Embracing small ball doesn't mean Wiz take Oladipo

Embracing small ball doesn't mean Wiz take Oladipo
June 20, 2013, 11:30 am
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Who will the Wizards take at 3?

On June 27, the Wizards will take part in the 2013 NBA draft. Currently the owner of picks 3, 38 and 54, the franchise could go in almost any direction with those selections - including trading them - as Washington attempts a sincere playoff push.

Washington's primary needs, some of which can be addressed during free agency, include adding overall scoring punch, finding a power forward with perimeter touch, a long-term answer at small forward, plus backups for John Wall and Bradley Beal. Between now and the draft, we’re going to identify some of the players the Wizards might target whether the team stays pat or moves around in the first round with analysis from coaches, scouts, beat writers and national analysts.

Up next, former DeMatha product and Indiana guard Victor Oladipo, who is passing on working out for the Wizards at Verizon Center so the team is going to see him. Check below for a running of list of all our draft profiles.

Victor Oladipo, Indiana

Draft Express overall ranking: No. 3

Height/Weight: 6-4, 213 lbs (combine data)

Key stats: 13.6 points, 6.3 rebounds, 2.2 steals in 2012-13  

The player: The basketball legend of Victor Oladipo has been told many times, but it's a good hardwood tale. Relatively unheralded coming out of DeMatha, the athletic guard entered Indiana University all defense, hops, hustle and heart but with minimal offense. The high-riser (42-inch vertical at the combine) improved dramatically during his three seasons with the Hoosiers to where he started sinking shots as a junior while continuing to stop others from doing the same. Oladipo raised his 3-point shooting from 21 percent as a sophomore to 44 percent last season, one in which he was named AP 1st-team All-American. Led the team in overall field goal percentage (59.9) and finished second in rebounding. With his engaging personality, guarding prowess and on-court fervor, Oladipo is considered arguably the best combination of upside while a safe choice among the likely high lottery selections. 

The fit: While the Wizards made significant strides over the second half of last season in large part due to their talented backcourt, they're not in a position to turn down talent no matter the position. Oladipo's defensive oriented skill set would provide coach Randy Wittman a different scenario compared to the sweet-shooting Beal or the speedy, playmaking Wall. With his instincts and 6-foot-9 wingspan, the Upper Marlboro native lives in the passing lanes and would only enhance Washington's top-10 defense. Much better in catch-and-shoot situations, which should be no problem playing alongside Wall and Nene, a deft passer from the high post. 

The issue: Using small ball/three-guard lineups is all the rage in the NBA right now, but drafting into that scenario, especially with three top-3 selections is hardly ideal. Beyond end-of-game situation, how often would Wittman be able to use his three best players (based on draft slot) together. If Oladipo maxes out then the Wizards will figure out lineup combinations, though that still leaves him guarding the starry Eastern Conference small forwards like LeBron James, Paul George, Carmelo Anthony and Luol Deng; nothing says Miami, Indiana, New York and Chicago have to play use three guards seeing as their 3's can certainly defend Oladipo right back. Sure, those are only four guys, but if the Wizards are sincere about a deep playoff push, they will have to get past those teams in the East, not to mention play them on a regular basis. But what happens if Oladipo is not elite. Granted similar "what if" questions exist for essentially all the other prospects, but then Washington could still start small forward Otto Porter Jr. or center Alex Len and Nerlens Noel with Wall and Beal even they are just average starters. The Wizards can still embrace a small-ball concept by taking Porter or UNLV's Anthony Bennett with the idea of using them as stretch-four's in some scenarios. Also, outside of the injury-prone Nene, the Wizards do not have any frontcourt options they can safely rely on beyond this season so tabbing a third guard would truly be a luxury pick.  Beyond positional concerns, Oladipo struggles to create his own shot (only 8.1 percent of his offense last season came on isolation plays) and is primarily a one-handed offensive player off the dribble to the point of predictability, according to Draft Express  (his 3.2 turnovers per 40 minutes ranks fifth among DE's top-100 prospects).

The analysis (as told to CSNwashington): 

John Thompson III, Georgetown head coach (Hoyas faced Oladipo and then No. 1 Indiana in November): " It's clear that Victor is a worker. You see that when you watch his games, the energy, the tenacity that he shows. But you know that is true about how he goes about everything because of how much he's improved. He's always played hard. He's always been ultra athletic. Now you see the hard work he's put in where from an offensive perspective, he's a threat. Obviously, his athleticism translates to the next level. His work ethic will do him justice at the next level, so I think he'll be successful."

Rob Dauster, CollegeBasketballTalk.com/NBCSports: "I love Oladipo the player, especially at the college level. He is a guy that can actually jump over a car. He's an incredible athlete, he's a guy that really cares defensively. What we learned this past season is he's not afraid to put in the work and get better, correct what is wrong with his game. People weren't talking about him preseason as even an all-Big Ten player. Being a hard worker combined with his ability to defend multiple positions is what makes him a valuable player because you know you're at least going to get something positive out of him. There are a lot of guys in this draft you can't say that about. If three years down the road he's developed his handle, a knockdown jump shot combined with the way he can defend, you have a really valuable asset. ...(Fitting with Wall and Beal) I've been of the mindset that you don't have to draft for position. If Oladipo is the best player when the Wizards pick, take him, but I don't think you take him over someone like [Georgetown forward] Otto Porter Jr. Take Porter over Oladipo because otherwise you'd have a really crowded backcourt."

Nicole Auerbach, USA Today: "Early in the year when you're watching Indiana, you're watching for Cody Zeller, a national Player of the Year candidate - but Oladipo stole the show. He made big plays in big moments. ...(Playing back home) I'm sure he would embrace it. He was really excited about Indiana getting sent to D.C. for the [NCAA Tournament] regionals. ...Has kind of an odd relationship with his dad and I don't think his dad has really seen him play much. So there's that, but I'm sure his mom, his sister and others would go watch him wherever he goes. ...(potential) I think some of the prospects are getting a bad rap because this draft is considered down, but I think there are really talented athletes in this group and he is certainly one of them. Still so young, certain things are clicking late, but the defense is already there for Oladipo."

The summation: For other teams picking in the top-5, taking the blossoming Oladipo makes logical sense. His energy is infectious, his good-guy vibe a great locker room addition, his potential sincere. Because of explosive athleticism, he makes for great highlights which adds to his lore - but that doesn't mean he's a borderline All-Star, which he would have to be for the Wizards to justify selecting him. Washington's overall goal isn't simply about adding talent but adding talent that enhances, helps elevate Wall and Beal which in turn moves the franchise not just into making the playoffs but contending in them. Hard seeing how adding another guard does that unless team president Ernie Grunfeld does not see Oladipo as simply another guard. 

NBA Draft profiles:

Glen Rice Jr., NBA D-League/Georgia Tech

Mike Muscala, F, Bucknell

Nerlens Noel, C, Kentucky

Tony Snell, SF, New Mexico

Otto Porter Jr., SF, Georgetown

Lorenzo Brown, PG, NC State

Alex Len, C, Maryland

Anthony Bennett, PF, UNLV

Shabazz Muhammad, UCLA, SF/SG

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