How Victor Oladipo Can Take the Next Step as an Offensive Player

Victor Oladipo, Oklahoma City Thunder
[Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports]

As I’m sure all of you know by now, the Indiana Pacers traded Paul George to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis. The expectations are naturally going to be high for Oladipo. He is viewed as a legitimate franchise building block, and he will have every opportunity that he needs to make that happen. It’s important to analyze if all that he needs to take the next step as a player is more opportunity, or if there are still things that he needs to improve.

Overall Offense

In terms of his volume numbers, Victor Oladipo averaged 15.9 points (44.2% FG, 36.1% 3P, 75.3% FT), 2.6 assists, and 1.8 turnovers in 33.2 minutes per game last season. His scoring average has gone down over the past three seasons, as it was at 17.9 points in 2014-15, then at 16 in 2015-16, and finally 15.9 last season. As for his assist numbers, they have gone sharply down recently too. He put up 4.1 assists per game in 2014-15. That went down to 3.9 in 2015-16, and really dropped last season all the way down to 2.6. Regarding basic scoring efficiency, all of his shooting percentages could use at least a decent amount of improvement.

While his volume metrics have gone down in key offensive areas, it’s important to understand the context of the situation. The opportunity hasn’t been present for Oladipo in recent seasons. His usage rate has gone down every season since it was at 25.2% in 2014-15. In 2015-16, he saw a solid drop in his usage, as he posted just a 22.9% usage rate. It continued to fall to a 21.4% usage rate last season playing alongside Russell Westbrook. Regardless of if he still needs to get better in the major areas, he needs more playmaking opportunity beyond what he has received in recent seasons. Naturally, his volume output should rise by having the ball more in his hands, but can he further that growth through personal player development?

Regarding an overall offensive efficiency standpoint, Oladipo had average (1.137 PPP, 40th percentile) results. He was good (0.956 POP, 55th percentile) when excluding passing, which goes to show from a simplistic standpoint that he wasn’t statistically an asset as a facilitator. He was at least acceptable at taking care of the ball when trying to create plays off the dribble, as he turned the ball over 10.7% of the time. Ultimately, the numbers suggest that he will need to expand his impact when making passes to his teammates, but having more shooters on the Pacers this year than what the Thunder had last season will certainly help with his success in this area as well.

When evaluating Oladipo as a scorer, it’s important to see how he performs in each overview form of shooting. Regarding specific scoring play types (half court), Oladipo was very good (1.004 PPP, 70th percentile) on jump shots, and they accounted for 66.8% of his shot attempts. He was below average (1.039 PPP, 26th percentile) on finishes around the basket, and those shots accounted for 25.1% of his attempts. Lastly, he was very good (0.922 PPP, 67th percentile) on floaters, and they made up 7.1% of his half-court shots. For a player with the athleticism of Oladipo, there is no reason why he shouldn’t be excellent, or at least close to it, in his effectiveness at finishing around the basket.

I noticed a pattern with Oladipo’s finishes around the basket where he would try to score in highly disadvantageous situations when he should have resorted to other options. His explosive athleticism is very much a gift when he is driving the lane because he can complete some very difficult circus finishes, but sometimes that athleticism gives him a false sense of confidence that he can finish off plays that have no business being attempted. Another contributing factor was that he would miss on some easy sequences by trying to add unnecessary finesse, like a finger roll, or he wouldn’t have sufficient balance when completing an alley-oop.

To expand on his finishes at the basket, I do feel that having more shooting threats will be a massive advantage for Oladipo. You do want a sense of reckless abandonment and aggressiveness from your primary perimeter player, and giving him enough spacing will allow for him to finish plays with greater consistency. Getting beyond the first defender is not an issue for Oladipo, it’s running into crowds of defenders or a rotating rim protector from the weak side. Having teammates who provide spacing so that those situations occur less often would help a lot. Perhaps the biggest key is having a stretch-five like Myles Turner.

We can break down his success as a jump shooter to a more particular degree. On catch-and-shoot attempts, Oladipo was very good (1.088 PPP, 65th percentile), and these attempts were responsible for 34.6% of his scoring possessions. I found it interesting that he was considerably better on guarded attempts in these situations, though. On guarded catch-and-shoot attempts, he was excellent (1.176 PPP, 90th percentile) and was just below average (0.948 POP, 26th percentile) on unguarded attempts. Interestingly enough, 61.4% of his catch-and-shoot attempts and his overall production were held back by the easier attempts and propped up by the difficult shots.

