The goal during rebuilding is to find a star by any means necessary. And if you whiff, especially in the draft where you’re liking selecting near the top, it could set your franchise back years.
This brings us to the Orlando Magic, who are on their second or third rebuilding plan (you forget how many by now) and Victor Oladipo, the All-Star they let get away.
Actually, the Magic traded Oladipo two years ago and have virtually nothing to show for it today. Meanwhile, Oladipo will represent the Pacers in the All-Star Game in a few weeks while the Magic have nobody close to an All-Star on their roster.
They took Oladipo with the No. 2 pick in 2013 and let’s be fair to the Magic — Oladipo was mostly a tease during his three seasons inn Orlando. He was a solid defender, had great character, could bring the fans to their feet on a breakaway dunk and some nights looked very good. But his jump shot suffered; he never shot better than 34 percent from deep and at the two-guard position, range shooting is important in today’s game.
So the Magic lost patience and traded him to Oklahoma City two summers ago for Serge Ibaka and spare parts, which didn’t make sense then and now. Ibaka was a poor fit and declining defender who only lasted a year before Orlando sent him to Toronto.
Oladipo was solid in his only season in OKC but also was a distant second option to Russell Westbrook, who mostly ignored him and collected triple-doubles at a historically high usage rate on the way to the league MVP award. Oladipo was sent packing again when Paul George became available and the basketball world mocked the trade, saying the Pacers were ripped off, which essentially was also throwing shade at Oladipo, who was deemed a very expensive ($20 million-plus per season) second-tier player.
Here’s Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinelon losing Oladipo, in hindsight:
For Magic fans, it must be tantalizing to wonder what would’ve happened if the team had kept Oladipo. But Elfrid Payton said there would be no guarantees that Oladipo would’ve blossomed if he had remained with the Magic.
“I think we would be further along, but it’s tough to say because who knows if he’s getting those opportunities here?” Payton said.
“He’s been able to get the ball and been given the keys to their team, and they need him to score and do the things that he’s doing. He’s thriving. He’s playing really well. We don’t know if he would be able to do that here, if he would be getting those opportunities. We’ve got Evan here. We’ve got A.G. [Aaron Gordon] here. We don’t know if he would be getting those same attempts.”
This means that, even when it appears the Magic blew it, the image is not exactly the reality. Again, Oladipo was just a fair player in Orlando and maybe the Magic could’ve used more patience with him. Yet he’s in the perfect spot in Indiana, not far where he played college ball; the Pacers were thirsty for a scorer after losing George and are giving Oladipo the freedom he lacked in OKC and, to an extent, in Orlando.
Also, give Oladipo props for raising his game and being prepared when opportunity knocked.
Meanwhile, the Magic are no better off without him. That’s the real crime here. That’s why it hurts in Orlando. They’ve got nothing to show for losing Oladipo and now must go into another draft looking for someone who’ll blossom into an All-Star one day. Someone like Oladipo.