Indiana Pacers: Is Victor Oladipo a Deserving MVP Candidate?

Victor Oladipo was the talk of the city of Indianapolis coming into the 2017-18 NBA season. Not only was he the guy to replace Paul George as the face of the franchise, he was also coming home. Coming home to the state that fell in love with him during his tenure with the Indiana Hoosiers.

Fans were expecting an athletic shooting guard that could be a borderline All-Star. They certainly were not expecting Oladipo to come in and earn praise from fellow NBA superstars like Chris Paul and Dwyane Wade, while potentially playing his way into the Eastern Conference All-Star starting lineup.

Throughout the first 33 games that he has played for the Pacers this season, Oladipo has averaged 24.9 points per game to go along with 5.3 rebounds and 3.9 assists. He has shot 48.5 percent from the floor and has knocked down 42.3 percent of his three-point attempts.

Not only has Oladipo dazzled with his play on the court, he has also picked up a key leadership role off the court. He has embraced the fans, taking a lot of time after games to sign autographs, hand his shoes to young fans, and take selfies with a fan base that could not be happier to have him back home again in Indiana.

All of that being said, is Oladipo deserving of not only being an Eastern Conference starter in the All-Star game, but also being an MVP candidate?

Quite simply, there are very few players that are “more valuable” to their team than Oladipo. Without him so far this season, the Pacers are 0-4. With him, they look like a serious contender in the Eastern Conference playoff picture.

Oladipo is currently tied for No. 8 in the NBA scoring race. He is ahead of names like Russell Westbrook, Kyrie Irving, Kristaps Porzingis, and yes, Paul George.

In addition to making his name known in the scoring race, Oladipo is also ranked No. 11 in steals. His defense has been a major addition for the Pacers, who lost a player in George that was capable of shutting down opposing superstars.

NBA.com is buying into the hype that has surrounded Oladipo this season. They have moved him into the MVP watch and currently have him ranked ninth on the MVP ladder. That is an incredibly big leap forward for the 25-year-old shooting guard that many thought was a poor return for George in the offseason trade.

Not only has he impressed the fans, even George had high praise for Oladipo taking over the city that once viewed the current Oklahoma City Thunder forward as king of the town.

“Vic is the face of Indiana. Vic is the future,” George said. “He’s going to be great here. He’s blessed. He’s talented. He’s what you want in a guy for a franchise.”

Oladipo has already had plenty of defining games this season to force his way into the MVP race. He was able to go toe-to-toe with LeBron James with 33 points, eight rebounds, and five assists on December 8, leading the Pacers to their second win over the Cleveland Cavaliers on the season.

Indiana has seen Oladipo drop at least 30 points in a game on seven different occasions. He has scored more than 25 points in 15 games. Oladipo has even dropped a 47-point performance in a crazy comeback performance against the Denver Nuggets.

There is no question that Oladipo is deserving of attention when it comes to the MVP conversation. He isn’t going to end up winning the award, but he is certainly deserving of being a candidate.

Looking ahead at the future, it couldn’t be brighter for Oladipo and the Pacers. He has become one of the league’s brightest young stars and is without question capable of competing for an MVP award in the future. He still has plenty of room to grow as well, which is a scary thought for the opposing defenses that he has been torching this year.

Expect to see Oladipo remain in the MVP conversation throughout the remainder of the season and to make the All-Star game. If everything goes as it should, he will be an Eastern Conference starter.

Needless to say, Oladipo’s return to Indiana has gone better than expected. Welcome home Victor, and keep doing what you’re doing. Indiana couldn’t be happier to have you back home again.

Evan Massey is the Managing Editor for Lifestyle Sports 101. He is a sports writer who has also covered politics, entertainment, and many other things. He has seen his work featured on ESPN, Forbes, Fox Sports, Sports Illustrated, Yahoo! Sports, and plenty of other online publications.