Four games into his pro career Victor Oladipo was showered with chants of “O-la-di-po!” from a small but boisterous group of Orlando Magic supporters attending the NBA Summer League game at the Magic’s practice facility inside Amway Arena.
It didn’t take long for the 21-year-old, 6-foot-5 guard out of Indiana University to get acclimated to the NBA game. He knocked down his first three shots, including two from behind the 3-point line, and impressed his coaches and teammates with his willingness to do just about anything — even play point guard.
The second overall pick in the 2013 NBA draft had never played point guard before, but certainly didn’t look out of place. Oladipo, who played shooting guard almost exclusively in college, ran Orlando’s summer league team like a 10-year pro, yelling out instructions and making sure everyone was in the right spots.
His best moment occurred in his fourth game when he hit a 22-foot, step-back jumper with 4.4 seconds over fellow rookie Michael Carter-Williams to give the Magic a 90-89 win over the Philadelphia 76ers. Watch the play:
“I’m slowly, but surely, learning,” Oladipo told the Orlando Sentinel. “I’m just trying to take every aspect of the point guard position and trying to perfect it, limit my mistakes and learn when to be aggressive and when to find my teammates.”
Oladipo averaged 19.0 points, 4.3 rebounds and 5.0 assists per game in four games. He did average 4.8 turnovers per game, but Magic officials can live with those mistakes. His 10 free throw attempts per game showed a knack for finding seams in the defense and creating offense when a play breaks down.
What Oladipo proved in a small sample size at the summer league was that the pro game is not too big for him. He has quickly made the transition from college standout to professional athlete in a matter of weeks. His needle keeps pointing upward and the sky is the limit for this former Hoosier, who two years ago wasn’t on anyone’s radar.
The Magic will begin training camp Oct. 1 and Oladipo could see time at point guard and shooting guard. Jameer Nelson remains the incumbent at point for Orlando, but head coach Jacque Vaughn may want another option.
The Magic currently have five guards under contract for the upcoming season: Oladipo, Nelson and shooting guards Arron Afflalo, Doron Lamb and E’Twaun Moore. Oladipo figures to be the most effective defender — he was an All-Big Ten defender in 2012-13 — while Nelson is the least effective defender.
A backcourt of Oladipo at point guard and Afflalo at shooting guard in certain situations would be a significant upgrade defensively for Orlando, which ranked 25th in defensive efficiency last season. Oladipo averaged 3.0 steals per game during the summer league.
“He’s a young man that’s infectious,” Borrego told the Orlando Sentinel. “He’s a young man that his team rallies around. You can feel it. He’s got a contagious quality about him that, until you have him in your program, until you have your hands on him, you don’t really understand. I think his teammates feel his competitive energy, his spirit, and we got to see it firsthand.”
One year after losing star center Dwight Howard, Orlando seems to be turning the corner. Oladipo is at the forefront of the Magic’s return to relevance and could be an early favorite to win rookie of the year in 2013-14.