With the Indiana Pacers sitting at 16-11 and fifth in the Eastern Conference fully a third into the NBA season, the idea that the team’s early 5-3 start was properly negated by the subsequent four-game losing streak has been pretty well established as rubbish, two winning streaks of four and five games speaking quite well to that as the team has won 11 of its last 15.
And in the midst of all that, Victor Oladipo has emerged as a legitimate, no-bones-about-it All-Star.
Of course, it helps that two of his would-be competitors at guard, John Wall and Isaiah Thomas, have both missed significant time with injuries. It also helps that Kemba Walker‘s Charlotte Hornets have been legitimately terrible, which tends to dampen enthusiasm for choosing a player as an All-Star.
And indeed, if we just go to Basketball Reference and have it sort all guards in the league by Win Shares, your top 5 are, in order, Kyrie Irving, DeMar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry, Walker…and Victor Oladipo.
And like we mentioned, Walker’s team is terrible. Those other three guys who rank ahead of Oladipo are on the East’s best team by record (the Celtics) or by point differential (the Raptors.)
So far, so good.
Win Shares not your jam? How about PER? Oladipo is second in the East, behind only Kyrie Irving. That suggests that putting the two together ought to be the East’s starting backcourt, with DeRozan and Walker (rather than Wall, who’s hurt) as the backups, and Lowry stuck behind Bradley Beal and D’Angelo Russell in seventh among guards.
And, if you’re the kind of troglodyte All-Star voter who takes his advice on what makes good basketball at the barbershop rather than in the boardroom, fine, then let’s consider counting stats.
Victor Oladipo leads all Eastern Conference guards in points per game. No nerd stuff required. He scores the most points. If all you care about is the scoreboard, there’s your glowing dot-matrix numbers staring you in the face and lighting up 24.5 points per game.
So spread the word, because maybe folks who don’t get to see a lot of Pacers games since they’re not on national TV very often haven’t seen just how good Oladipo is yet.
But he’s the biggest reason why the Pacers are 16-11. He’s a lock for Most Improved Player. And hell, if Indiana hosts a playoff series by finishing in the East’s top 4 behind the Celtics/Cavs/Raptors axis of contending, he deserves a few down-ballot votes on the five-deep ticket for MVP. I mean, he’s not going to win the award—that belongs to James Harden or LeBron James—but a few fifth-place votes? Sure, I’m a Pacers homer, but it’s not unreasonable.
So when All-Star fan voting starts, make sure Oladipo’s on your East ballot. He absolutely deserves to be there.