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Why Oladipo Deserves ROY Honors Over Carter-Williams

One of the most explosive and athletic swingman to come out of the 2013 NBA Draft class has been Victor Oladipo. Leading up to the draft, there was no question that Oladipo was a top-3 pick—and even talk as the top overall selection. Drafted second overall by the Orlando Magic, Oladipo had analysts dubbing him as the preseason favorite to win the Rookie of the Year award…that was until Michael Carter-Williams came out and took the league by storm to start the season.

Despite fellow Rookie of the Year candidate Carter-Williams seemingly coasting through the season as the favorite, Oladipo has shown that he should be more seriously considered for the award. Listed at 6’5” with a 6’9” wingspan, Oladipo creates mismatches with his lanky frame against opposing point guards. His explosive first step allows him to blow by most two-guards and get to the paint with relative ease. The Sixers recent losing streak of 25—tied for the longest all-time losing streak with the 2011 Cavaliers—should be a major detrimental factor against MCW’s bid for the award.

Comparing both Oladipo and Carter-Williams on a statistical spectrum would be misleading. Oladipo currently averages 14.0 points, 4.3 rebounds nd 4.2 assists while playing just less than 32 minutes per game. On the other hand, Carter-Williams plays at almost 35 minutes per game and averages 16.5, 6.1, 6.3, respectively. The Sixers currently lead the league in pace at 102 compared with the Magic who falls in at 96.1, ranked 16th in the league. With the uptick in both minutes and possessions per game for MCW, it is evident to see why his numbers look more impressive than Oladipo’s on the surface.

Additionally, the durability of a player should factor in for individual player awards. Numbers are most misrepresented when we do not get an accurate look at the quantity of total games played. While Carter-Williams has been missing games left and right throughout the season (due to knee issues), Oladipo played in the first 62 games of season, a feat none of the other top-5 picks could accomplish.

For the most part, injuries have kept the Magic from being more competitive in the Eastern Conference—as they sit at 21 wins with eight games left to go. However, through Orlando's rebuilding season, steady improvement has shown between the synergy of Oladipo and big man Nikola Vucevic.

“Early in the year, we couldn’t really get it together as far as pick-and-rolls and stuff like that, which is normal,” Vucevic tells Orlando Sentinel beat reporter Josh Robbins. “It just takes time, a lot of practice, a lot of work. I think now we have a pretty good chemistry pick-and-roll-wise when he drives…So it’s great. I think it’ll be huge for us in the future.”

Looking more in-depth at Oladipo’s play gives us a better idea of what sort of player Oladipo is. About 44 percent of Oladipo’s plays are run through as the pick and roll ball handler per Synergy Sports. He converts at a 0.77 PPP and shoots at an anemic 39.5 percent clip when running the play. On the defensive end, he gives up a similar 0.78 PPP rate when defending the opposing guard so he does make up for some of the offensive deficiencies with his defense. These numbers are nowhere where they should be for a future star but if Oladipo wants to take the next step, he must learn to develop a more consistent mid-range and perimeter jump shot.

According to NBA.com, about 43 percent of Oladipo’s 859 field goal attempts have been within 5-feet of the rim—where he converts at a 52 percent clip. Outside of 5-feet, he shoots just 32.6 percent from the field—including 9-for-40 between 5-9 feet. In order for Oladipo to continue to progress to the explosive star that many potentially see him as, he must learn to become more decisive and finish stronger around the rim. 

At this juncture of Oladipo’s rookie year, we can see that he has no problems getting to the rim given his unmatched quickness and impressive athleticism. However, Oladipo must learn to control his body more when he finishes around the rim. ESPN Insider’s David Thorpe compares Oladipo’s slashing cutting game to that of Dwayne Wade’s.

“It’s the craft part that Oladipo needs to study the most – seeing when to speed up, when to slow down, when to try the Euro-step, etc. – because finishing at a high level requires more than just jumping high when you are shorter than 6-foot-6. Recognizing opportunities to race is also a Wade specialty, something Oladipo often misses out on in games.“

Despite these holes in his game, Oladipo should clearly be getting more recognition from around the league and the media as the 2014 Rookie of the Year. Certainly MCW has had an impressive campaign himself, but it has got to be tough to evaluate his rookie campaign given the Sixers’ D-League roster.

