Positives: Perhaps the single biggest reason I struggle to watch and enjoy college basketball, aside from the tournament suspension on my favorite team (UConn), is the 35-second shot clock. When a team can run a set, fail, run a set, fail and run a third set all in one possession, it puts the defense at an enormous disadvantage while at the same time slowing the pace to a crawl.
This makes what Victor Oladipo can do on the defensive end all the more impressive, since he does it consistently for 35 seconds. There are a few perimeter defenders in the NBA who can hound ball-handlers as well as Oladipo (Avery Bradley and Tony Allen are the first two who come to mind), but where Bradley and Allen both struggle to score consistently offensively, Oladipo had a breakout season at Indiana as an offensive threat. He finished the season shooting a stellar 59.9% from the field, including 44.1% from 3-point range. 28.2% of his offense came in transition, which is cool because he’s unbelievably athletic and OMG RUBIOOPS ALL DAY EVERYDAY YES PLEASE. He’s also very good at cutting to the basket, so, you know, more Rubioops.
What’s more: Oladipo is a solid rebounder, especially on the offensive glass. With his offensive efficiency, his hounding defense and his rebounding, Oladipo is likely to be high lottery pick this year.
Negatives: While Oladipo’s solid offense is much improved from last season, he still isn’t a “go-to” scorer. He is turnover-prone in isolation and has an unfortunately predictable tendency to go right. He’s also not much of a ball-handler, preferring straight line drives to the basket. There are also plenty of questions regarding his upside, which makes comparisons to NBA superstars like Dwyane Wade a little bit foolish. Is Oladipo simply a scorer/slasher? Or can he be utilized in other ways as well? These questions will determine how high he ends up going in the draft.
Bottom Line: While Oladipo’s upside may be limited, there’s also little question as to whether or not he belongs in the league. His defensive pressure would help any team, and since he can defend up to three different positions in the NBA, it’s not implausible to imagine Oladipo hounding opposing point guards up the floor and forcing opposing offenses to start their sets late in the shot-clock, which, in the NBA, has considerably more effect.
Oladipo is not Dwyane Wade. But he might be a better version of Avery Bradley or Tony Allen, and that’s a fun prospect to imagine.
Timberwolves fit: There’s a reason Derek spent the last (excellent) prospect breakdown salivating over Ben McLemore, and it’s the same reason I’m salivating over Victor Oladipo in this one: The last time Minnesota had a decent shooting guard was…well…never. Oladipo has the potential to be a PERFECT fit in Minnesota, for lots of reasons, and I outlined a lot of them in the positives. He’s an excellent cutter, which is great when the Wolves have a player like Rubio. He’s a scoring option for teams that already have scoring options, and Minnesota has Kevin Love, Derrick Williams, and (perhaps) Nikolai Pekovic and Andre Kirilenko. If Oladipo can produce and defend the way he looks like he can, the Wolves could have a starting five that includes an increasingly-healthy Ricky Rubio, Kevin Love, Nikolai Pekovic and the evolutionary Avery Bradley. That, my friends, is a starting five that can win more than regular season games. That could win a couple of playoff series.
For my money, Victor Oladipo is the best choice for Minnesota in the draft, and several media outlets, including Sports Illustrated, are picking him to go to the Wolves. McLemore is the clear choice if they somehow win the lottery, but a defender and an efficient scorer like Oladipo is more likely to fit into Minnesota’s offense, and the defense he offers makes him an extremely intriguing prospect.
Follow Tom on Twitter: @Tom_NBA.