Tomase: It turns out Celtics were biggest losers in Victor Oladipo trade

John Tomase
January 09, 2019 - 12:59 pm

Oklahoma City and Indiana shocked the NBA in July of 2017 with a trade blasted as horrifically one-sided at the time. But now we have no idea what to call it. Was it the Paul George trade or the Victor Oladipo trade?

The Celtics would call it a nightmare.

The C's have a chance to complete a perfect homestand on Wednesday night, but to do it they're going to have to find an answer for the one player who bedevils them more than anyone not named LeBron James.

Orlando treated Oladipo like a bust after drafting him second overall out of Indiana in 2013, eventually shipping him to OKC in 2016, with Domantas Sabonis, for Serge Ibaka. The Thunder signed Oladipo to a multi-year extension before making him the centerpiece of a mutually risky deal with the Pacers.

Indiana sent George, a four-time All-Star approaching free agency, to the Thunder for Oladipo, a zero-time All-Star who had never translated his obvious gifts into a breakout season.

The Pacers were killed for the trade, especially since the Celtics had more to dangle in the form of young talent and high draft picks. But Pacers boss Kevin Pritchard recognized Oladipo's untapped potential, and the trade has ended up being a home run for both sides.

George, who was expected to treat Oklahoma City as a one-year way station before signing with the Lakers, instead agreed to a massive extension and is posting MVP numbers this season. And Oladipo, who had always jockeyed for shots in Orlando and OKC, suddenly became Indiana's clear alpha. He has led the Pacers to the NBA's fourth-best record so far this season.

The Celtics have paid the price, losing three of four to Oladipo since he arrived in Indiana, their only win Terry Rozier's steal and dunk at the buzzer last December (they also won a game Oladipo missed). Oladipo has destroyed them with games of 38, 35, 27, and 24 points, and his 3-pointer with four seconds left beat them this November.

There aren't too many guards who can stand toe-to-toe with Kyrie Irving in a battle of late-game shot-making, but Oladipo is one of them. His style of play against the Celtics can best be characterized as a constant assault.

RealGM describes Oladipo as built like Dwyane Wade but quick like John Wall. He seems perpetually to be plowing downhill against the Celtics, who can't handle him off the dribble or the catch. He has twice topped 10 rebounds against them, and he has dominated the final two minutes of basically every matchup; Rozier's heroics were only necessary last year, for instance, because Oladipo had blitzed the Celtics with 12 points over the final 1:52.

That's just part of a trend, by the way: in the final two minutes of four games against the Celtics since arriving in Indiana, Oladipo has totaled 30 points on 10-for-12 shooting from the floor while making all seven of his free throws and all three of his 3-pointers. That's called being a closer, as the Bulls learned last week when Oladipo sank them with a game-winning buzzer-beater in overtime.

He's averaging 20 points a game this year, as well as career-highs in rebounds (6.0) and assists (5.3). The Pacers are very quietly 27-13, good for third in the East, with quality wins over the Celtics, Bucks, Sixers, and Spurs.

At 24-15, the Celtics trail them by 2.5 games. They'll try to pick up a game in the standings at the Garden on Wednesday, but an emerging nemesis will be standing in their way.

Whether you call it the Paul George trade or the Victor Oladipo trade, the Pacers don't care, because they call it a win.