We continue our May and June trip around the top of the NBA draft board and navigate exactly who the Cavaliers should take with the top selection at the end of the month.
The recent rumor winds indicate that today’s topic of discussion, Indiana guard/forward Victor Oladipo, could very well be in play with the No. 1 pick for the Cavs. Oladipo, like top pick favorite Kentucky center Nerlens Noel, brings a game-changing brand of defense to the table with a more complete offensive game.
Let’s take a look at what others around the internet are saying about Oladipo.
“Oladipo makes his presence felt all over the floor defensively, playing with tremendous intensity and always finding ways to get his hands on the ball for deflections and steals, or flying in from out of his area to block a shot or come up with a rebound, thanks to his seemingly endless energy and outstanding speed, quickness, and leaping ability.
Oladipo ranks second amongst all players in our Top 100 Rankings in steals per forty minutes, using his athleticism and anticipation skills to play the passing lanes, and also his quick hands to strip his man off the dribble. He has excellent lateral quickness and is able play his man very closely on the perimeter and still stay in front of him, while also being able to recover quickly in the event that he gets beat.
With the ability to guard up to four positions at the college level, Oladipo projects to be able to defend all three perimeter positions at the NBA level, depending on matchups. He has the speed and quickness to cover point guards, and his athleticism, strength, and toughness should enable him to guard most small forwards as well. Coaches will likely value the flexibility Oladipo gives them on the defensive end, as they can cross-match and hide weaker defenders while putting Oladipo on the opposing team’s top perimeter threat, regardless of position.”
“Oladipo is an explosive athlete with great leaping ability … Has nice size at about 6’5, 215 lbs, and great length and a good build … Fantastic first step and moves well laterally … A very tough and gritty player who fights for everything … Excellent rebounder for a guard averaging over 5 per game last season … Absolutely relentless on defense and is versatile enough to guard multiple positions … Not one to be outworked on either end of the court … One of the best finishers in the country around the rim due to his athleticism and body control … Moves well without the ball and doesn’t need to have plays drawn up for him to be effective”
“Oladipo is one of the best athletes in the draft. His energy is infectious, and he can lock down just about everyone. On offense, he shows an above-average ability to finish at the rim. His jump shot has started falling, and he’s been less hesitant to attack the basket. He still needs to improve his handle but could become a Tony Allen-like 2-guard someday.”
“Oladipo is a late bloomer who draws rave reviews for his demeanor and personality from those who have spent time around him. While he may lack superstar potential, he appears to be the ultimate glue type player as an overachiever who brings boundless energy. His explosiveness is off the charts (42-inch vertical at the combine), particularly off of two feet and his shooting and ball handling have shown surprising improvement. At 6-foot-4 in shoes, he’s undersized, taking his long-term potential down a notch. Some wild comparisons such as Dwyane Wade and even Michael Jordan have been thrown out for Oladipo. But those are unfair for a player who projects as a high level role player, but not a star at the next level.”
Without further ado, let’s dive into some film analysis. For Oladipo, I have one of his best performances of the season, at home against Michigan State. In the game, Oladipo put together a highlight reel on defense to go with 21 points on 8-of-12 shooting as the Hoosiers secured a 5-point win.
The first thing you have to talk about with Oladipo is his defensive skills. I probably watched more of Oladipo than any other prospect at the top of the draft board due to my tendency to watch other Big Ten games during the season, and this guy is a game-changer on the other end of the floor. At just 6’4″, he’s even on the small size for your average shooting guard. However, that doesn’t stop him from being capable of guarding all three perimeter positions (1-3) effectively. Here, we begin with Oladipo (#4 in white) guarding Spartan guard Branden Dawson on the right wing.
The first thing I noticed is how Oladipo is up in Dawson’s personal space. He’s an aggressive defender that has the skillset to seldom get burned by that style. With good lateral movement and a 6′ 9 1/4″ wingspan, Victor is a great on-ball defender and can handle covering point guards. Here, Dawson, who has two inches on Oladipo, tries to back down on the perimeter.
