Victor Oladipo 2.0 has arrived.
The 25-year-old Indiana Pacers guard has been on a warpath this season, averaging 23.4 points per game and shooting 48 percent from the field. His 2.4 Estimated Wins Added currently ranks ahead of established stars like Paul George, John Wall and Russell Westbrook. For a player who's on his third team in five seasons, it's an astonishing start.
This doesn't seem to be a case of a player who's simply off to a lucky start. Oladipo looks leaner, faster and more explosive than we've ever seen him. The guy is rampaging through passing lanes and throwing down 360 dunks. It's like he went through a second puberty:
— Indiana Pacers (@Pacers) November 11, 2017
Oladipo got in crazy shape and changed the course of his career - it's really cool, he's so much fun to watch this season. That's suddenly a defensible trade.
— Bill Simmons (@BillSimmons) November 4, 2017
The secret behind Oladipo's upgraded play is simple—he's now in the best shape of his life. The day after the Oklahoma Thunder were eliminated by the Houston Rockets in last year's playoffs, Oladipo (then with the Thunder) vowed to train like crazy during the offseason. "I'm going to work and work, and I'm going to work some more," Oladipo told NewsOK.com. "After that, I'm going to work some more."
About six short weeks after he made those comments, a photo emerged showing the drastic body transformation Oladipo had already achieved:
He looks like a totally different person. The photo was posted by David Alexander, founder of DBC Fitness in Miami, Florida. Alexander trains a number of elite NBA players, including LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. "Only 3 weeks into (Oladipo's) offseason with me, down 10 pounds and exceeding all my expectations of him," Alexander writes in the caption. "By decreasing an athlete's inflammation and body fat, it's going to help them recover faster, and allow them to perform at optimal levels."
Despite the impressive physical transformation, the Thunder still regarded Oladipo as dispensable. On June 30, the Thunder announced they were trading Oladipo along with Domantas Sabonis to the Pacers in exchange for Paul George. In a post where he thanked OKC and embraced his new team, Oladipo used the hashtag "#ExhaustUrPotential". He continued to grind with a purpose. Alexander helped him get in absurd shape, challenging his endurance with a combination of plyometric and agility drills:
In addition to his rigorous training routine, Oladipo also addressed his sloppy diet. Perhaps the most important change was eliminating fast food, as Popeyes used to be a consistent source of meals for the 6-foot-4 shooting guard. The combo of intense training and a cleaner diet helped Oladipo drop nearly 20 pounds this offseason.
"I wasn't fat per se, but I was stocky," Oladipo told NBA.com in October. "I'm leaner than I've ever been in my entire life, so I feel great. I just locked in and got better. I just feel good. I feel in shape. I don't get tired as fast as I used to. I don't know how else to explain it."
According to the player tracking data available through the NBA, Oladipo is indeed playing with more energy. He's averaging an on-court speed of 4.65 MPH this season. Among starters who've appeared in at least 10 games, that's the fifth-fastest average speed in the NBA. Oladipo's covering an average distance of 2.53 miles per game, which ranks 10th under those same parameters.
Last season, Oladipo averaged an on-court speed of 4.20 MPH and covered an average distance of 2.32 miles per game. So not only is he passing the eye test, but the advanced metrics also point to a guy who's in superior shape. After a recent Pacers win, head coach Nate McMillan expressed his amazement at Oladipo's blistering speed. "I didn't see him (being this fast). There's (only) a few guys in the league that have the speed he has," McMillan told IndyStar.com. "I think he can be a triple-double type guy."
Oladipo has always been a tremendous athlete, but it wasn't until now that he had the cardiovascular endurance required to take full advantage of those gifts. Coming out of Indiana, scouts raved that he was an "elite athlete" with "outstanding physical tools." His 42-Inch Max Vertical at the NBA Combine only added to the buzz. He was the second overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft—a spot where teams expect to get a transcendent star. While Oladipo was solid during his first four NBA seasons, he wasn't spectacular. Now, he's once again looking like a player with unlimited potential.
"He's done a great job of taking care of himself physically. He's lost a lot of weight. He's gotten himself in incredible shape," Thunder head coach Billy Donovan recently said of his former player. "I think he's finally figured out what he needs to do to become the player he wants to become."
Photo Credit: Mitchell Leff/Getty Images
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