With another marvelous NCAA tournament in the books, it’s time to shift our attention to the draft and evaluate prospects that could be suiting up for the Wizards next season.
Victor Oladipo, Junior, SG, Indiana
36 games: 13.6PPG, 6.3RPG, 2.1APG, 2.2SPG, 60%FG, 44% 3FG
College Career: Tom Crean envisioned the Hoosiers re-emergence into the Nation’s upper echelon with Cody Zeller in the driver’s seat, little did he know his 144th ranked high school prospect from Upper Marlboro, Maryland would be right there with him righting the ship. Crean, in dire need to shake things up, went to DeMatha High School in search for athletic wings that he can place under his tutelage. After one look at Victor Oladipo, he saw his next Dwyane Wade, who he previously had coached over at Marquette almost a decade before. But he knew it wouldn’t be easy integrating a raw wing that had an embryonic skill-set and made his name off hustle plays and sheer athleticism.
And Victor was just that during his freshman season at Assembly Hall. He played limited minutes, shot the ball sparingly, chose to score as close to the rim as possible and showcased his All-World athleticism by dazzling fans with an ability to get out on the break and finish above the rim. His second season jumped out to a strong start as he fared well in conference play; however his poor shooting performances against top ranked teams attenuated an otherwise solid sophomore campaign. Nevertheless, a strong sweet 16 showing against the eventual National Champion Kentucky Wildcats (15 points in 20 minutes) foreshadowed what was to come for Oladipo in year 3.
Oladipo’s well-documented rise to stardom this past season is one of the great stories of the year. He’s upped his scoring output while dramatically improving his shooting numbers. His 60/44/75 shooting splits rank among the top in the country, and managed to shoot nearly 70% at the rim this season, which led the nation. He was an absolute terror in the paint, averaging an absurd 3.6 offensive rebounds per 40 minutes pace adjusted, which led to several put back scores in traffic. Oladipo’s competitive nature was on full display this season, and it’s no wonder he was awarded NBAC Defensive Player of the Year along with Sporting News Player of the Year.
Strengths: Many are quick to point to Oladipo’s defense as his calling card, but personally, it’s his driving ability that sets him apart. While he demonstrates a weak handle, his lightning quick first step and dauntless attack makes for an absolute terror on defense. He also possesses that unique ability to contort his body in midair to avoid charges, which is something you can’t teach at the next level. Then once he gets into the lane, his explosive leaping ability off either foot takes care of the rest, which enabled him to shoot nearly 70% at the rim this past season.
Tom Crean’s heavy perimeter attack has created some leeway for Oladipo to work as an off ball cutter in halfcourt sets. They run him off weakside backdoor cuts, curls, and dribble handoffs, and Victor does a tremendous job finding the open space that the defense is giving, and making quick decisions once he recognizes a closeout.
Victor’s imposing physical attributes allows him to defend any perimeter player, and his toughness and upper body strength more than makes up for any size disadvantage he may be at. He pressures the ball handler relentlessly, often picking them up 90 feet away from the basket, and does a nice job hedging on pick and rolls when he’s up against bigger forwards.
Yet, Oladipo’s most exciting prowess may be rebounding. You often find him skying over defenders for rebounders, seemingly coming out of nowhere, and using his jumping ability to grab the ball at the top of its’ apex.
Weaknesses: Oladipo’s worked extremely hard the past 3 seasons shoring up his ball handling ability, and while it still remains a project, he’s managed to stay effective with the ball in his hands. Indiana has run sets with Oladipo coming off a down screen, flashing to the top of the key, and going one on one with the floor spaced. He measures up the defender, hits them with a quick crossover, and powers his way to the lane. Yet, defenses have keyed in on him later into the year as they attempt to shade him to the left, knowing that he’s almost always wanting to go right. Turnovers are also a problem (2.3TPG), and he’s often caught trying to go 100mph which gets him trouble against well positioned defenses.
In order for him to take the next step, he’ll have to work on improving the jumper. Oladipo has the ability to hit the occasional spot up jumper when no one is around, but as teams play up on him more and zone him away from the basket, he’ll have to develop a shot off the dribble. He’s done a nice job this season picking and choosing when to score, which led to those hyper efficient shooting splits, but as he begins to face NBA style defenses with hybrid zones and lengthier defenders, those opportunities to nitpick will come few and far between.
Pro potential/Wizards fit: Defense and a high motor are the two best bets to land you significant playing time in the NBA as a rookie. This theory holds especially true to second rounders with underdeveloped talent on offense. Rookies who are under the limelight halfway through the year generally carried an elite skill coming out of college.
There’s not a single prospect in this draft that meets those conditions better than Victor Oladipo. He was the best defender in the country by a good margin, and his motor has been likened to former draft picks Michael Kidd Gilchrist and Kenneth Faried. It also helps his cause being a total gym rat that has improved in every facet of his game each year he’s been in school.
Given how seamlessly he made the transition to a hyper active super-sub as a freshman to the most consistent player on one of the best teams in the nation as a Junior, it’s safe to assume Oladipo will adapt to the NBA well. Whether he starts on a team or not depends on his improved handle and jump shot- but given his learning curve and work ethic, I wouldn’t bet against him.
The deliberation over whether he can start as a SF on an NBA team has been fixture among many lottery team fanbases, most notably, the Wizards, for months. As the league trends smaller and more preponderance are placed on small ball 4th quarter lineups, I can see the fascination with playing Oladipo at the three. However, given his shaky handle and outside shooting, and the impending maturation he’ll go through as he faces the elite wings, it may be best served bringing him on slowly.
As it pertains to the Wizards and their hopes of making the playoffs, you would be hard-pressed to find a more impactful player in the draft. You could trot him out with Wall and Beal together and in spurts have him take on the burden of defending the opponents top perimeter player (a task which he relishes), and benefit from having two of your top offensive attacks fully engaged and fully energized. The team will continue to feast off turnovers and easy transition buckets, and Wittman would have the luxury to play Victor at three positions.
This draft is about depth and drafting the highest rated player on your board. The Wizards will regret passing on Victor Oladipo.