The trend that Oladipo was more successful on naturally challenging shot attempts is reinforced by his success on all jump shots off the dribble. On these attempts, he was very good (0.883 PPP, 65th percentile), and he attempted these shots on 28.6% of his shot attempts. Of course, even such high levels of production in an inefficient means of scoring like off the dribble jumpers is still less productive than below average production. Oladipo can’t piece together a proficient jump shooting arsenal if he only keeps doing what he did last season. If he can just knock down more of his open catch-and-shoot attempts, which are the easiest of them all, he will see major improvement.

P&R Ball Handler

There is plenty of room for improvement in regards to Oladipo’s production as a pick-and-roll ball handler. When factoring in all of his possessions in these situations (including passes), he had just average (0.841 PPP, 32nd percentile) production, and these plays accounted for 34.7% of his overall possessions. When looking at the statistics, the shooting efficiency was low with a 41.5% adjusted field goal percentage. He turned the ball over frequently; 14.7% of his possessions to be exact. These sequences resulted in free throws only 10.6% of the time. Oladipo will need to see significant improvement as a pick-and-roll ball handler particularly, as that type of offense will be a focal point in Indiana.

When excluding the possessions where Oladipo passed the ball out of the pick-and-roll, his overall production was average (0.778 PPP, 46th percentile) but was considerably better than when passing was included. His statistics were not favorable in this area, considering how he had only a 41.5% adjusted field goal percentage, he turned the ball over 16.7% of the time, and he got to the free throw line on only 10.1% of his possessions. Ultimately, Oladipo’s numbers need to get better across the board in this area of the game, and that could prove to be challenging with more volume. But it’s a need nonetheless.

When only looking at Oladipo’s passes out of the pick-and-roll, his results were good (1.04 PPP, 54th percentile), and he passed on 34.5% of his possessions. Regarding specific passing types, he passed to the roll man 46% of the time and had good (1.062 PPP, 56th percentile) execution. He passed to spot-up shooters on 46.6% of his possessions and was very good (1.037 PPP, 66th percentile) when doing so. The rest of his pick-and-roll passes (7.5%) were to cutters, and he was poor (0.923 PPP, 9th percentile) on those. I do believe in evaluating the context around each of these three main types, because the situations between what he had with the Thunder will be considerably different compared to what he will face with the Pacers.

The main issue with Oladipo’s passing to cutters out of the pick-and-roll was that he turned the ball over on 30.8% of his possessions. The shooting efficiency was quite good, as his passes led to a 57.1% adjusted field goal percentage and his passes also ended up with trips to the free throw line on 15.4% of the possessions. After watching all of these sequences, these four turnovers weren’t his fault. They were failures of big men to execute on fundamental sequences. I do feel that he should strongly benefit from having more spacing to attack underneath basket cutters, because he made some spectacular plays in these situations.

Interestingly enough, most of Oladipo’s passing to spot-up shooters came through three-out sets, and he didn’t have a whole lot of opportunities to attack out of four-outs. With a stretch-five like Myles Turner and a combination of other big men that can do at least a solid job of spacing the floor from the perimeter, Oladipo should have significantly more room to operate in the pick-and-roll. It should naturally translate to more spot-ups in addition to more straight up and easier scoring opportunities for him too. Also, the Pacers have better spot-up shooting threats on their perimeter than Oklahoma City had last season, and that will certainly help as well.

In regards to his passing to the roll man out of the pick-and-roll, I saw quite a collection of good things and the potential is even greater with the tools that he will have at his disposal in Indiana. In a legitimate spread offense with roll men like Myles Turner and Thaddeus Young, Oladipo can do damage to a defense for a variety of reasons. He can consistently knock down jump shots off the dribble from each range in addition to getting to the rim with explosiveness. If Oladipo ever emerges as a legitimate pick-and-roll threat, it should be this season because he has all of the necessary tools to make it happen.

Transition

For a player with the explosive athletic ability of Victor Oladipo, you would think that he would thrive in transition offense. However, his production was just average (1.054 PPP, 42nd percentile) in this category last season. What held him back as a player in this category was the fact that he produced only a 56.6% adjusted field goal percentage and only got to the free throw line on 10.4% of his possessions. He did also turn the ball over 11.2% of the time, and that isn’t ideal and could certainly use some improvement.

What I found to be interesting was the fact that Oladipo’s best trait in transition was being a ball handler, but he could still use substantial improvement. His production was good (0.957 PPP, 57th percentile), and these sequences accounted for 36.3% of his overall transition possessions. What held him back was that he turned the ball over on 20.2% of his touches. He had solid scoring efficiency with a 55.6% adjusted field goal percentage, and he got to the free throw line on a somewhat frequent basis; 13.8% of the time. While the other areas could use improvement, he will need to cut down on turnovers as a primary transition creator.

