When the Orlando Magic coaching staff and front office confirmed that they planned to work rookie and second-overall pick Victor Oladipo at point guard for the 2013-2014 NBA season, I’ll admit that I had my reservations. Point guard isn’t Oladipo’s natural position and thrusting him into a new position in his first NBA season seemed like an odd choice to me.
As the Magic have gotten preseason play underway, though, it’s seemed like I was wrong in questioning the organization and should have believed in the talent of Oladipo. Through the Magic’s first two games of the preseason and Oladipo’s first ever preseason action, he has looked very much like a quality, young NBA point guard.
Oladipo and the Magic opened up preseason play against the New Orleans Pelicans where the guard put forth a solid all-around effort. In 25 minutes on the floor, the rookie put up 10 points, nine assists, five rebounds and four steals on 4-9 shooting while also only turning the ball over twice. In his second bit of preseason action on Friday night against the Cleveland Cavaliers, he followed up his debut by putting up 18 points, eight rebounds and three assists in 30 minutes. He was efficient scoring once again, shooting 7-13 from the floor, but did commit four turnovers in the contest.
The main thing that has stood out about Oladipo’s play thus far in the preseason is his ability to facilitate, one thing I worried. In college, Oladipo handled the ball often, but he derived most of success from working off of the ball and scoring in that manner. Through these two games, though, he’s been able to get his teammates involved very well while also scoring well for himself. More than that, he’s also been solid defensively, even against talented guards like Kyrie Irving and Jrue Holiday.
One of the interesting things about how the Magic have handled Oladipo, though, is that they have been bringing him off of the bench behind veteran point guard Jameer Nelson, but Oladipo has played the bulk of the minutes at the position. My guess would be that they plan to start Nelson at the point guard at the beginning of the regular season to somewhat give Oladipo an easier transition to the league.
Where Oladipo needs to improve judging from his play early in the preseason, though, is with his shot selection. In two games he’s taken 10 attempts from beyond-the-arc, but has converted on only two of them. Take away those 10 three-point attempts and the rookie has shot 9-12 from the field so far in the preseason. Oladipo only had one above-average season in college from long-range and has always been better using his quickness and strength to attack the rim. Though the Magic want him to take the open threes he gets, that shouldn’t be the primary shot that he’s looking for.
Coming into the draft, many people viewed Oladipo as the most pro-ready prospect in the draft. It’s only been two games in the preseason (grain of salt), but that assertion about the rookie seems like it’s coming to fruition. If Oladipo continues this level of play and keeps working going into the regular season, he could potentially run away with the Rookie of the Year award.
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