Victor Oladipo was at first seen as an acquisition that might help keep Kevin Durant in Oklahoma City. But the NBA’s earth has rotated multiple times since then, with Durant ditching the Thunder and Russell Westbrook plotting not-so-secretly to prove Durant was really just in the way. Ridiculous as it may sound — that an NBA MVP and scoring leader could be an obstacle — Westbrook is just talented enough to make it seem so. Which brings us back to Oladipo. He is standing second in line — after Westbrook — ready to prove to OKC fans and the league that good riddance to KD isn’t just a healthy emotion, it’s good strategy.
To serve notice, Oladipo led the Thunder in a thrilling exhibition in Spain against Real Madrid, scoring 34 points as OKC went down firing 142-137. Westbrook had 18, playing just 22 minutes. But Oladipo showed signs of things to come going 14-of-24 from the floor (even with his anomalous 1-of-7 from 3) in 32 minutes. Oladipo, entering his fourth NBA season, was supposed to play the third big scorer, an option OKC hasn’t had since James Harden left town. Now he figures to be the #2 man feeding off Westbrook’s uncanny creativity. And Oladipo looks ready and eager for his close-up.