Victor Oladipo Wins 2018 NBA Most Improved Player of the Year Award

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistJune 26, 2018

Indiana Pacers guard Victor Oladipo (4) celebrates during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Atlanta Hawks in Indianapolis, Friday, Feb. 23, 2018. The Pacers defeated the Hawks 116-93. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
Michael Conroy/Associated Press

Indiana Pacers guard Victor Oladipo won the NBA's Most Improved Player Award on Monday night, beating out Houston Rockets center Clint Capela and Brooklyn Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie.

Oladipo was the runaway favorite to collect this award after enjoying a career year in 2017-18.

Last summer, it looked like the Oklahoma City Thunder fleeced the Pacers when they traded Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis for Paul George. Instead, Indiana may have gotten the better of the deal, in large part because of Oladipo.

The 26-year-old averaged 23.1 points, 5.2 rebounds, 4.3 assists and an NBA-best 2.4 steals en route to his first All-Star selection. He found himself in interesting company with his stats, per ESPN Stats & Info:

Oladipo was also excellent in the NBA playoffs and helped the Pacers push the three-time reigning Eastern Conference champion Cleveland Cavaliers to seven games in the first round. The Cavs had little answer for Oladipo as he averaged 22.7 points, 8.3 rebounds and 6.0 assists.

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As cliche as it sounds, Oladipo has helped restore some level of hope to the Pacers and their fans.

The Pacers needed a fresh start after George's departure, and that's exactly what Oladipo has provided. If recent history is any indicator, there's plenty more to come, too.

In recent years, the Most Improved Player Award has gone to a player who either had just achieved stardom or was on his way to becoming a superstar. George, Jimmy Butler, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kevin Love, Goran Dragic and CJ McCollum have all earned the distinction over the past seven seasons.

Following the Pacers' first-round exit to the Cavs, Oladipo indicated he's not slowing down, even after a breakout season.

"I don't know how to take time off," he said in April, per the Washington Post's Tim Bontemps. "I had someone tell me, [to] take a break and enjoy my life. This is my life. I feel like I've got a lot of room to improve. This summer I'm going to go to work so I can come back even better."

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Especially if LeBron James leaves Cleveland and heads to the Western Conference, Oladipo and the Pacers could be poised for a deep playoff run in 2019.

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