I was wrong about Victor Oladipo.
Here was my initial reaction to the Pacers-Thunder trade the night it was first reported:
That said, the Pacers were never going to get more than forty cents on the dollar for George, so it's not as shocking to me as others.— Derek Schultz (@Schultz975) July 1, 2017
I'm glad I didn't report a theft (man... that hasn't aged well) or say the Pacers got fleeced (a popular word choice by the national scribes), but I was underwhelmed with Kevin Pritchard's return package - albeit in a market which was poisoned by Paul George's camp presumably leaking that he wanted out.
Having casually followed him since his departure from IU, I had thought Oladipo was a good player; a player who would have a nice 10+ year career, but with a clearly-defined ceiling. That was wrong. 26 games may be a small sample-size, but he is blowing his "ceiling" to smithereens. I had no idea that the former Hoosier All-American was going to come here and average over 50% more points per game than he had in his NBA career (15.9 to 24.5). Nor did I have any clue he'd start shooting markedly better three-point range, improving from a career-best 36% last season in OKC to a healthy 44.4% this year:
Oladipo's advanced stats are impressive, too, as he ranks in the Top 20 in John Hollinger's PER rankings ahead of guys like Karl-Anthony Towns, Russell Westbrook, DeMarcus Cousins, and Devin Booker.
I have no problem admitting that I didn't think Oladipo was going to be playing at this current level with the Pacers because he had never come close to playing at this current level in his NBA career. The biggest mistake I made? Doubting his drive and work ethic, which is something that turned him from a middle-tier recruit into the nation's best player (in my opinion) as a junior at Indiana. Has it now turned him from an athletic #2 or #3 option into a franchise centerpiece? That remains to be seen. However, it took Oladipo only one summer to transform his body, and just 26 games to transform the moribund Pacers into the most exciting team in major Indiana sports. Both of those turnarounds have been remarkable.
His passion and drive are things that fans here coveted from Paul George, yet as PG's individual game rose, those attributes seemed to erode away. Oladipo wears his desire to be great on his sleeve, and Pacers fans love him for hit.
Is this level of play sustainable for Oladipo? Who knows? Regardless, even if Vic is 75% the player that he's shown so far this season, that's more than just about anyone expected. Oladipo's All-Star-level play combined with Domas Sabonis's solid contributions (and the duo's long-term contract status), should cement the Pacers as the trade winners, which is an insane feat considering the tough position Kevin Pritchard was in when he was forced to make a deal.
I'm very happy to have been wrong about Oladipo.
(There. I said it. Can I go and fully enjoy watching this guy play, now?)