The Indiana Pacers had a respectable start to the season (3-1). With this they reach an impressive average of 116.3 points per game, while shooting 51.8% of the field. That’s all well and good, but if this team finally wants to qualify for the playoffs, they need a season of Victor Oladipo MVP awards.
Not so long ago Oladipo played for the elite of the NBA. In his first season with the Pacers (2017-18), he averaged 23.1 points, 5.2 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 2.4 steals per game and helped lead LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers to seven first-round NBA playoff appearances.
Oladipo blossomed as goalkeeper of the team, passed with clutch boxes and played at a high level at both ends of the field; he played like a star. He then suffered a knee injury in January 2019 which kept him out of action for about 12 months. On his short return to the field last season, Oladipo looked slow and not exactly the same as before.
In his three games this season, Victor Oladipo scored 22.7 points, 5.7 rebounds, 3.7 assists and one handle per game, while shooting 61.4 percent of the field and 56.3 percent of the distance. Of course, it’s only three games. Still, that’s the player who should be the new head coach Nate Bjorkgren. One could say that this game should be fundamental.
The Pacers have a strong and reliable lineup of players, some of which become more impressive as they get older. Domantas Sabonis is an indoor player who hits the boards at a high level; Malcolm Brogdon is an effective shooter and solid defender; T.J. Warren is an electric marker; Miles Turner stretches the floor and is a pillar of defense; Doug McDermott is an excellent perimeter shooter; Aaron Holiday scores from the bench; Justin Holiday is a respected defender.
It’s a good list. It happens to be a bit less than his colleagues from the Eastern Conference when it comes to the winning team and/or the best team in the conference.
The general theme of the Pacers competition is the power of the stars. The Milwaukee Bucks, Brooklyn Nets, Miami Heat, Philadelphia 76ers and Boston Celtics have at least one star player and/or an impressive group of players with continuity. Meanwhile, the Toronto Raptors are undefeated in this year’s NBA finals and the Washington Wizards have an extremely talented team despite their insignificant start (0-4).
Throughout his NBA career, Sabonis has always played on the line; there is nothing wrong with his game. The problem is that the players around him and Oladipo are somewhat limited. Brogdon is more of a shooter than an offensive marker; Turner is a minimal threat in the paint; McDermott is usually targeted from a distance; the Holiday brothers are not isolated players; Warren puts the ball down, but, as he should, doesn’t want to advance the Pacers.
Oladipo plays like a star and puts the Pacers on an equal footing with the field.
He has the ability to be the eternal all-star. Oladipo is fast, has a patina on the edge, can stretch the ground and defends itself well on the edge and in isolation. The 28-year-old should be at his peak. For him it is advantageous to play this way, as he could be online for a maximum contract (Oladipo is a free agent after this season).
Imagine a Pacers attack in which the Sabonis is easily painted, Oladipo plays as an All-Star and Warren blossoms in the ball: It will be a well-oiled machine with offensive firepower at all levels.
At the end of the game, the Bucs give the ball to Giannis Antetokounmpo, while the Miami Heat gives the ball to Jimmy Butler. The Nets go to Kevin Durant or Kyrie Irving. Indiana has to go to Oladipo.
There was too much money invested in this rotation and the risk associated with Oladipo’s continued presence (they could have traded him for value instead of risking losing him in the free agency) for the Pacers to do nothing in the playoffs. Literally, do something, anything. The Pacers have been eliminated in the first round of playoffs in five consecutive seasons and have lost nine straight playoff games.
Under Bjorkgren’s predecessor, Nate McMillan, the Pacers were a defensively oriented team that mainly played in the attack on the field. They were good at what they did, but their game peaked after the first round. Maybe as the season progresses they become more of a racing team forcing the ball at the beginning of the clock? We didn’t see Victor Oladipo go wild, he played pretty well on the half-court and stole from the teams thanks to his athletics.
It’s an all-star competition. Even teams that are permanent rivals with the same core have at least one player that stands out. Victor Oladipo is the driving force behind the attack of the Pacers, and the only way for them to turn the corner in terms of competition is for him to play up to his abilities.
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