As the second overall pick of the 2013 NBA Draft, Victor Oladipo had high expectations placed on him as soon as he entered the league. Having starred at Indiana, many expected him to help lead the Orlando Magic back to the playoffs. Oladipo struggled under the pressure, and after only 3 difficult seasons, he found himself with a fresh start, having been traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The problem is, the Thunder got rid of him too, after only a single season with the team. The Indiana Pacers acquired the guard in exchange for superstar Paul George in the hopes of beginning a rebuild of their struggling squad. That could not have been further from the truth. Oladipo rose to stardom, and this sudden change in fortunes in his career means that he should be awarded the NBA’s Most Improved Player award for the 2017-18 season.
The clearest indication of Oladipo’s rapid development is his stats, where he improved in basically every category. In today’s NBA, the majority of fans consider scoring to be the most important aspect of the game. In this category, Oladipo has posted a career-best 23 points per game, a seven point improvement on the previous season. This massive increase in scoring has coincided with an increase in efficiency as well, as he also is shooting 48 percent from the field despite a large increase in amount of shots per game. Despite opposing defenses focusing almost solely on Oladipo, he has become one of the most efficient high-volume scorers in the league. His game has improved outside of putting the ball in the hoop, having posted career highs in both rebounds and assists this year as well. Oladipo stands out on the defensive side of the game too, leading the entire league in steals with 2.4 per game. He has stepped up his game on both sides of the ball, reaching levels that many deemed impossible given his inability to fulfill his star potential prior to the 2017-18 season.
Oladipo’s case for the Most Improved Player Award doesn’t only lie with his significant statistical development. As the season progressed, Oladipo took on more of a leadership role with the Pacers, despite his young age of 25 and the presence of two captains already on the team. Last season on the Thunder, Oladipo always played second fiddle to Russell Westbrook, never getting the chance to lead the squad at any point throughout the season. This all changed with the Pacers. Seemingly out of nowhere, the guard became the face of the rising franchise. Despite not being voted as a team captain because it was his first year in Indiana, Oladipo was the one to visit Myles Turner after the center was feeling down about a poor performance during the regular season (per IndyStar). Oladipo has stepped up both on and off the court for the Pacers this year, something nobody could have seen coming given his secondary role last season with the Thunder.
While there are certainly other worthy candidates for the Most Improved Player award this year, none have done enough to surpass Oladipo’s meteoric rise from both a statistical and leadership perspective. Players like DeMar DeRozan and Giannis Antetokounmpo have both improved on their performances from last season, but they were playing already at an All-Star level compared to Oladipo’s average season last year. It is undeniable that Oladipo has increased his production more than any other player this season, and thus he should be given the honor of Most Improved Player for the 2017-18 season.
All statistics mentioned were found on basketball-reference.com.