Our profiles of the top prospects in the 2013 NBA Draft continue with Indiana's Victor Oladipo.
Position: Shooting guard
Expected draft position: Top 6
College career: An upperclassman projected as one of the top picks in the NBA Draft, Victor Oladipo is something of a 21st century basketball anomaly. Nowadays, it seems NBA scouts have the book written on a player by the end of their freshman season in college. For a player like Oladipo to be one of the top prospects at the end of their junior season, one of two things likely has happened: 1) the player was considered a top prospect as an underclassman and ignored overtures to enter the draft, or 2) the player improved tremendously from one season to the next.
Oladipo followed the latter path to a tee. Local hoops fans are already well-versed in his story: after taking one for the team and willingly coming off the bench as a senior at DeMatha High School, Oladipo elected to join a storied Indiana program in freefall. A hyper-athletic but somewhat-unskilled three-star recruit who garnered a lot of offers but none from programs that would have been considered elite in 2010, Oladipo will now be remembered as one of the key cogs in Indiana basketball's return to national prominence.
After winning 12 games his freshman season, Oladipo helped lead the Hoosiers to a Sweet 16 berth in 2011. He increased his scoring average from 7.4 points as a freshman to 10.8 points his sophomore season, but saw his shooting and three-point percentages drop precipitously (.547 to .471 and .308 to .208, respectively).
At 6'4" and without an adequate jump shot, Oladipo was considered a fringe NBA prospect entering his junior season despite his reputation as an elite defender with an unrelenting motor.
But then his junior season happened.
Oladipo once again increased his scoring average, this time to 13.6 points per game, but also saw his shooting percentages skyrocket, to 60 percent overall and 44 percent from three-point range, all while showcasing game-changing defensive ability. Indiana sat or hovered around the No. 1 ranking all season long, with Oladipo often providing the big plays the team needed in crunch time. The Hoosiers ended up bowing out earlier than expected in the Sweet 16, but not before Oladipo hit a clutch three in the closing seconds to seal a close victory against Temple in the Round of 32.
Beloved on campus and by his teammates and coaches, Oladipo has backed up the reputation he built as a hardworking gym rat in pre-draft interviews, exhibiting a humility and lack of ego that has NBA executives fawning over his potential. When arguably the draft's most athletic player also has its best motor, teams will take notice.
Offense: Oladipo is a breathtaking athlete with unreal physical tools. Strong, physical and tough, long and explosive, Oladipo is an absolute terror on the break. One of college basketball's better finishers last season, he was practically unstoppable in transition, or really any situation where he had the ball and was able to pick up a head of steam heading to the basket, speeding by or around defenders with ease. Defenders tended to slack off Oladipo, respecting his driving ability more than the range on his jump shot, and yet it hardly seemed to matter, as he gobbled up space quicker than any player in the nation.
But what really vaulted Oladipo's stock from that of a middling prospect to a potential top-5 pick was the improvement he showed in his jump shot. It got so much better that, when combined with his lack of three-point attempts (only 37 as a junior) and just-OK free-throw shooting percentage (75 percent last season), he might be due for a sharp regression early in his NBA career. Still, Oladipo has the kind of work ethic and shooting form (excellent stroke and elevation, though he doesn't always release at the height of his jump) to steadily improve over time. When you watch him shoot during his junior season, it's hard to believe he was so bad as a sophomore; he looks like a guy who should have a reliable jumper. Another testament to his athleticism, Oladipo shot an even better percentage off the dribble than in spot-up situations.
The best slasher in the draft, Oladipo is also an instinctive cutter and moves well off the ball. An efficient player, he mostly takes good shots within the flow of the offense, but he can occasionally develop tunnel vision and look to drive when there isn't an available lane, ultimately taking a bad shot or committing a charge instead of passing the ball away.
Oladipo's efficiency plummets when he looks to create offense on his own. He doesn't have the best handle in space and tends to turn the ball over in ISO situations, though he'll improve with practice and experience. He also rarely attempts a drive to his left, and when he does, he's always looking to cross back to his right. He'll need to vary it up in the pros to avoid being predictable to opposing defenders.
Due to his motor, Oladipo is also one of the better rebounding wing players in the nation, particularly on the offensive glass.
If he were even an inch or two taller, Oladipo might be in serious contention for the No. 1 overall pick, because his skill set would be considered elite for a small forward, be his size will limit him to defending guards in the NBA.
Defense: This will be Oladipo's calling card from the instant he steps foot onto an NBA court. An intense, lockdown defender capable of shutting down a team's best perimeter threat, Oladipo absolutely harasses opposing ball handlers. He stays light on his feet and lives in ball handlers' space, and his long arms allow him to consistently poke balls away when an opponent tries to drive past him.
Supreme lateral agility allows Oladipo to remain in front of most dribblers but also recover when he is crossed over. It's rare for a player of Oladipo's height to be able to consistently alter jump shots, but his length and leaping ability make him a pest.
At roughly 215 pounds, Oladipo is solidly built for a player standing 6'4" and long enough to guard any wing player along the perimeter, but his lack of size will be a liability if asked to check NBA small forwards in the post. Basically, Oladipo is your prototypical NBA perimeter defender, with his only shortcoming being that he's a bit shorter than ideal.
Pro potential/Wizards fit: Whichever team drafts Oladipo can be certain it is getting at minimum a lockdown perimeter defender than can contribute immediately off the bench. That may seem like a low bar for a high lottery pick, but Oladipo's floor is actually relatively high in an era when lottery picks routinely bust (a fact Wizards fans are all too aware).
Oladipo also has a pretty high ceiling, though it's doubtful he'll ever be a "franchise" type player. At his best, Oladipo will be an All-NBA defender who wreaks havoc out on the break, cutting to the basket, and spotting up for corner threes. He will probably never be a go-to scorer or a player who initiates offense, but he could end up as a shorter version of Shawn Marion.
Oladipo figures to be available when the Wizards select at No. 3, but as tempting as it may be to imagine him and John Wall running out on the break together (God help us all), Oladipo isn't the best fit given the Wizards' roster and where the team is in its current rebuild.
Wall and Bradley Beal presumably have the starting guard positions locked down for a decade-plus, and Washington isn't yet in the position where it can both have playoff aspirations and spend a top 3 pick on a likely bench player, extraordinary as he might be. If Oladipo were 6'6" instead of 6'4", playing him at small forward might be an option, but it's hard to envision two starting wings that stand 6'3" and 6'4" jiving with the Wizards' current defensive mentality.
It's unfortunate, because Oladipo is going to be a tremendous player for some team for a long time, but the Wizards are probably better off selecting a prospect they can slot into their starting lineup alongside Wall and Beal.