Kelly Olynyk vs. Victor Oladipo: Rookie of the Year conversation


Nov 4, 2013; Memphis, TN, USA; Boston Celtics forward Kelly Olynyk (41) drives around Memphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol (33) during the first quarter at FedExForum. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Kelly Olynyk and Victor Oladipo were scouted before the draft from two different sides of the spectrum but both are competing for Rookie of the Year.

Oladipo was this highly touted, freaky athletic and heady wing player that some even claimed could be the next MJ.  Olynyk, while not getting as much credit, was said to be a very good player who could be very capable on the NBA level. He was a monster last season as far as advanced stats go–his huge TS% and PER spoke volumes for him.

These two were separated by 11 picks in the NBA draft, but their expectations for this season are very similar. They were both high favorites for the Rookie of the Year award this season. But have both lived up to that expectation? Let’s take a look at the numbers to see.


Victor Oladipo’s Case

Oladipo’s case is pretty easy to make early into the season. He’s one of the key cogs to a top 10 defense–even if it’s early. He’s playing a huge role for this team on both ends of the floor when he enters the game and it’s clear that his early impact on this team has given them more and more confidence.

Oladipo’s role as a defensive stopper can’t be overstated. For a rookie, he plays well above his expected level defensively. According to, he has a defensive rating of 93.9–one of the best in the league. That’s an astounding mark for a rookie, even if it is in a very small sample.

And he’s just as good offensively. According to’s player tracking system, Oladipo averages .26 points per touch. Out of players with at least 50 touches that play less than 30 minutes per game, Oladipo ranks 5th–just behind Alec Burks, Tim Duncan, Stephen Curry and (gulp) Gary Neal.

Oladipo does average more turnovers than assists, but as he beings to grasp the position of lead guard those numbers will begin to reverse themselves. That is a process that could take years, though. A player that made a similar transition in Russell Westbrook still struggles with it at times.

Oladipo’s work ethic could still land him to the Rookie of the Year award as long as he keeps up his defensive effort. I’m very excited to watch the rest of his season.

Kelly Olynyk’s Case

Kelly Olynyk hasn’t had quite the same success that Oladipo has early on. He’s shooting a horrid 39% from the field and for a seven foot player, that isn’t acceptable–even in the rookie stage of things. His defensive effort is there, but he hasn’t been able to grasp the concepts of knowing where to position himself in order to take away player angles from the rim.

Olynyk is allowing opponents to shoot 68% at the rim while he’s in the game. That’s a number that may be a bit inflated since it’s early in the year, but Olynyk’s feel for the defensive end is lacking so there is room for concern.

Olynyk’s confidence seems to be shaken, at times, because of the role that he’s been playing for the Celtics. He only plays 22 minutes per contest, and that can be rattling if you’ve been the best player on your team before. I’m sure that he understands the role he is playing right now and why he’s playing it, but he seems to be pressing to make plays when he’s in. That will stop as the season goes along and I’m sure that Olynyk will catch up.


Both of these rookies are promising, but we have to give Oladipo the clear edge here. His work on the defensive end has been nothing short of phenomenal so far. When you add in his offensive contributions, you can see that he’s definitely playing his way into a Rookie of the Year award.

His only hope, though, is that Michael Carter-Williams slows down at some point. Man, that kid is good.