Victor Oladipo has missed 11 of the 102 games the Indiana Pacers have played since he joined the team in the 2017 offseason, through games of November 26.
In those 11 games, the Pacers are 2-0 against the Utah Jazz and 0-9 against everyone else.
2-9 is a 15-67 pace, the same win pace the Knicks managed without Kristaps Porzingis last year and two games worse than the 2018-19 Cleveland Cavaliers, at 4-15 so far this season, project over 82 games (17-65).
How wild are those two Jazz wins, both within the past week? They were by a combined score of 242-182. 60 total points, and only the win over Memphis on opening night (111-83) stops the two games from ranking 1-2 in biggest wins of the season; the wins over Utah were by 33 and 27.
That’s not to say that they somehow rescued a Hornets-like point differential with two wins; only two of the seven losses without Oladipo last year were by even single digits, and the losses this year were by 18 and 11.
Translation: They’re 2-9, and their overall point differential stands at -68, or -6.2 per game.
So OK, blowing out Utah twice did rescue this team off the scrap heap completely; going into Monday those numbers were 1-9 and -10.1, which would beat only that atrocious Cavs team (and their -10.9 differential without LeBron James) as the worst team in the NBA this season.
Bear also in mind that this year’s Pacers are a much deeper team than last year’s; when a guy who had better than a 20 PER in 2017-18 (Kyle O’Quinn) racks up DNP-CDs like he’s getting paid for them, you know that you’ve improved the bench.
Anyway, 2-9 and -6.2 projects to 24-58 over a full season.
This team went 48-34 last year, 48-27 without Oladipo. Give them Vic for seven games and they could’ve won 5 of them and been the East 3 seed.
If this doesn’t adequately show the point that Oladipo is so valuable that few players not named LeBron can be responsible for as many wins as Vic has been—and LeBron’s Cavs, projected by point differential, project to 12-70, which would be a 38-win dropoff, and the 2010-11 Cavs dropped 42 wins before and after The Decision.
Last year, Lance Stephenson started seven games in Vic’s absence, those games in which Indiana went 0-7.
How bad was Lance as a starter? Well, he had the same awful 93 Offensive Rating but had a 118 Defensive Rating starting (and 108 as a reserve), saw his TS% drop to .489 from .496 (have we forgotten that Lance wasn’t good at basketball? He was fun to watch, but Kevin Pritchard wasn’t joking when he said sometimes Lance was the best player on the other team.)
This year, Tyreke Evans has taken over those starters’ minutes, and while he hasn’t been good (93 Offensive Rating, 108 Defensive Rating, and an average plus/minus of -13.5, with a horrific .403 TS%), moving him into the starting lineup has given Aaron Holiday a chance to show why he’s got real potential as an NBA player.
The Pacers play Phoenix Tuesday night, and if they’re truly to prove they’re a competent team with Oladipo out, they need to beat the other awful team in the NBA this year, even given the handicap of a SEGABABA on the road.
Lose, especially badly, and the Pacers will continue to fight the perception that they’re a bottom-feeding pick-early-in-the-lottery team without the most valuable with-or-without-him guy in the league other than LeBron.
And yes, that’s right—statistically, the only player more absolutely crucial to his team in terms of the difference between playoffs and tank warfare than Victor Oladipo is LeBron James. Chew on that for a bit.