Dawson spins and puts the ball on the deck to make a move to his left, but Oladipo picks his pocket with those long arms and forces the turnover.
The light tap sends the ball behind Dawson and starts a breakaway for Oladipo.
Oladipo is lightning quick in the open court, and a good percentage of his points come in the open floor. He has a good enough handle to push the ball up the court, and he can finish with authority at the rim.
Next, we find Oladipo guarding MSU guard Gary Harris on the right wing. As Spartan point Keith Appling starts to drive from the top of the key, Oladipo
Oladipo gets his hand on the kickout pass from Appling by pestering the driving Appling and then jumping back into position to prevent the pass. Mike Brown’s defense is built on great helpside defense, and Oladipo has that ability to roam and create turnovers.
Again, Oladipo does a great job knocking the ball out to where he has the advantage to gain possession. As Harris overpursues the ball, Oladipo is cleared for take off once more.
And nobody is catching Oladipo in the open court.
Now, we see Oladipo start on the left wing against Harris as he avoids a screen down from Adreian Payne. Oladipo’s awareness on this end of the floor is off the charts, always one step ahead of what the offense is doing in the pick and roll game, back screens, etc.
Appling is just barely across halfcourt when he zips a pass over to the left wing and Harris. This was far from a lazy pass, but that’s a lot of court between Appling and Harris, and Oladipo makes them pay.
The ball gets to Harris but it hits the floor and Oladipo digs it out and gains possession. This guy is a 50-50 ball warrior, and it’s far from a coin flip when he’s in on the scrum.
Oladipo starts the fastbreak, something he did more frequently than IU’s point guard Jordan Hulls in the games I watched them play. With a 5-on-3 break, Oladipo doesn’t force the issue himself, instead making a great pass to Will Sheehey on the left. Sheehey has a great angle to shoot or attack the hoop.
Sheehey chooses to shoot about a 12-footer, which he misses, but Oladipo uses those springs in his feet to grab the offensive rebound and keep the IU possession alive. Oladipo had a very nice offensive rebound percentage for a 2/3 playing with big man Cody Zeller at 11.8%, which put him in the top 150 in the nation.
Again, we see the Spartans underestimate Oladipo’s ability to track down a long pass. Victor goes high over the screen set by Derrick Nix and is in great position on Harris.
Victor snatches this one Alonzo Gee style on the run and is off down the court for yet another fastbreak opportunity. Can you imagine an open floor five-man lineup of Kyrie, Dion, Oladipo, Tristan, and Andy? Wow, that is some serious quickness and athleticism.
Oladipo gives it up to Yogi Ferrell who finishes with a layup.
Oladipo is that classic pesky guy you just hate when you’re playing against him. His hustle is infectious, and his motor is relentless. Here, we see him pick off a lazy pass back from Payne off a defensive rebound.
As the offense sets up, the ball gets swung to Oladipo in the corner. Oladipo goes right to the basket and gets fouled while going up and under on the other side of the rim.
Oladipo got to the line about four times a game in his junior season, and he shot at a solid and respectable if not flattering 75%.
Oladipo had 6 steals in all in this game, along with a couple of other deflections and helpside defensive decisions that led to more MSU turnovers. The Spartans had 19 total turnovers in this game.
Now, we transition to some tremendous blocked shots from Oladipo. The first comes on a Nix move in the paint. Nix goes left, leaving Cody Zeller in a less than ideal guarding position. Oladipo leaves his man out on the wing and makes his move.
Like we’ve seen with the better shot blockers I’ve chronicled already in Noel and Len, the key to being a good shot blocker is having the hops and at the same time being able to keep your body away from the offensive player as you make the block. The Hoosier forward does just that here, slamming it off the backboard as IU recovers and pushes the ball up the court again.
In a Michigan State transition opportunity, Travis Trice gets by his man and is heading for the hoop. Again, Oladipo leaves Harris alone on the right wing to get in on the play.
The funny thing is Oladipo has a knack for making it appear he doesn’t have time to get over and help and then closing quick and attacking the ball at its release point. He gets in between Trice and the rim and elevates to send the shot back.
