The Oklahoma City Thunder took on Real Madrid in what was the first game with their revamped roster. There was no Kevin Durant, and Victor Oladipo is now the sidekick to the Russell Westbrook show. Monday, however, the former Indiana Hoosier put on an absolute clinic.
Westbrook was surprisingly absent in the contest–it seemed to be by choice, though. Over the course of the game, which went into OT before Real Madrid pulled out a 142-137 victory, Westbrook played just 22 minutes and scored a modest 18 points on 7/14 shooting. Oladipo was the player to watch, and in his first game with his new team, the 24-year-old combo guard dropped a game-high 34 points on a team that’s one of the best outside the NBA.
He attempted 24 shots in total–seven from three–and nailed 14 of them; six of his ten misses came from behind the arc, which illustrates how he was able to carve up Madrid’s defense and get to the cup.
When he got to the basket, a variety of dunks and layups showed that Oladipo can finish with finesse or power.
With a frame like his, 6’4 and roughly 210, Oladipo has superb athleticism, but he wasn’t strictly running past his defenders. There were a handful of times where he split two guys out of the pick-and-roll, and his ball handling looked as crisp as ever.
Going forward, this performance bodes well for the Thunder. He won’t put up numbers like Kevin Durant, but he will be a worthy second option.
Now, as far as a breakout season is concerned, Oladipo can average 20 points per game. Last year with Orlando, his nightly average was 16, but the year before it was a career-high 17.9 with a shooting clip of 43.6.
Right now, Oladipo can score in bunches without a three-point shot because he’s crafty at getting to the basket off the dribble. As he’s spent more time in the league, his mid-range jumper is becoming more consistent, and he will become comfortable being a three-point shooter at some point.
Last year, he finished just under 35 percent from three (34.8) and his troubles from down there allow defenders to give him a cushion when matched up against him. Even with cat-like quickness, it’s tougher for him to beat his man when they don’t need to respect his jump shot.
He still makes blowing by his man look easy, though.
Since Oladipo fits the combo-guard mold, I wouldn’t be shocked to see Billy Donovan run a steady dose of pick-and-roll with Adams or Kanter screening. It’s worked wonders for Westbrook, and Oladipo can use those sets to develop more point guard skills to complement his scoring.
Will he average eight assists per game? It’s unlikely. But somewhere around five or six would be superb and a career high.
If Oladipo can have his best season yet, and it’s conceivable that he does, the Thunder will be okay. If they get 20 points and six assists a night from him, who’s to say they don’t sneak into the sixth or seventh seed in the playoffs?
Data courtesy of Basketball-Reference
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