I noticed that a lot of Oladipo’s turnovers as a transition ball handler come when he is one of the furthest players from the basket upon receiving the ball. It appears that his speed and acceleration frequently give him almost too much confidence in his abilities to finish plays and he tried to attack sequences that shouldn’t be attacked. However, when he isn’t facing a set defense, he is highly successful and is very hard to stop. To me, it appears that the key is for him to become more under control and to pick his battles better. Not every fast break is a legitimate opportunity to score, particularly against a set defense.

The next most frequent transition play type for Oladipo was when he filled the right wing in transition. He did this on 30.9% of his plays, and his results were below average (1 PPP, 30th percentile). Oladipo was mostly a spot-up shooter in these situations, like most players. However, he also showcased some basket cuts and some mid-range jumpers. Overall, he shot just a 52.8% adjusted field goal percentage in these scenarios. What held him back was his inability to knock down open perimeter jumpers, which was indeed an issue in his offensive game in general. In case you wondering about the rest of his production, he turned the ball over on 7.5% of his possessions and got to the free throw line 5% of the time.

Next up; his transition tendencies when filling the left wing. These plays accounted for 15.4% of his fast break possessions, and his production was below average (1 PPP, 30th percentile). His tendencies appeared to be quite similar to how he approached filling the right wing considering how he was mostly used as a spot-up shooter. His shooting efficiency was nearly identical too, as he produced a 52.9% adjusted field goal percentage. The biggest key for him, again, is to become a more efficient spot-up shooter in these situations. Regarding his other areas, he turned the ball over 7.5% of the time and got to the free throw line on 7.5% of his plays.

Victor Oladipo was good (1.636 PPP, 53rd percentile) on leak outs, and these plays made up 8.5% of his fast break plays. With his intangibles, it is very difficult to stop him in these situations. His straight line speed, acceleration, and vertical explosion allow for quick access to the rim without leaving many opportunities for defenders to stop him. Of course, I did notice some unforced errors. Oladipo’s scoring was highly efficient as he recorded an 88.2% adjusted field goal percentage. He frequently got to the free throw line; 22.7% of his possessions. His 4.5% turnover percentage wasn’t high for most situations, but he could afford to trim that down a bit.

Spot Up

When you’re a perimeter player and play alongside a player who has the ball as often as Russell Westbrook, you tend to become more of a spot-up offensive player. That was precisely the case for Victor Oladipo. His production was good (1 PPP, 60th percentile), and these plays accounted for 21.4% of his offensive possessions. As a whole, he executed on his shot attempts at the rate of a 52.7% adjusted field goal percentage. In case you were curious, Oladipo turned the ball over 6.7% of the time and got to the free throw line on 1.7% of the possessions. His production is a good base, but he will need to improve to take the next step.

It’s rather simple to evaluate his production on spot-up plays considering how 80.3% of the time he was taking no dribble jumpers and had good (1.11 PPP, 60th percentile) production on those shots. After studying his shot attempts, he just needs to keep getting better at knocking down open catch-and-shoot jumpers. It won’t be as critical in his new situation as it was with the Thunder since he will be a playmaking focal point, but it’s still a crucial and growing part of the game nonetheless. It just goes to show how much of an impact open catch-and-shoot jumpers have on the game.

Oladipo will probably need to take far more dribble jumpers out of spot-ups next season since he will be far more of an offensive focal point next season for the Pacers than he was in 2016-17 for the Thunder. He only had five total possessions (2.2% of his spot-ups), and he generated 1.4 points per possession. For reference, he shot 3-of-4 from the field and created a free throw attempt on the other possession. Considering his overall production on dribble jumpers (very good), I do believe a greater sample size would be beneficial. He has the full package as an off the dribble shooter; he can step back, side step, and pull-up.

I did notice something relatively concerning from a statistical standpoint, though. Oladipo had poor (0.625 PPP, 3rd percentile) execution when driving to the basket out of spot-ups and he did so on 10.1% of his possessions. However, when studying film, there were a lot of situations where he was trying to drive a packed paint, and Oklahoma City didn’t have many floor spacing threats on the floor. To me, it appears to be more about having quality opportunities and having a stretch-five like Myles Turner and other jump shooting threats at other positions will certainly open up straight line drive opportunities for Oladipo.

Cuts

One of the areas where Victor Oladipo managed to produce in the top tier of the NBA was on his cuts. For reference, he was excellent (1.435 PPP, 85th percentile), and these plays accounted for 5.6% of his overall offensive plays. He was incredibly efficient on his cuts as he produced a 76% adjusted field goal percentage. Oladipo also managed to create quite a bit of free throw attempts as he did 17.7% of the time. One thing I noticed, from a statistical standpoint, was the fact that he turned the ball over on 8.1% of his possessions. That could use some improvement. Regardless, his production was fantastic as a whole.