Gathering the defensive rebound, Oladipo pushes it with purpose up the right side of the court, blowing by a Spartan defender or two in the process.
Now, he gets even with Payne in the open court. This should be a dunk.
Instead, this time, Oladipo slows down a bit and chooses to go with the finger roll, which gives Payne time to close and bother the shot. Oladipo did miss a couple gimmes at times this year, but when you shoot 64% inside the arc, you aren’t missing many.
Below, we have another quick example of Victor never giving up on the play. With Dawson in the open court looking for a layup or slam, Oladipo catches up to him and manages to strip him of the ball ad send it out of bounds, preventing an easy score.
There have been plenty of knocks on Oladipo’s offensive game and questions as to whether it will translate to the next level. On this play, we start with Oladipo, ball in hand, on the left wing. Sheehey flashes to set an on-ball screen.
Oladipo gets a second high screen and dribbles around it.
Michigan State switches on the pick, and Oladipo is left with a wide open three look as Payne is late getting on the shooter.
Oladipo had a drastic improvement in three-point shooting from sophomore (10-for-48, 21%) to junior years (30-for-68, 44%). Will he ever be a go-to, knockdown guy out there? Probably not, but he’s certainly capable of shooting and making them when he’s open.
In another offensive sequence, we watch Oladipo go opposite the ball screen and shoot straight down the middle of the paint.
Oladipo uses a huge power stride to split the Spartan defenders, drawing contact in the process, and finish for the and-one.
Oladipo ran the offense a decent amount of the time with Hulls being more of a shoot-first point. His dribble is far from a strength (2.3 turnovers/game this past year), but I certainly think it’s good enough to make some NBA-level drive to the hoop.
Finally, we see Victor in one more pick and roll set, using the Mosquera-Perea screen this time, going right.
Again, the Spartans switch it, and Payne is left once again getting out late on Oladipo, who nails the long two-pointer.
So, Victor Oladipo, number one pick? It’s certainly possible. This idea I’ve heard thrown around that the Cavs would be making a mistake with a “safe pick” or “highest floor” guy in Oladipo is just absurd to me. I’ll get into some of this more this weekend. Yes, Oladipo is a junior as opposed to many of these other freshmen and sophomores. But, in Mike Brown’s system, I see Oladipo as the best defender on the team in year one and a first-team All-NBA defender by year two or three. He’s that gifted on that end of the floor.
I know that having a shot-blocking center is in fashion right now, and for good reason. But, if Nerlens Noel isn’t a center longterm, I argue that Victor Oladipo can and will make just as much of a difference on the defensive end of the floor as Noel will from the power forward position. Oladipo, much like LeBron in Cleveland, does a fantastic job of being the defensive linchpin, roaming and creating steal and block opportunities. Having that guy to put on the other team’s best perimeter player is huge.
And, I do think that Oladipo’s offensive game is being undervalued. In a backcourt with Dion Waiters and Kyrie Irving, do you really need another guy who can give you 20 points? I don’t think so. You do need a guy who can hit open shots, be a good facilitator on offense, and hold his own when called upon. Oladipo can do just that. What you ABSOLUTELY need with a Kyrie-Dion backcourt is an elite defender. I know Oladipo is just 6’4 1/4″ tall, but with his 6′ 9 1/4″ wingspan, 42″ vertical, and every other eye-popping combine measurement, I think you could deploy a starting lineup with those three despite being on the smallish side. Unlike McLemore, I think Oladipo has the frame for consistently defending NBA small forwards. Sure, he’ll give up 2-3 inches most nights, but he’ll make up for it with his defensive prowess.
So, if you have your heart set on improving the Cavaliers’ atrocious defense with that first pick, don’t discount Oladipo. He has the chance to make just as much of an impact on the defensive end as Nerlens Noel does. Do I ultimately take him one? No, probably not, but if Chris Grant and company come to that conclusion, then I can certainly roll with it.
Kirk Lammers grew up on the Marblehead Peninsula and is a graduate of THE Ohio State University. He now lives in Northeast Ohio, and you can find him at the ballpark, at the Q, or far too often on Twitter (@WFNYKirk)."