Analytics knock Oladipo's defensive presence

Analytics knock Oladipo's defensive presence
June 3, 2013, 10:30 am
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What are the Wizards' plans this off-season?

"As we've mentioned before, [Victor] Oladipo's intrigue as an NBA prospect starts with his abilities as a perimeter defender." - Draft Express

"Oladipo announced that he's declaring for the 2013 NBA Draft. Oladipo is the best perimeter defender in the country and an elite athlete who plays at a relentless pace." - Chad Ford, ESPN.com

"Oladipo is renowned for his work ethic, and though questions about his jump shot linger -- last season was the first in which he consistently knocked down threes -- his defense and athleticism make him a hot commodity." - Chris Mannix, SI.com

These quotes are no outliers. The basis for Victor Oladipo's NBA potential hinges on his athleticism, particularly on the defensive end. Yes, the improvements in the junior guard's own offensive repertoire since entering Indiana University are to some observers staggering, but it's his ability to stop others from scoring that excites the evaluators most of all.

Multiple basketball/draft sources I've spoken with have used some version of "worst case, he'll be Tony Allen." That is rather lofty praise for the former DeMatha product seeing as the Grizzlies guard is arguably the game's premier perimeter defender. That side of Oladipo's potential is why some suggest the Wizards should target him even though he's not a clear answer for their positional and low scoring needs.

Obviously, we won't know Oladipo's career path, trajectory for a few years. However, there is one basketball analytics website that suggests he isn't even the best wing defender among likely lottery picks.

Vantage Sports* compared five prospects looking at five defensive categories including contested shots, overall field goal percentage against and shots defended per chance. Along with Oladipo, Vantage tracked Georgetown forward Otto Porter Jr., UCLA's Shabazz Muhammad plus guards Ben McLemore (Kansas) and Michael Carter-Williams (Syracuse).

(*) - I cannot claim to have heard about this site until last week. Based on only 210 Twitter followers, apparently not many others have as well, but included in the 210, Draft Express' head honcho Jonathan Givony and Ryan Blake, senior director for NBA scouting operations.

First, here are the numbers:

Within this group, Oladipo ranks last in two of the five categories: fouls per shot (.052) and points allowed per shot (.897). His overall field goal percentage against (38.7 %) is just behind Muhammad's but significantly worse than the other three. Vantage puts these numbers into perspective (Click this hyperlink for full definitions of the categories):

"The numbers seem to highlight some weaknesses for Oladipo in shot defense - his foul rate is high and he allowed shooters to go almost 39% against him.  As a result, his Points Allowed Per Shot was .897.  To provide further context, Tony Allen allows .894 Points Per Shot against NBA-level talent.  Giving up a higher number of points to college shooters does not bode well for a player touted as an NBA-ready defender. However, a mitigating factor is his high Shots Defended Per Chance number and his high help rate (only Otto Porter averaged more helps per chance).  Thus, a lot of his points allowed were not when guarding his primary target.

"We can't let Oladipo off the hook completely though.  Watching the video of his non-contested defense shows him relying on his active hands too much in help rather than playing with his feet, merely waving as guys go by, and he needs to temper his aggressiveness (especially when tired) so that he gives up fewer good looks. Oladipo exhibits the capacity to become a good NBA defender, but he is not there yet." 

Oladipo is not a one-dimensional player. He offers jump-out-of-the-gym hops, decent perimeter range and from all indications, out-of-the-world attitude and personality. Yet his defensive prowess is Oladipo's most substantial asset right now, what fans and pundits of the Wizards situation can latch onto when pushing for him with the No. 3 overall pick. 

When generally discussing which player the Wizards should target in the first round, Oladipo's name certainly pops up. As often as Porter's, McLemore's or UNLV forward Anthony Bennett, no, but close, especially after he wowed the combine crowd. However, his addition would not address the Wizards' pressing concerns, namely scoring and long-term frontcourt help. The Wizards tied for last in the NBA in scoring and outside of Nene have no set options at forward or center beyond the upcoming season.

Washington's primary building blocks, John Wall and Bradley Beal, are also guards. Sure, three-guard sets are becoming commonplace in the NBA, but using three top-3 picks to get there is neither the norm nor ideal. McLemore is also a guard and therefore also not ideal, but he's a knockdown shooter who could help the team next season while his All-Star potential provides significant future trade value. 

Oladipo has a 6-foot-9 wingspan and the 6-foot-4 Beal might grow another couple of inches. However, right now the Wizards could only use the pair and Wall together in certain situations (facing Eastern Conference finalists Indiana or Miami would often mean one of them guarding Paul George or LeBron James).                                                                                                                          

Porter is the most obvious fit. Stronger arguments exist for McLemore, Bennett or Maryland center Alex Len, but Oladipo's perceived defensive prowess and athletic gifts allow for an alternative draft path in Washington. If these numbers from Vantage are to be believed, selecting Oladipo is a perhaps a path best left for others to travel.