Indiana Pacers: Why Victor Oladipo is the Top Shooting Guard in the East

The Eastern Conference may not be as wide open as some may think even with the departure of LeBron James to the Los Angeles Lakers this summer. However, one thing is for certain, the Indiana Pacers not only have a shot at the top spot in the East, but they also have the best shooting guard and possibly best pure scorer in Victor Oladipo.

At first glance, this may be a tough pill to swallow. But take a look through the conference and try to think of a better scorer than Oladipo.

As far as shooting guards go, the main competition in 2017 was Bradley Beal of the Washington Wizards and DeMar DeRozan of the Toronto Raptors. Now, with DeRozan off to San Antonio, that leaves only Beal as a threat. For the season, Oladipo averaged 23.1 points while shooting .477 percent from the floor, including .371 percent from beyond the arc. On the other side of the coin, Beal averaged 22.6 points while shooting .460 percent from the floor, including .375 percent from beyond the arc. Close numbers indeed for the All-Star SG’s.

But what separates the two if their numbers are so close?

It’s not about their team’s wins and losses. What happens if you take Beal away from the Wizards and Oladipo away from the Pacers? The Wizards can survive with John Wall, Otto Porter Jr, and Markieff Morris. Now, you add in Dwight Howard, and the Wizards will still earn a playoff spot in the East. However, by subtracting Victor Oladipo from the Indiana Pacers, that will change the entire dynamic of the team, thus resulting in them finishing near the bottom of the conference.

If comparing the two, both players can create their own shot off the dribble. However, we will take a closer look at what each player prefers. For Beal, 45 percent of his shots are pull-ups while Oladipo uses pull-ups 47 percent of the time. But this is where I would give the nod to Oladipo.

Beal has John Wall by his side who loves to get to the basket and kick back out to Beal on the perimeter. When measuring Beal’s stats from less than 10 feet, it shows that Beal is hitting 62.9 percent while Oladipo hits from the same range at 72.8 percent. Beal, is mostly a catch and shoot type player as it shows that 30 percent of his shot attempts are taken with zero dribbles. Oladipo, however, takes 3-6 dribbles 30 percent of the time to create his own shot.

While having Wall gives Beal the option to be more prolific from the perimeter, Oladiop has been aided by Darren Collison who also loves to attack the rim. While the critics will give the nod to Beal due to his consistency, this was Oladipo’s breakout season in 2017. His one year in OKC was average at best, but as we’ve seen, if given the green light, Oladipo could be just as dangerous as any scorer in the NBA.

Look at guys like James Harden and Klay Thompson. The Warriors and Rockets’ offense is catered to their specific talents. The Indiana Pacers went into the season not expecting Oladipo to become this high-usage player, and yet, he’s made due with what was drawn up for him. Beal, on the other hand, has been the Wizards second scorer since arriving. His numbers were expected. But has Beal hit his ceiling?

While Beal is still young (24 years old), he will forever be the Pippen to Wall’s Jordan. Beal is like Thompson in some regards. The offensive numbers will be there, but he will not be the primary focal point of any defense. Oladipo is more like Harden. He’s the Alpha with no Robin to his Batman. Defenses are designed to stop him and yet, they haven’t. Imagine the type of high-volume scorer he could be if he had a player like Stephen Curry or John Wall by his side?

Oladipo has cemented his place as the leader of the Indiana Pacers, and now, he has earned the right to have more plays drawn up for him. With Victor Oladipo coming into his own, there’s no telling what he has in store for the 2018 NBA season. Beal, we’ve seen this before. He’s not new to the 20+ points per game seasons. We know he will continue to hover around the 35 percent from three-point range. We know he will continue to average 4-5 assists per game, but Oladipo, he’s just hitting his stride.

In the Eastern Conference, can you honestly name another player who can score at will with no help from a dominant playmaker like Wall to help set up shots like Oladipo? Look around; there are none. Beal comes close, but he’s no Victor Oladipo.

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