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Victor Oladipo might be the early Sixth Man of the Year in the NBA. Here's why.

After a breakout season, Victor Oladipo was moved to the bench for the Magic this year, a role he has thrived in individually, leading to team success.

Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

But all accounts, Victor Oladipo had a breakout season last year. When he wasn't singing and dunking during All-Star weekend, he was hitting game-winning shots against the Bulls and even shining out after the season during this summer's USA Basketball Showcase (though this was somehow less competitive than an All-Star game.

However, after the firing Jacque Vaughn last season and the hiring of Scott Skiles over the summer, the young Orlando Magic got off to a rough start early in the year, starting the year 1-4 despite a 21-point, 13-rebound, 10-assist triple double for Oladipo in a crazy double overtime game against Oklahoma City.

In that game, Oladipo buried a go-ahead three-pointer with just four seconds left in regulation before Russell Westbrook forced overtime. He responded with the game-tying three-pointer to force a second overtime before eventually running out of steam.

However, after a 14-point loss to Cleveland dropped the Magic to 6-8 on the year, Skiles decided changes needed to be made and dropped Oladipo from the starting lineup to the sixth man role, an unexpected move, but one that showed immediate results.

Orlando immediately went on a four-game win streak and over his first five games off the bench, Oladipo averaged 18.5 points, 6.0 rebounds, 4.7 assists and shot 45 percent from the field.

Since then, he's cooled off but Orlando has not, going 8-3 since the line-up change. Save for a 35-point blowout loss against the Cavaliers, the unequivocal best team in the Eastern Conference, the Magic have been competitive in every game.

In the 11 games off the bench this year, Oladipo is averaging 14.6 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 3.9 assists, marks that are equal to or better than his season averages last year. His field goal percentage has drastically improved from 37 percent up to 44 percent and his offensive and defensive ratings have both improved.

A comparison of his shot charts as a start vs. as a reserve tell you about everything you need to know for Oladipo in terms of scoring and how much better he's playing.


Start shot chart


Reserve shot chart

Oladipo's per-game +/- has moved from -2.9 as a starter to +6.1 as a reserve, showing how he is feasting on reserves of his opponents each game.

Skiles has offered no timetable on how long the roster changes will last, saying there is no permanence to it, but also saying he's going to stick with what's working.

The Magic know they're teetering a fine line as Oladipo has established himself as one of the league's best young players. While he's shown no resistance to coming off the bench as of now, one has to wonder if he'll remain as willing if the team isn't winning as much.

Oladipo has never been one to stir the pot and cause problems, but he's also never been in a position he's in now. Regardless of what might happen, what is happening right now is Oladipo has now firmly positioned himself as a favorite for the Sixth Man of the Year award should he maintain the role throughout the season, adding another potential honor to his growing career.