Victor Oladipo missed the Pacers’ 111-102 loss to the Wizards Monday night, a statement game that could’ve vaulted Indiana all the way to fourth in the East, with an illness.
Indiana is now 0-6 without him. They’re 30-19 (a 50-win pace over 82 games!) with him.
What does this tell us? Well, mostly it tells us that Oladipo should be kept in a sealed container in the refrigerator so that he doesn’t get bacterial growth. Just keep him away from all humans who could make him sick, except in the offseason, where he can have his immunity built up.
But seriously, how insane is Oladipo in terms of the Pacers’ success? Besides the obvious counting stats (24 points, 5.2 rebounds, 4.1 assists; if you’d like a point of comparison, try Paul George, who had 23.7, 6.6, and 3.3 in his final season in Indy and bear in mind that PG13 is 6’9 while Oladipo is 6’4), there’s more to it than that.
His Teammates Can’t Function Without Him
Oladipo’s first missed game was the 108-98 loss to Boston at home in November. The Pacers were serviceable on offense (107.3 Offensive Rating), but horrifying on defense (118.2 Defensive Rating.)
The game also slowed way down; the pace was a Dark Ages-like 91.4.
Indiana shot 48.7 percent from the field and 30.4 percent from three; the Celtics were 56.3 and 40.0 percent.
Boston went small with their lineup, and Marcus Smart (!) ripped the Pacers’ defense apart for 15 points on 7-of-8 shooting.
That was a tone-setter.
The next four games, just after Christmas, when Oladipo rested a knee injury and Indy lost four straight, their score, offensive and defensive ratings, and pace, in order:
DAL (98-94): 104.8, 109.3, 89.7
CHI (119-107): 109.4, 121.7, 97.8
MIN (107-90): 99.9, 118.8, 90.1
MIL (122-101): 106.1, 128.1, 95.2
And then against Washington last night, 107.2, 116.7, and 95.1.
Consider the Pacers’ overall numbers this season. They’re posting an Offensive Rating of 110.3, 7th in the league. The defense is at 109.2, 20th overall. And the pace is 96.3, 17th.
In all six losses without Oladipo, the Pacers were below their season average on offense and above it on defense (even Dallas, one of the worst teams in the league, edged out Indiana’s overall defensive effort.)
Five of the six games were played slower than the average pace of an Indiana game this year. Of those, three were significantly slower, like “whole different team out there offensively” slower.
In other words, without Oladipo to ignite the offense and lead the defense, everything completely falls apart. They’re the Mad Ants out there.
Lance Stephenson Is Best Enjoyed In Small Doses
Lance as starter in Oladipo’s stead? Well…he’s Lance Stephenson. When you get Good Lance, he’s an explosive scorer and playmaker who energizes his teammates.
When you get Bad Lance? He’ll shoot you out of the game, get chippy with the refs, commit dumb turnovers, and generally play like he couldn’t start in the Baltic League, never mind the NBA.
Lance had one great game as a starter (the Dallas game), where he had 16 points, 15 rebounds, and 5 assists. He had another good game against Boston, scoring 16 on 5-of-9 and adding eight boards and five dimes.
His other four starts? In all four games, he had more field goal attempts than points. Shot a combined 5-of-18 from three (27.8 percent) and 21-of-57 (36.8 percent) from the field overall.
I love Lance as much as any good Pacers fan should. But not as a starter in Vic’s place.
The Simple, Standard As You Like Advanced Stats
A 23.5 PER, .160 WS/48, 4.2 BPM, and 2.7 VORP are, collectively, the stats of an All-Star.
Last year, Paul George put up a 20.2 PER, .126 WS/48, 2.8 BPM, and 3.2 VORP (and remember that VORP is a cumulative stat like WAR in baseball, so if you upscale Oladipo up to the 75 games PG13 played last year, he ends up at 4.0, thereby winning all four categories.)
Put another way, Oladipo is an improvement—a big improvement, in fact—over Paul George.
Which…well, the Pacers were 3-4 without PG13 in the lineup last year and 39-36 with him, an improvement of just one expected win (43-39 vs the 42-40 they actually posted.)
Paul George is, if he’s your best player, a mid-40s win total guy by himself. Which really isn’t that bad.
But Oladipo is a “he could anchor a 50-win team” guy by himself. He has essentially passed a test that belongs to the likes of Kobe and Westbrook and LeBron, guys who can give you playoff quality almost without regard to his teammates (I’m not convinced Vic could’ve taken the 2007 Cavs or 2006 Lakers to the playoffs, and his stats last year were of a sort that led me to call Westbrook’s 2017 Thunder, on which Vic played, a G-League team)…
But if we as Pacers fans have learned anything this year, it’s that Kevin Pritchard got a gift from the Basketball Gods as a present for trading away the petulant glory hound upcoming free agent on the roster.
And if there’s a way to keep Oladipo sealed away so he never gets sick or hurt badly enough to miss a game again, it needs to be done for the good of all.