The Eastern Conference At The Deadline

Thursday at the NBA trade deadline, we saw a total of 26 players, seven second round draft picks, and zero blockbuster trades. On Friday, we covered how the 10 players that ended up on West teams will shape the playoff race, and now we are looking at the 16 that were sent to the D-League…whoops, I meant the Eastern Conference.

While the Western teams made a few smart, calculated trades to improve depth (Steve Blake to the Warriors) and cut costs (possible buyout for Jason Terry from the Kings), the East had the biggest deals of the deadline. The East deals included the only two All-Stars dealt (Antawn Jamison and Danny Granger), the two best players (Evan Turner and Spencer Hawes), and the smartest player (Professor Andre Miller, PhD).

The Brooklyn Nets traded their disappointing – but playoff tested – guard, Jason Terry, for the Sacramento Kings' disappointing – and never played in a playoff game – guard, Marcus Thorton. Thorton, who once averaged 21.3 points per game, is a solid sixth man and capable of scoring in bunches when needed though he has struggled badly this season. He will likely provide relief for Paul Pierce and Joe Johnson down the stretch of the season. However, adding his extra $730,000 in salary means paying a ridiculous $3.3 million in tax, bringing their total to over $88 million on taxes alone…for a team that won’t get out of the first round.

The Cleveland Cavaliers traded for 76ers' center, Spencer Hawes. He will likely anchor their team right to where they were destined to be before they traded for him…the lottery. Hawes is a talented 7-footer who leads all centers in three-pointers made and percentage, is an elite passer for his position, a good scorer and rebounder, and a capable body on defense when he cares. Forced to play on a hapless Philadelphia team, Hawes had no reason to try over the past few months, but as he heads into free agency this offseason, expect his production to go back up for the Cavs. Despite the addition of Hawes and recently acquired Luol Deng, this team is unfortunately still coached by Mike Brown, suggesting they are likely doomed to miss the playoffs and then ultimately lose Hawes and Deng to free agency for nothing.

Professor Andre Miller, PhD left his classroom for winter break on December 30th and has been M.I.A. ever since. However, after being traded to the Washington Wizards, you can rest assured Professor Miller will be making a teaching once again. Miller, who was restless under indecisive rookie head coach Brian Shaw will be a capable backup behind John Wall, likely helping lead this Wizards team to homecourt advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

The Charlotte Bobcats made a good deal at the trade deadline. Say it with me: “The Bobcats did something right.” They traded valuable but redundant point guard, Ramon Sessions to the Milwaukee Bucks along with Jeff Adrian for Luke Ridnour and Gary Neal. Ridnour is a terrific backup point guard who can play behind or with Kemba Walker, while Neal is an outstanding shooter who won an NBA Finals game last season by scoring 24 points in 25 minutes!

In the only move that might affect the NBA Finals this season, the Pacers trading former All-Star forward, Danny Granger to the 76ers for Evan Turner and Lavoy Allen. Turner is a do-it-all forward who has fallen out of favor league-wide because he has failed to live up to the hype of a second overall pick. Turner should play with the first unit as well as anchor the second for the Pacers. His ball handling will allow George Hill, Paul George and CJ Watson to get free and take uncontested shots while giving them insurance –albeit expensive at an $8.7 million qualifying offer or whatever long-term offer he receives – in case Lance Stephenson leaves in free agency. Additionally, Allen started in the playoffs only two seasons ago and is a capable big man off the bench. Most importantly, Larry “The Legend” Bird signed off on this trade, thus, it must be great.

The last set of trades involved the Miami Heat, Philadelphia 76ers and the Atlanta Hawks. Each team gave up players that weren’t part of their future and received cash, second round draft picks, and laundry service for a year in exchange for helping another team out. The Heat traded Roger Mason Jr. and cash for a pick they will likely never see in order to open a roster spot for Caron Butler (Tuff Juice wants to go home!). The 76ers, who were involved in a league-high four deals during the trade deadline ended up with five second round draft picks and five players that won’t be buying property in Philadelphia. Finally, the Hawks acquired Antawn Jamison from the Clippers and enough cash to take him out to a nice dinner before buying out his contract.

