NBA Stories: Pressure on Oladipo to come back stronger for Pacers

Victor Oladipo

One of the most explosive and exciting guards in the NBA at the moment is undoubtedly Victor Oladipo of the Indiana Pacers, who has been out of commission after suffering an injury early this year.

The Nigerian-American star left the Pacers wanting after he ruptured his quad tendon in his right knee and crumpled to the floor during a home game against the Toronto Raptors when he falls during an attempt to disrupt a pass.

Although they made it to the playoffs without him, his absence was felt and they were swept in the first round by the Boston Celtics. 

The six-year veteran started his NBA tenure at the Orlando Magic where he initially made a name for himself, coming off the bench and putting up a then-personal best 17.9 points, 4.2 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 1.7 steals per game in his second season.

He spent part of the 2016-17 season at the Oklahoma City Thunder alongside eight-time All-Star and 2017 MVP Russell Westbrook, but the same season moved to the Indiana Pacers where he took on a leadership role and in the 2017-18 season and led Indiana to a seven-game series against a LeBron-Led Cavaliers in the Playoffs. It might have been a first-round exit, but it was a good fight.

The NBA Africa Game 2017 MVP finished his cut-short 2018-19 campaign averaging 18.8 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 5.2 assisting while shooting 42 percent from the field, 34 percent from three-point range, 73 percent from the charity stripe.

The game of basketball continues to evolve and a lengthy absence might prove to be difficult for any player and this will definitely put pressure on the two-time All-Star and 2018 Most Improved Player to return to the hardwood with a “bang”. In order for the Indianapolis franchise to have a meaningful postseason, he will have to fast return to being extremely productive and average at least 22.7 points, 8.3 rebounds, six assists, and 2.4 steals as he did in the 2018 playoffs.

He needs to continue to carve his name in Indiana and possibly one day be spoken of with the same appreciation as the likes of Reggie Miller, Metta Word Peace, Paul George and Lance Stephenson.

Meanwhile, the Pacers have gotten off to an 11-6 start even with a significant number of its role players have left. It has however managed to keep its core of Oladipo, Miles Turner, and Domantas Sabonis, and has added the talents of 2017 Rookie of the Year Malcolm Brogdon to its arsenal.

Besides his offensive prowess, what the Pacers are missing is his defence. In his short time with the squad he has been averaging 2.05 steals and 0.55 blocks per game, to go with his uncanny ability to cut into passing lanes, crowd and harass his matchup and find his way to a weak-side block. 

Dallas Mavericks v Indiana Pacers

Even with the team ranking third in the NBA for defensive rating, the return of 2017-18 All-Defensive First Team member will unquestionably impact Indiana’s defensive and offensive rating positively.

Oladipo is not expected to return to the team earlier than late December, so Indiana will have to depend on Brogdon’s play-making and efficient shooting in the interim.

Last week, the Pacers announced that they had assigned Oladipo to the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, their affiliate in the NBA G League for a practice session, after which they recalled him. This was part of the team's plan to evaluate him in five-on-five half-court practices for several weeks.

As the apparent leader of the Indiana Pacers, Oladipo not only needs to recover quickly but also needs to return to form speedily and help the squad get past their first-round playoffs exit hump.

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