Oladipo has a proficient ability to catch the defense sleeping and then take advantage of it with basket cuts. For some perspective, 88.7% of his cuts were basket cuts, and his production on these plays were excellent (1.509 PPP, 84th percentile). It will be interesting to see how often and to what extent his basket cutting abilities will be utilized by the Pacers next season since they don’t have a top tier facilitator to deliver the ball to him. I do believe that Myles Turner could be a unique teammate for Oladipo because of the underneath spacing he provides as a stretch-five. As a playmaker, Turner could dish the ball to Oladipo too.

Off Screen

Another part of his offensive skill-set where Victor Oladipo truly shined was on off screen plays. In these situations, he produced at an excellent (1.123 PPP, 83rd percentile) level, and these plays accounted for 5.1% of his offensive possessions. Regarding efficiency in specific categories, Oladipo produced a 60.6% adjusted field goal percentage, he turned the ball over on 7% of his possessions, and he got to the free throw line 1.8% of the time. He was highly efficient in each category, and there isn’t much more than you can ask from him. This method of offense should be used for Oladipo more in Indiana’s offense.

Since the Pacers do not have the luxury of having a playmaking machine like Russell Westbrook to create catch-and-shoot looks for Oladipo almost at will, I believe a great method to create easier perimeter shots for him would be to use off screen plays. Also, while using off screen plays for traditional catch-and-shoot attempts is nice, I do believe that the Indiana Pacers should look to expand Oladipo’s impact on off screen plays with curls too. It’s important for an offense to create simpler opportunities for perimeter players to get into the paint for greater consistency, and that’s a good method

Only 14% of his off screen plays were curls, and that was for a good reason. The interior floor spacing in Oklahoma City’s offense was quite poor on almost all of these sequences because the Thunder lacked shooting threats in their front court and even on their perimeter. As I have continually said in this analysis, the Pacers have a collection of front court shooting threats as well as a lot of shooting threats on their perimeter, which will enable Oladipo to have plenty of space to operate in these actions. Using curls allows for scenarios where the defender is trailing him. With Oladipo’s explosiveness, giving him space in these sequences could be a great tool.

Handoffs

Victor Oladipo will need to get better on hand off plays. This play type could be a real tool for him if used properly. For reference, his overall production was below average (0.712 PPP, 23rd percentile), and these sequences accounted for 4.7% of his offensive possessions. His scoring was widely inefficient, as he recorded a 39.7% adjusted field goal percentage and he frequently turned the ball over as he did 15.4% of the time. Oladipo did get to the free throw line 11.5% of the time, and that was solid. As you can see, there is a lot of room for growth in this area of his offensive game, and I think it could certainly come largely in part by playing under better circumstances.

Oladipo received the ball off the dribble on his hand off plays 78.8% of the time, and his execution was at a below average (0.683 PPP, 20th percentile) rate. From a statistical standpoint, what jumped out to me was the fact that he produced only a 37.5% adjusted field goal percentage in these situations and only got to the free throw line 9.8% of the time. Of course, he turned the ball over on 12.2% of his possessions, which isn’t terrible but could definitely use some work. There is a ton of improvement that he needs to make from a statistical standpoint on these particular plays.

Regarding stationary hand offs, they accounted for 21.2% of his overall hand off production, and his production was average (0.818 PPP, 33rd percentile). What could be considered a positive was the fact that Oladipo produced a 50% adjusted field goal percentage in these situations and got to the free throw line 18.2% of the time. However, the terrible news is that he turned the ball over on 27.3% of his possessions. I wouldn’t read too much into it, though. He only had 11 total stationary handoff plays last season, so the sample size is low.

This is another play type that is rarely successful in today’s game if you don’t have legitimate interior floor spacing, and that was the case for Oladipo in Oklahoma City’s offense. Most of his scoring plays were a result of spectacular craftiness, and that certainly wasn’t sustainable. Not to sound like a broken record, but this is another play type where greater interior floor spacing will greatly help Oladipo. When attacking from the outside on handoffs, they are typically rounded off plays where the interior of the defense is still relatively set. It’s much easier when you have a big man as versatile as Myles Turner to run handoff sets with plenty of shooters at each position.

Bottom Line

Oladipo needs to find a niche as an offensive player. He hasn’t managed to be excellent in any particular high or medium volume component of offense, and that’s a necessity for one of the top offensive options for a successful team. He isn’t a great shooter, scorer, or passer at this point in his career, and all of those areas could use improvement. However, if Oladipo can manage to improve his shooting efficiency on open catch-and-shoot attempts, he could reach excellent heights as an overall jump shooter, which would be a good start for his overall offensive skill-set. The other key areas, like pick-and-roll ball handling and transition offense, will need to see at least some growth too.

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About Grant Afseth 167 Articles
Grant Afseth is the lead Indiana Pacers writer for and founder of Indiana Sports Coverage.

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