Compared to the four West teams that made a deadline deal, eight of the top ten Eastern franchises made a deal with only Chicago and Detroit remaining inactive. Whether this reflects the fragility of the Eastern Conference standings (5th place through 11th is separated by just 5.5 games), or the strength of the mighty teams in the West (3rd place in the East would be 10th in the West) is anyone’s guess. With that said, all these moves outside of Indiana and Miami are moot because none of them are making the Eastern Conference Finals.

Indiana Pacers Vs. Miami Heat, Round III starts May 20th – Get ready, America!

The Bright Spotlight: Orlando Magic

This is the fourth installment of a new series highlighting the rays of hope for fans of non-contending or fringe playoff teams. 

Nobody was more heavily criticized after the Dwight Howard trade in 2012 than Rob Hennigan, but even the Orlando Magic general manager himself could not have predicted the events that would transpire and ultimately make him the winner of the trade. Howard and the Los Angeles Lakers struggled to reach expectations, and playing under the looming shadow of Kobe Bryant was not something he enjoyed. He would bolt for the Houston Rockets to play with James Harden. Andre Iguodala quickly saw himself as the perfect wet blanket to tuck in next to the Splash Brothers with Golden State Warriors. And Andrew Bynum, well, didn’t quite fit into the reboot with the Philadelphia 76ers in which cartilage was a point of emphasis.

Victor Oladipo

Hennigan’s reasoning for not opting to acquire the second or third best player in the trade is clear now: acquire cheap young assets and make the team bad enough in the 12-13 season to hopefully get a top pick in the draft. The Indiana Hoosier was taken with the second pick. A defensive savant with elite speed and athleticism, Oladipo has already made his presence felt around the league, garnering plenty of nods for the Rookie of the Year award. Constantly compared to Michael Carter-Williams due to their early season success, one of Oladipo’s best games came as the two rookies faced each other on December 3. The result: a historical double-overtime game in which both rookies posted triple doubles (26 pts, 10 asts, 10 rebs for Oladipo).

His intensity and passion for the game have already endeared him to the Magic faithful. Oladipo recently expressed a desire to enter this year’s Slam Dunk Contest, which demonstrates the kind of proactive love of the sport that has been dwindling from All Star Weekend. Jacque Vaughn has tinkered with Oladipo’s role a bit, mainly due to the presence of veterans on the team that play similar positions, but it looks clear that he will eventually be the team’s starting shooting guard for years to come.

Nikola Vucevic

Perhaps the biggest surprise to come out of the Howard trade was the emergence of Vucevic. The Swiss turned Belgian turned Montenegrin center had been buried on Doug Collins’ bench with the 76ers for most of his rookie year, and although he had shown promise, nobody anticipated the double-double machine that he would become. Since being acquired by the Magic, Vucevic has posted three games of at least 20 points and 20 rebounds and two games of at least 30 points and 20 rebounds. In the 2012-2013 season, Vucevic finished second in the league in rebounding with 11.9 per game, only behind Howard, and came in fourth place for the Kia Most Improved Player Award. While he lacks the leaping ability to become a great shot blocker, he should continue to improve on defense as he gains experience in defensive positioning and adds more bulk. While he may never become the player of Howard’s caliber, it is certainly safe to say that the Magic have found a viable replacement for him. 

2014 NBA Draft/Veteran Assets

The Magic are on their way to another season in which their name should be high on the lottery board this May. In addition to their own pick, the Magic received a first round pick from the Nuggets in the Howard trade, which will be the worse pick between the Nuggets and Knicks pick (a relic from the Carmelo Anthony trade of 2011). Additionally, Arron Afflalo is very quietly having an All-Star caliber season. He is averaging 21.8 pts per game (10th in the league) and is on a very reasonable contract at $7.5 million per year through the 15-16 season, with the last year being a player option. Afflalo could easily be dealt this season for more picks, expiring contracts, or young talent. Jameer Nelson is another veteran that the Magic could look to trade, with only $2 million of his salary being guaranteed for next season. Hennigan should have options aplenty as he continues to execute the franchise rebuild.   

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