From contributing writer Jordan Brenner.
Jordan is a sports journalist who has covered the NBA for nearly two decades. He is the former NBA editor for ESPN The Magazine.
When the Pacers traded Paul George for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis last June, the ridicule came quickly and relentlessly.
— Kevin O'Connor (@KevinOConnorNBA) July 1, 2017
Kevin Pritchard didn’t have much leverage, but just Oladipo and Sabonis … wow. Shocking he couldn’t do better.
— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanESPN) July 1, 2017
Thanks for the tweets reporting the "theft" of Paul George by @okcthunder.
Our investigative findings: totally legal & very savvy.
— Oklahoma City Police (@OKCPD) July 1, 2017
Could you blame anyone for reacting that way? When last we’d seen Oladipo, he was averaging 15.9 ppg and struggling to coexist in a backcourt with Russell Westbrook. For three seasons before that, he played on a Magic team that lost 163 games, in part because he had a .525 true shooting percentage and 15.3% turnover rate. Heck, even before the Magic took him with the second pick in the 2013 draft, some folks didn’t understand the fuss, particularly one poor soul:
I wouldn't touch Victor Oladipo with a high lottery pick. Can someone explain why is anything more than a better defending Shannon Brown?
— Jordan Brenner (@JordanBrenner) June 7, 2013
By now we know how things turned out. Last week Oladipo earned Third Team All-NBA honors, just like George, the guy the Thunder supposedly stole. The joke is on the critics. But for those interested in more than schadenfreude, there are lessons to learn from the Oladipo saga, or at least ones to try to uncover. If the Pacers truly believed they were trading for an All-Star, what did they see that no one else noticed? And if Oladipo always had this latent ability, what triggered this monumental change, and what should that mean for the way we evaluate players?