How Victor Oladipo sets the pace for the Pacers

Nothing speaks louder for Victor Oladipo’s impact on the Indiana Pacers than his team’s record with and without him.

With him, the Indiana Pacers are 33-19.

Without him, they are 0-6. Simply put: no Victor, no victories.

One of the biggest differences that he makes when he’s playing is how much faster Pacers play. While the impact is only little over a couple of possessions per game when he’s on the floor, that’s the difference between ranking 16th in pace overall when he’s on the court and 26th when he’s off the court.

A reason the Pacers have more pace with him is the number of spectacular plays that he makes on defense, primarily through steals. He got his first steal on the season less than two minutes into the opener and him blurring through a passing lane and onto the other end for an easy dunk has been a regular sight in Indiana games since.

Oladipo, who averages 2.1 steals per game (2nd in the league), is a fastbreak machine that feasts on an opponent’s lazy passes, sneaks into passing lanes, and finds turnovers while defending what would seem like safe plays.

Over a 4-possession stretch against the Knicks on Sunday, Oladipo ended New York’s possessions by stealing the ball away on three occasions. The plays led to an Oladipo dunk, a Thaddeus Young 3-pointer and a pair of free throws after he was fouled on the last breakaway attempt. Two of the steals came on passes like this that bigs like Enes Kanter are used to defenders offering little resistance.

So many of his forced turnovers lead to these transition baskets and help juice the Pacers offense. Getting his hands on this pass attempt leads to his practice for the dunk contest tomorrow.

Against the Celtics, Oladipo stole it away on multiple dribble hand-offs by getting his hand in the play either as the ball was handed off or immediately after, including one where he ripped it away for Kyrie Irving. Both of these are two more examples of his pick six variety of forced turnovers.

While he has been burned on occasion on backdoor cuts by gambling for the steal or falling asleep, he makes far more plays than he gives up. It’s not just off-ball defense where he makes these change-of-possession plays. He’s great at anticipating how a player is going to attack him and swiping the ball like here against Tim Hardaway, Jr.

Picking a guy’s pocket isn’t the only way that Oladipo turns defense into quick offense. He’s averaging 0.8 blocks per game with plays like these.

Here he turns Khris Middleton’s fadeaway into a transition opportunity by blocking the shot as his speed makes the defense foul him after receiving the outlet pass.

Offensively, Oladipo is able to speed the Pacers up by having the freedom and the ability to create and take quick shots. While his 3-pointer hasn’t fallen at the extremely high rate in the last two months that it was at the beginning of the season, the pull-up 3-pointer has been a reliable shot for him all year, including a game-winner against the Chicago Bulls that came off a turnover.

He takes two 3-point shots per game within the first nine seconds of the shot clock (considered early by NBA’s tracking data), he makes over 45% of those attempts.

He goes coast to coast even off of made baskets at times, including this one where the camera is barely cut back to the normal game angle by the time Oladipo is past the half-court line and ready to dunk the ball mere seconds after Michael Beasley scored on the other end.

Every time he touches the ball in the opposing backcourt, it’s a transition chance for the speedy Pacers guard.

Whether Oladipo is creating fastbreak chances through getting his hands into passing lane, blocking a shot guards normally don’t have a chance to get to or simply running faster than every one else on the floor, he’s setting the pace for the Indiana Pacers.


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