When Dwyane Wade, the player whom Victor Oladipo (somewhat unfairly) is often compared to, was coming out of Marquette, no one thought he would be the player he was. Pat Riley, Doc Rivers and plenty others in the NBA thought he was a point guard (check NBA Live 2004, if you don’t believe that). His versatility was more what enticed scouts and NBA teams than what has become his legendary scoring and attacking ability.
Wade truly made his mark on the big stage of the Final Four when he recorded a triple double for Marquette, ultimately in a loss.
Victor Oladipo did not have such a moment. But his game — a quiet explosiveness and an ability to make his teammates better and defend — were oddly reminiscent of Wade.
The comparison is unfair because of how great Wade became. Heaping those expectations on Oladipo is extremely unfair to him at this point. Still, it is hard not to make those comparisons with some of the work he put in at Indiana this past year.
In a season where Cody Zeller was supposed to be the “it” guy on a top-ranked Hoosiers team, it was Oladipo who really shined.
Oladipo began his career more as a defensive stopper and athletic player. However, this year at Indiana, he showed a much more expanded offensive game. He was no longer just a role player but a bona fide college star. That was what made this season for Oladipo so astounding. He truly stepped into a new role and flourished for a team of extreme national prominence.
He undoubtedly has a place in the NBA because he understands how to be a role player. But to get drafted this high, he needs to be more than that. And this is where the general improvement in his game from his freshman and sophomore years to his junior year last year come into play.
The talent is clearly there for Oladipo, now it is about seeing if he can do it again at the NBA level.
The Good: Oladipo is an incredibly versatile player who has cut his teeth on the defensive end of the floor. That is typically what takes the longest for NBA teams to teach and having good defensive habits entering the league are an incredible plus.
Oladipo, at 6-foot-5 guard, has the ability to play both wing positions and guard both wing positions thanks to his athleticism and 6-foot-9 wingspan. He should be able to come in and make an impact on the defensive end as he has the body type and the athleticism that fits the prototypical wing player in the NBA — athletic and long.
What is really good though was how he showed so much improvement this season in a larger role with Indiana. His scoring average jumped only from 10.8 to 13.6 points per game last year, but he saw his field goal percentage go from 47.1 percent to 59.9 percent and his 3-point shooting jump from 20.8 to 44.1 percent. Oladipo showed a lot more comfort with the ball in his hands and made good on those possessions.
This not only shows that he has improving offensive skill but also the willingness to work and expand his game. Those are intangible traits you certainly like to see in a young player.
The Bad: It stinks that this is the way professional scouting goes sometimes, but the fact Oladipo needed time to develop in college and spent three years at Indiana may work against him in some way. It is tough to tell if his stellar 2013 season was the player he will be in the NBA or something of an aberration. There are fears he will fall back to his mean.
And his mean is not very strong.
In his sophomore year, he shot 47.1 percent from the floor but just 20.8 percent from beyond the arc. His scoring and rebounding numbers inched upward modestly that year before his breakout this past season. Everything has improved and still seems to be improving.
Oladipo’s offense is the thing that needs the most improvement. Three-point shooting has become so important in the NBA and so the questions about Oladipo’s shooting are legitimate concerns. He made 44.1 percent of his 3-pointers, but took only 68 attempts last year. The 3-pointer is not a shot Oladipo has quite mastered. This could limit his effectiveness in the NBA.
There is no doubting his will to improve at this point. He has already shown a lot of improvement as an individual player. Continuing to improve at the NBA level, particularly in such an important skill as shooting, is a different thing to do.
Draft Sites Say:
NBADraft.net: “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.
“Oladipo doesn’t have much of an offensive foundation at this point … Has a subpar jump shot with mechanics that lack consistency … Not much of a ball handler at this point.”
Final Word: Oladipo has a lot of intangible characteristics that should make him a solid NBA player. He already has a good understanding of defense and a willingness to play that role. He alos has the physical tools to be successful as a wing defender in the NBA. The question for Oladipo is on the other end of the ball. His offense greatly lags behind those physical skills and attributes. While he showed plenty of improvement this year, his inability to be a consistent 3-point shooter should hurt his game on the wing. Oladipo is a guy that has constantly improved however, and that should be a reason to think he will be a fine NBA player.