With the NBA Draft just weeks away, Wiz of Awes will be doing a mock draft, which we’ll break down each pick for every lottery team, including the Washington Wizards. [Completed Mock Draft: 1) Cleveland, 2) Orlando, 3) Washington Wizards, 4) Charlotte, 5) Phoenix, 6) New Orleans]
7) Sacramento Kings: Victor Oladipo, SG, Indiana
Basic Stats: 13.6 PPG, 6.3 REB, 2.0 AST, 2.2 STL
First off, I have to tip my hat to the city of Sacramento, its mayor, and its fans for enduring the last three or so years with the team in such flux. The fight to keep the team in town from afar seemed tenuous, to say the least. I’m excited for the city for keeping their Kings in Sacramento, and hope that with new ownership headed by Vivek Ranadive, a new coach in Mike Malone, and a to be determined GM (is this Kenny Smith thing real?) they can turn things around on the court.
Heading into this offseason, the Kings have nine players under contract, $41 million committed, and a bunch of questions regarding in what direction the team is heading. With his immense talent and potential to improve even more, DeMarcus Cousins figures to be the face of the franchise, but with his bouts with headcasedness it may be difficult to pencil him in as the cornerstone just yet. The team also seems to be high on Isaiah Thomas. One of the huge question marks is what the team will do with Tyreke Evans, who is a restricted free agent. To quote Paul Flannery at SB Nation:
There’s some talent on hand, notably wildchild center DeMarcus Cousins, but beyond DMC the roster is an uneven mix of high-usage scoring guards, offensively-challenged big men and wings who can’t shoot. There have been five coaches in six years and still no visible signs of an identity either on offense or defense.
With $41 million committed to nine players, a handful of free agent decisions and another high draft pick on the way, the Kings are standing at the intersection where a rebuilding project can go in either direction, yet they have been aimless while the ownership saga plays out.
This segues nicely into the Draft, where the Kings hold the seventh pick. New head coach Mike Malone appears to already be a jolt of energy with the team. A quote he had to me was telling:
You can look up the stat sheet and find out what their percentages are,” Malone told the media. “I want to get into the intangibles. I want to try and get inside these guys. See what kind of a heart they have. What kind of a competitive soul that they have and if they can fit into the culture we’re going to try and create. I want workers. I want guys who are willing to compete every minute they are on the floor because those guys may not be as talented right now. But with that work ethic and mentality, they will definitely catch up to those other guys.
Malone wants to build a culture. One that focuses on work ethic, tenacity, and will. This screams Indiana’s Victor Oladipo to me, who could be a steal if he is available at seven. Many general managers allegedly believe that this kid has “it”. He only measures at 6’4 but is gifted athletically, measuring in with a 42″ vertical and a wingspan at over 6’9 at the NBA Draft Combine. Combine these athletic gifts with his frenetic tenacity on defense and his budding offensive game, and you begin to understand what has front offices in love with the kid.
Oladipo’s ascension to the top of many draft boards has been a revelation. Coming out of Dematha and after his first two years in Indiana, Oladipo was seen as a defensive specialist with a nonstop motor that lacked skill on offense. This is supported statistically, as he averaged 9.2 points per game and shot a horrific 24% from three point range. There didn’t seem to be much fanfare about him as an NBA prospect. That all changed in his junior season, where his hard work developing his all-around repertoire paid off.
The Hoosiers hovered around the number one ranking all season, and Oladipo had as much to do with that as anyone, ultimately being named first team All-America and the Big Ten’s Defensive Player of the Year. Small sample size aside (he only averaged eight field goal attempts per game), Victor noticeably improved offensively, shooting 60% from the field last season, including a HUGE uptick in three point shooting, up to 44% from 21% in 2011-12. He’s always been an opportunistic scorer, but his improvements in shooting certainly helped him. He improved in just about every relevant category, including assists, rebounds, and steals. As noted repeatedly, Oladipo’s defense was terrific, notching a defensive rating of 86.9 points allowed per 100 possessions in 2012-13. His quickness, anticipation, and intensity led to a number of deflections, steals, and general chaos on defense.
Victor Oladipo seems like a culture setter, and while it remains to be seen if his offensive improvement is sustainable, Sacramento should jump at the opportunity to draft him if he is available when they are on the clock. With work ethic and intangibles to go along with his elite athleticism, he seems like the perfect piece to add to the new regime in Sac-Town.