NBA

NBA AM: Is Oladipo Orlando’s Missing Piece?

Is Victor Oladipo the missing piece to Orlando’s quest for a playoff berth?… John Henson believes he’s ready to break out in his third year.

Steve Kyler profile picture
Updated 12 months ago on
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Is Oladipo The Missing Piece?:  The Orlando Magic didn’t get off to the best of starts this season, but as things are starting to settle in the Magic are starting to find their way. The return of second year guard Victor Oladipo should help, as his energy and defensive presence was clearly missed as he rehabbed from a broken orbital bone he sustained in practice just as the season opened.

With Oladipo back in the lineup this week, his team’s energy level has been noicably better, especially on the defensive end.

“I just think they feed off the way I play,” Oladipo told Basketball Insiders. “When they see me flying around and playing D, helping and rebounding, I think it’s contagious. We just got to continue to build off that and continue to do that.”

Oladipo’s role as spark plug has been welcomed by his teammates, pushing Oladipo into a leadership role especially among the young guys on the team.

“It is what it is; I’m a leader whether I like it or not now,” Oladipo said. “From my experience last year, just going out there and being patient and being poised I have to be a leader. Vocally, I feel like people listen to me on this team and they respect my work ethic, and what I bring to the table. I got to be vocal and I got to lead by example, I think people look up to me on this team, so I’m looking forward to being one throughout the year.”

It’s a little unusual for a second year player to be asked to lead, especially with so many players on the roster with more experience.

“I’m ready for it, it’s not my first time leading,” Oladipo said. “It’s a learning process to lead at this level but it’s a learning process at every level. Like I said just got to lead vocally, lead by example, but at the same time lead with respect.

“I think some people kind of lead and just have no respect for anybody’s integrity, but I have a respect for all these guys, these are my brothers so I’m going to listen to what they have to say, and get my input in and we’ll come to a meeting, and that’s how we’ll go from there.”

Oladipo’s injury was a bit scary. He took an inadvertent elbow from team mate Dewayne Dedmon in practice, and required some pretty intense surgery.

“It feels amazing actually, I’m honored and blessed to be able to get back and play the game that I love,” Oladipo said. ”To go out there and help my teammates; I think that was big for me, words can’t really describe how it felt.”

Having to sit and watch due to injury often becomes valuable, especially for young players as it forces them to watch and learn, which Oladipo took seriously.

“I learned that we are really good, when we play together,” Oladipo said. “When we move the ball, we share the ball, we are really good. We just got to continue to build on it, and be consistent, play together, especially on the defensive end, just buy into that and we’ll be effective.”

As the Magic cross the ten game mark, there are some things that are starting to surface as positives for the team, the things that are working.

“We’ve just realized what way we have to play in order to be successful, and we just got to continue to keep doing that,” Oladipo said. “When we do that we have a chance to win every game, so I’m looking forward to this ride this year, and it’s going to be fun.”

In his two games since his return, Oladipo is averaging 15.5 points, 4.5 assists and 5 rebounds per game. His 35.7 percent field goal shooting and 16.7 percent three point shooting averages are a bit of a concern, but his energy level is undeniable and clearly a missing piece for a young Magic team that believes they can contend for a playoff spot in the East.

It’s Time To Make His Mark:  They say a player’s third year in the NBA is when they should cement their roles. For Milwaukee big man John Henson not only are things starting to click for him, his team is having some level of unexpected success, which can only help his cause.

“It’s my third year, time flies,” Henson told Basketball Insiders. “It’s coming along. When I get the opportunity I just want to go in there and play. We got one of the deepest benches in the league as far as points, and we pride ourselves in that so we got to be ready to come in and contribute.”

Henson isn’t overly concerned about his role in Milwaukee as he know he’ll get his opportunities, something he is trying to maximize.

“You just got to stay ready, you never know the situation of the game, might play 5, 10, 15 minutes, 30 minutes, you never know. So you got to stay ready,” Henson said. “That’s the biggest thing as being one of the bench guys is kind of staying ready and making sure you’re coming in ready to contribute.”

A lot of players struggle playing from the bench, as it requires instant energy that’s not easy to muster while sitting for long periods of time.

“It’s just one of those things where you kind of just got to adjust to that role,” Henson said. “I’ve been in both situations as far starting and on the bench, so it’s just one of those things that I’m kind of adjusted to and ready for.”

Henson has really come a long way in his two years of NBA play, developing a more NBA-ready frame and adjusting to how to manage his long-wiry body.

“I’m just getting older and with time and maturity; it’s something you figure out as a big guy, especially in this league,” Henson said. “I think the best thing for a big guy is experience. I was fortunate enough, through injuries and being on a young team to get through my first two years, so it’s helped me a lot.”

Henson also points to teammate Larry Sanders as a big part of his improvement.

“He makes me a lot better; I would say if I could get over Larry I can get over anybody in this league,” Henson said. “That’s something that we kind of do every day, and it’s cool.”

There are moments when both guys are on the floor, and that creates a formidable front line for the Bucks.

“Whenever we do get the opportunity to do that, it’ll happen this year, one or two times, we want to play well with each other,” Henson said.

Henson has also developed a nice array of low post offensive moves, including a nifty left hand hook shot.

“That’s just kind of something I do,” Henson said. “If I can get within 12 feet, I feel like my left hook is a pretty good move for me, and I could get that off over anybody, and that’s kind of my goal.”

While the third year is often when players find their place, Henson isn’t concerned about his role, understanding that especially for big guys it often takes time.

“I think it’s a natural process,” Henson said. “Some guys cement themselves in the third, fourth, fifth, sometimes it takes longer, and sometimes it takes shorter. It’s just a process of improving every year and doing what you can do, and hopefully being on a team contributing or on a winning team and playing well.”

The Milwaukee Bucks are a surprising 5-5 on the early season, which puts them in the sixth seed in the East. Given how bad the season when last year, the Bucks improvement is surprising.

For Henson and the Bucks, they like being the underdog, but believe they are good enough as a unit to be in the hunt for a playoff spot in the East.

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Steve Kyler is the Editor and Publisher of Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA and basketball for the last 17 seasons.

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