BOSTON – Victor Oladipo didn’t start a game at DeMatha High School, a D.C.-area prep power, until his senior year. On teams stocked with college talent, it was hard to get noticed.
“I would just play hard. That was my role,” Oladipo said. “Play hard and defend, guard the other team’s best player.”
At Indiana under Tom Crean, it was more of the same. Defense, steals, blocks, hustle plays.
Until Oladipo’s junior year.
As much as his thunderous dunks excited everyone, his 3-point shooting really took him to the next level as an NBA prospect. That year, Oladipo shot 44 percent from beyond the arc, up from 24 percent the two years prior. It’s a big reason the Magic drafted him No. 2 overall in 2013.
But with increased offensive expectations as a rookie – Oladipo’s usage percentage actually went up from his final year at Indiana – Oladipo struggled to find the same efficiency. He shot just 41.9 percent from the field and 32.7 percent on 3-pointers.
He’s shooting 46.6 percent from the field and 42.9 on 3-pointers, and his turnovers are down.
“Everybody talks about hard work, but there are certain guys that take it to a different level, and he’s one of those guys that has the reputation of taking it to a different level,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens, who faced Oladipo’s Hoosiers while coaching Butler. “And you can see it in the game. You can see it with his ball handling. He’s good going both directions. He’s shooting it.”
Oladipo is the only player who received multiple Rookie of the Year votes last season whose win shares per 48 minutes this season (blue) are up from last season (silver):
That’s not to say only Oladipo has improved while Michael Carter-Williams, Trey Burke, Mason Plumlee, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Gorgui Dieng haven’t. But those other five at least have improved on a scale that’s getting noticed by that stat.
There are other small indicators Oladipo is on the right track, too.
The Magic are scoring 100.0 points with Oladipo on the court and 97.9 when he sits. It’s a small uptick, but it’s remarkably better than last season, when they scored 97.8 with him and 102.1 without him.
How did Oladipo improve his efficiency? Sticking with his original mindset. As he develops, he’s shooting less.
“My game is not taking contested 3s,” Oladipo said. “But the open ones, you shoot with confidence.”