives to the basket against the Chicago Bulls during the second half  at Amway Center. Chicago Bulls defeated the Orlando Magic 128-125 in triple overtime. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Orlando Magic haven't had a whole lot of bright spots this season, but the play of Rookie of the Year candidate Victor Oladipo has been both incredibly promising and perplexing.

The second overall pick of last year's draft has definitely shown flashes of brilliance throughout the season. Oladipo's averages of 14.1 points, 4.2 rebounds and 4.2 assists and a PER of 13.8 may not blow anyone away, but it's impressive considering the fact that he has spent quite a bit of time at point guard, a position he didn't have much experience with entering the year.

While Oladipo's versatility to slide between both guard positions should undoubtedly be viewed as a positive, it does create an interesting situation for general manager Rob Hennigan and head coach Jacque Vaughn.

If Oladipo doesn't have a true position either way, it makes it a little more difficult to build around him and find the perfect backcourt fit. Do the Magic need more of a pure point guard next to him, or more of a shooting guard who will play off the ball?

We've seen a good deal of Oladipo playing with both types of players this season. Next to point guard Jameer Nelson, Oladipo hasn't had to initiate as much offense and has been free to crash the offensive glass and slash against already recovering defenses. Next to shooting guard Arron Afflalo, however, Oladipo has been more of a distributor and has looked to get a great spot-up shooter the ball in the spaces he likes.

The responsibilities throughout the year have changed on a moment's notice, which ultimately could be a baptism by fire for such a young player with so much natural ability. Here's John Denton at NBA.com with more:

Vaughn has attempted to take the pressure off Oladipo regarding his position by stressing to him that he’s simply a "guard’’ and not necessarily a point guard or a shooting guard. 


'I really think that it’s been good for him,' Vaughn said. 'A lot of times when you say that he is a certain position, then he only thinks that way. I think he sometimes can block off some opportunities of learning. Take the last game where he checks into the game and he’s playing (shooting guard). And down the stretch of the game, the ball’s in his hands. I really think that’s a good opportunity for him.

'It relieves him mentally and it gives you a mental break throughout the course of the game without him having the ball in his hands all of the time,’ Vaughn continued. 'But then at the same time when the ball needs to be in his hands, he’s comfortable with it.’

While Oladipo has adapted well to all the constant change, he could be in for more coming very soon. Nelson, Orlando's long-time starter at point guard, might not be with the team much longer, as his contract is only partially guaranteed for next year. Orlando will likely pick up his full deal, but at 32 years old and with the Magic rebuilding, it's hard to see this being a long-term fit.

Afflalo, meanwhile, is on a deal beyond the 2015-16 season. He's a capable post player who has shown the ability to defend small forwards, so his flexibility to play either spot on the wing could come in handy. That being said, Afflalo might be Orlando's best trade asset and could be dangled.

BOSTON, MA - NOVEMBER 11: Victor Oladipo #5 celebrates a basket with Arron Afflalo #4 of the Orlando Magic against the Boston Celtics during a game at the TD Garden on November 11, 2013 in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges a
Alex Trautwig/Getty Images

Point being, Oladipo might have different backcourt partners in the very near future. The onus then will be more on Hennigan to find good fits next to his future franchise star rather than Oladipo finding a way to fit in.

If you look at the way the league is trending, it may make more sense to pair Oladipo with a true point guard rather than another shooting guard like Afflalo. As teams like the Brooklyn Nets this year or the New York Knicks last year have shown us, having two capable passers and ball-handlers in the same backcourt can really open up an offense.

It's also important to remember that just because Oladipo has gotten reps at point guard in a rebuilding year, that doesn't mean he'll be there forever. A good similarity might be Dwyane Wade, as both Oladipo and Wade are incredible athletes who impact the game in multiple ways off the ball.

Here's what Wade told Denton at NBA.com about Oladipo's development:

`I love the way that his game has progressed,’ Wade said earlier this month when Oladipo and the Magic were in Miami. 'I could tell the frustration (of playing point guard) on him when we played them once. He was out there on the court trying to figure it out and I went through the same thing.'

'At the end of the day, he’s a player and I was a player and you’d rather have the ball in your hands and have opportunities,' Wade continued.`That made me a better player and it taught me to read the game a lot better. Even though I couldn’t wait to move to (shooting guard) it made me read things better and it helped my play-making skills.’

Perhaps the best thing the Orlando Magic can do is find the best backcourt player available, regardless of position. It's possible that they'll have an opportunity to do that in this year's draft by selecting Australian guard Dante Exum.

Here's what Exum told Bleacher Report's Jared Zwerling about potentially playing for the Magic:

As for the Magic, he envisions helping his close friend Victor Oladipo—they met at Indiana during Exum's recruiting visit when he was contemplating college—with point guard duties.

"They’re having some point guard problems and they’re trying to get Victor Oladipo into the point guard," he said. "Also, having a good relationship with Victor, I think that would be a good fit. He could kind of mentor me a bit coming into the point guard."

Ultimately, Orlando is too early in its rebuilding process to worry so much about fit instead of simply getting the best talents available. While we aren't sure what Exum will end up looking like, his combination of size, athleticism and court vision could form an unstoppable duo with Oladipo, particularly once each player develops more reliable jumpers.

Finding another player who projects to do a little bit of everything should be viewed as a major positive, even if the positions won't be as defined as some other backcourts.

Oladipo has shown this year that he can have success filling multiple roles, playing with very different types of players. That's exactly what you like to see from your franchise building block. Pairing Oladipo with another high-potential talent should be the next step, as the "Thunder model" that Orlando has embraced doesn't work without true stars.