Victor Oladipo is widely regarded as the most improved player in this year’s draft, and rightfully so. He’s come a long way. Oladipo wasn’t exactly the most highly touted prospect coming out of DeMatha Catholic High School, and at Indiana it took a long time for him to come into his own offensively. His freshman and sophomore campaigns were very pedestrian to say the least. He spent the majority of his first two seasons in school building his reputation as a defender. His offensive abilities were always an afterthought. The Hoosiers didn’t rely on Oladipo to score, but he became such a good defender that he found himself getting more and more minutes.
In his sophomore year, he saw his minutes increase, along with his production. By finding a way to stay on the court, Oladipo was able to chip in an average of about 11 points in 18 minutes per night. This is when he finally began to raise some eyebrows.
Going into his junior season, Oladipo was still considered a role player. The big name on the roster was Cody Zeller. Oladipo was still forced to get in where he fit in offensively. The fact that he had built some confidence in his sophomore year definitely helped him going into his junior year. The Hoosiers knew what he could bring to the table defensively, and really leaned on that aspect of his game, but they didn’t expect him to grow into the offensive threat that he became. In his final year at Indiana, Oladipo averaged almost 14 points per game on a remarkable 60 percent from the field.
What impresses scouts most about Oladipo is obviously his strengths on the defensive end. However, his improvements on the offensive end make him even more of an intriguing prospect. Oladipo has quickly risen up the ranks and is regarded as one of the more NBA-ready prospects in the draft.
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NBA Comparison: Tony Allen
Oladipo may never turn into an offensive threat at the next level, but that doesn’t matter. He’s still going to become a solid role player for whatever team selects him. Elite perimeter defenders come a dime a dozen in the NBA Draft, so the fact that Oladipo’s strongest asset is his perimeter defense makes him a special prospect. If Victor Oladipo never gets better on the offensive end, he would end up as the next Tony Allen. In other words, Oladipo will most likely end up as a defensive specialist at the next level.
What makes Tony Allen such an asset is the fact that he’s so versatile defensively. Oladipo has those same qualities. At Indiana, he guarded positions 1-4, which means at the NBA level he’ll be able to defend point guards, shooting guards and even some small forwards. Just like Tony Allen, Oladipo has the ability to use his quickness and athleticism to get to the rim and finish. He’s your typical slasher. While he probably wont ever be a 30-point scorer, Oladipo will have a lot to offer at the next level as a solid role player.
Oladipo’s athleticism is what allows him to be such a special perimeter defender. He has the speed and quickness to stay with point guards and the strength and jumping ability to hold his own against some small forwards. His athleticism doesn’t just help him on the defensive end, either. It’s what he relies on to be productive on the offensive end as well. Oladipo shot such a high percentage at Indiana because he gets the majority of his points in the open court. His ability to jump passing lanes and take the ball coast to coast is second to none in this year’s draft. If he can build a nice skill-set around his elite athleticism he’ll grow into more of a Dwyane Wade than a Tony Allen. He doesn’t have the same type of explosive athleticism that Wade had, but he’s not far behind.
The one aspect that Victor Oladipo has always struggled with is his skill-set. He grew out of his shell at Indiana and became a more confident offensive player, but it’s hard to see that confidence translating to the next level. College basketball and the NBA can be like night and day in some instances. Depending on what team he lands on, Oladipo will have a lot of adjusting to do. If he ends up on a team that likes to run, he’ll be okay. Oladipo is a great open-court player. However if he lands on a team with more of a half-court, slow down offense, he’s going to struggle. Those types of teams play inside-out basketball. Oladipo’s shooting isn’t consistent enough, nor is his range extended beyond the NBA three.
The Memphis Grizzlies got swept by the San Antonio Spurs in this years Western Conference Finals because Tony Allen and the other perimeter players on the Grizzlies couldn’t hit shots. Those are the type of struggles Oladipo will run into on the next level if he ends up on a team with a similar playing style as the Grizzlies. His ballhandling ability and shooting ability must improve if he wants to fulfill his potential. Depending on where he’s selected in the draft, the expectations may be too great for him to live up to right away.
NBA READINESS: 8
In most cases, when evaluating a prospect’s NBA readiness, it begins with one simple question. Can he guard his position? There’s no question that Victor Oladipo will be able to guard the majority of NBA shooting guards. With the lack of talent the position has seen (aside from the breakout year by James Harden), it’s hard to imagine anyone giving Oladipo a real hard time. At 6-5 and 214 pounds, it’s not like many shooting guards will be able to physically take advantage of Oladipo. He’s quick enough to stay with guys like James Harden and Dwyane Wade on the perimiter, and he’s strong enough to contend with the Kobes and the Joe Johnsons in the post. In terms of being able to hold his own defensively, Oladipo may be the most NBA ready player in the draft.
But there’s more to it than that. If Oladipo can’t contribute anything offensively, it’s going to be hard for him to stay on the court. The Indiana Hoosiers needed Victor Oladipo on the court for his defense, but that’s not good enough to stay on the floor for a lot of NBA teams. He’s going to have to come along offensively at some point. Sure he could hold his opponent to 14 points, but if he’s only scoring eight then that’s not going to cut it. Oladipo must develop his offensive game if he wants to win any matchups at the next level.
The great thing about Victor Oladipo is his desire to get better. The reason he’s in the position he’s in right now is because of exactly that. At Indiana he wasn’t satisfied with just being a defensive guy. This past season he really matured as an offensive player and shot 60 percent from the field. In his sophomore season, Oladipo shot 20 percent from long range, making 10 of his 48 attempts. In his junior season, he made 30 of his 68 attempts, good enough for almost 45 percent. Those type of improvements have NBA scouts trusting that Oladipo will be fine. Teams are willing to take a chance on him because they know what type of potential he has.
The Tony Allen comparison is fair for Victor Oladipo right now. But the D-Wade comparisons have been buzzing. Some say it’s a force, others say he could grow into that. He has a long way to go to get there, but he does have the tendencies that remind you of Wade when he was entering the draft. People forget that Wade was a poor shooter as well. Now he’s one of the top five shooting guards of all-time, according to Jeff Van Gundy at least. Who’s to say Oladipo couldn’t follow in those footsteps?
There are few players that love the game like Victor Oladipo does. He’s a hard worker and he wants to get better. With so many top prospects, the question is always “How bad does he want it?” Well you don’t have to debate that with Oladipo. In his time at Indiana, he proved that he’s willing to do whatever it takes to get better.
Aside from the desire, is the fierce intensity that Oladipo plays with. He has a relentless motor and he plays inspired defense. He’s determined to get his hands on the basketball (whether it be a steal, a block, or a rebound) and get the ball up the floor. He’s that dirty work player that you want on your team, a player that gets enjoyment from giving the other team’s best player fits. You can’t teach that. Those are the types of intangibles that are so hard to come by in most young players in today’s game. Those are the qualities that make Victor Oladipo a top-10 prospect in this year’s draft.
OVERALL SCORE: 38 of a possible 50 points
How good will he be in the NBA?
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