Victor Oladipo: Pacers Postmortem

After coming back from a ruptured quadriceps tendon, the injury that ended Charles Barkley‘s career, Victor Oladipo was, measured by VORP, the worst player on the entire Indiana Pacers team in 2020.

His minus-0.2 VORP in 552 minutes combined with a pathetic .002 WS/48, lower than anyone on the team who played more than 50 minutes all season.

And while the counting stats people could point at Vic’s 20 points per game in his first nine games with the Pacers before being, in the grand scheme of things, traded for Caris LeVert as a side effect of the James Harden blockbuster trade last week and say he was resurgent, the advanced stats say otherwise.

His .083 WS/48 sunk below the Starter’s Mendoza Line and made him, statistically, a net liability for a team that finished 2020 on a better-than-50-win pace per 82 games.

His defense, good enough to make him Second Team All-Defensive in 2018, slipped enough such that Box Plus-Minus identified him as a net minus defender, but on the other hand 80 percent of his Win Shares came on the defensive side of the ball.

Which, in turn, points to just how bad his offensive efficiency truly was.

He finished just 58.2 percent from 3 feet and in, coming off a season where his shooting percentage on shots that close was a yack-inducing .441. That’s worse than Tyreke Evans in 2018-19 and among players with at least 50 attempts from in close ranked as the worst FG% from that close in the entire league last year.

Only five players in the whole league hit less than half their shots from that range with a minimum of 50 attempts. Oladipo was the most putrid of them all.

Overall, he shot 42.1 percent from the field and 36.1 percent from 3 on a decent .454 3PAR, but on the whole, there are better sharpshooters out there. That’s never been Vic’s forte as a player; he’s a career 35.1 percent 3-point shooter, which by modern standards is below average.

That’s not to say Caris LeVert is much better. He’s just a 33.9 percent shooter from long range so far in his five-year career, he can’t stay healthy, and he is nowhere near Oladipo’s equal defensively.

But he’s been more consistent more recently, he can actually finish at the rim (66 percent from 3 feet and in so far this season, and in a Pacers offense that leads the league in generating shots from that close, that is huge), and he is on a team that is better defensively than Brooklyn.

There’s a big concern about “a small mass on his kidney” that an MRI found (this according to Basketball Reference’s injury report), but the Pacers had to get something for Oladipo or let him walk for nothing.

If indeed that “small mass” is something more serious, especially since it was the Pacers’ medical staff and not the Nets’ who discovered the problem, that won’t and can’t nullify the Harden trade (that would be a scandalous piece of news if it did), but it will make an interesting case to the league to nullify the $52.5 million the Pacers now owe LeVert over the next three seasons.

The point of all this, however, is that Victor Oladipo was unhappy in Indiana, almost sure to bail in free agency, and the Pacers didn’t want to let him walk without getting something back for him, especially since an early offensive burst from him meant he had possibly as much trade value as he’d ever have to his team after an utterly putrid 2020 season that may have been the reason Indiana couldn’t move him last offseason the way they moved Paul George to acquire Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis in the first place back in 2017.

It’s possible that Kevin Pritchard just managed to make things even worse, trading “nothing” for “a 3-year, $52.5 million contract for a player who will never see the floor.”

But if LeVert is fine, or if the NBA allows the Pacers to void LeVert’s salary if the medical condition forces him to retire, they couldn’t have done too much better with their mercurial expiring-contract star.

They could, however, have done a lot worse.