When Paul George was traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder, most people no longer considered the Indiana Pacers as a team to fear in the Eastern Conference.
The two players, Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis, the Pacers acquired from the Thunder weren’t expected to make a huge impact in Indiana, especially after only playing their single seasons in Oklahoma City as Russell Westbrook’s sidekicks.
The expectations proved to be right for Domantas Sabonis, but Victor Oladipo shocked the entire league and from the moment he put on the Pacers’ jersey, Oladipo rose to prominence and became one of the best players in the Eastern Conference.
Despite low expectations, the 26-year-old shooting guard helped the Pacers secure a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference where they forced a Game 7 in their first-round matchup against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
In the 75 games he played last season, Victor Oladipo averaged 23.1 points, 5.2 rebounds, 4.3 assists, and 2.4 steals on 47.7 percent shooting from the field and 37.1 percent from beyond the arc. His outstanding performance on both ends of the floor resulted in numerous achievements, including NBA All-Star, All-NBA Third Team, All-Defensive First Team, NBA steals leader and NBA Most Improved Player.
In a recent interview with J. Michael of the Indianapolis Star, Oladipo revealed that a change in mentality and approach on the court played a major role in his recent success. He continues to work hard and address the areas he needs to improve in his game.
Trainer Al Watson believes Oladipo will be treated like a real NBA superstar next season and opposing teams are expected to double-team him, especially in crucial situations.
“In the fourth quarter, he’s like the point guard. Wanted to focus on a lot of combination moves, working on traps. It’s no secret now. They’re going to be double-teaming him. You look at the great players, Kobe, they had to do a little bit of everything. His shot from the perimeter may be off so he’s got to learn, ‘Let me get myself going, get to the mid-post, get some fouls.’ He’s got to be able to attack with all different facets of the game. We do a lot of sprinting, getting to your spots. Got to get open.”
Oladipo is leaving little doubt that he is taking the right path in becoming one of the best players in the NBA. If he continues to improve his game at this current trajectory, maybe it won’t be a surprise if Oladipo leads the Pacers to their first NBA championship title.