Oladipo has two qualities which may be the best in the draft: his motor and his defense.
Victor plays at a much faster pace than every player he shares the court with. On both ends of the floor, he is constantly in motion, and in the open court, he’s an absolute blur. Oladipo gets the better of most of his competitors simply by outworking them. He would be a first-round pick solely on the basis of effort even if he had no other elite skills..
Defensively, he looks like a sure thing. His defensive talent isn’t just a product of his motor and tenacity – he is incredibly smart as well. He’s always in the right position and plays with a great deal of discipline. He averaged more than two steals per game, but he doesn’t get them by gambling. Like Ice Man in Top Gun, Oladipo forces turnovers by remaining disciplined and forcing his opponent to make a mistake. Oladipo should be able to defend both points guards and shooting guards in the NBA.
Offensively, the first thing that stands out about Victor is his efficiency. For the season, he shot 60% from the field and 44% from three while averaging 13.6 points per game. He maintains that efficiency with great shot selection. Most of his attempts inside the three-point line come at the rim. When he does shoot a jumper, it’s typically from around the free throw line. He very rarely settles for a bad jump shot. For the year, he shot 50% off the catch and 60% off the dribble. His quickness and athleticism allow him to find open space and shoot over defenders. He’s a total nightmare for defenses because he is so dangerous from the weak side. He can nail a shot from downtown off ball reversal or a skip pass, or he can cut from the back side to the hoop and put his 42” vertical leap to good use.
He also gets a lot of points in transition, but those are generated from turnovers and not him leaking out when the shot goes up. Getting back to the discipline I talked about earlier, Oladipo rebounds extremely well (6.3 per game) for his size. A guard who doesn’t have to be taught to rebound is a huge asset in the NBA, where so many ball handlers prefer to let their bigs do the work on the boards.
For all the great qualities that have made him a Top 5 lock, Oladipo is not a perfect player. His biggest flaw is that he doesn’t have a great left hand. He almost always goes right when penetrating to the hoop. This can make his offense predictable and give defenders a way to mitigate his speed and freakish athleticism. Because his handle is not elite, he is slightly turnover prone as well. He averaged 2.3 per game, and as the video above will tell you, he turns the ball over a great deal in isolation situations.
The reality of Oladipo’s game is that right now, he’s not a primary scoring option. He is not elite when it come to creating his own offense. He is a great secondary option who can do a variety of things to put the ball in the bucket. But he is not the sort of player who can catch the ball with five seconds on the shot clock and get a bucket consistently.
The area of concern with his offense is whether or not he can keep up his shooting efficiency, especially from downtown. His incredible three-point percentage came on a very small sample size (68 attempts.) Remember when Derrick Williams hit nearly 60% of his threes his last year at Arizona? Well he only took 72 shots from downtown that season. In his two years in the NBA Williams has shot 33% and 27% from beyond the arc. It’s unclear how Victor will adjust to the NBA distance.
One thing that shocked me about Oladipo was his minutes per game. While other guards at the top of the draft like Ben McLemore, Trey Burke, and Michael Carter-Williams averaged at lest 32 minutes a night, Oladipo played only 28. He’s plays at such a breakneck pace that it makes total sense for him to get rest. But will he be able to play with the same motor that’s making him a Top 5 pick for 30-35 minutes per night in the NBA?
The other thing that stood out is his size. Oladipo measured out at 6’3” without shoes at the combine. That’s two inches shorter than his ESPN player profile lists him. Is he tall enough to guard lanky shooting guards like Klay Thompson and Kobe? The answer is probably yes, but it is still something to consider.
The thing that has raised and will continue to raise Oladipo’s draft stock is the lack of question marks surrounding him. Of all the guys in the Top 10, he is the most known commodity. Teams know exactly what they’re going to get from him. He may not have the upside of Noel, McLemore, or Porter, but he doesn’t have near the downside of those players because of the qualities he brings to the court. Worst case scenario, Oladipo is a taller Avery Bradley with the ability to knock down an open shot and throw down a Sportscenter-worthy dunk. There is very little doubt he will be a useful starter in the NBA. Oladipo could end up off the board by the time the Suns’ pick rolls around simply because the rest of this draft worries NBA GM’s too much and they’d rather take the safer player.
How would he fit with the Suns?
Oladipo would fit the Suns like a glove. Though he might not start right away, in the long run I can’t think of a better backcourt partner for. The two complement each other very well. Dragic has a better handle and likes to have the ball in his hands. Oladipo is much better off the ball and creates space in the lane because defenses have to be aware of his spotting up or cutting to the hoop. Both guys play at the same breakneck pace and with the same ferocity. Oladipo should be able to defend the West’s elite guards which would free up Dragic to hide on a lesser backcourt player and save his energy. Unless some very talented GM works his magic and signs and Iman Shumpert away from the Clippers and Knicks respectively, I can’t think of a single NBA backcourt which would be able to match an Oladipo-Dragic pairing in terms of toughness, speed in transition, and effort. The Suns’ fast break points would surely double if those two played significant minutes together.
Aside from not being a go-to scorer, Oladipo fills a ton of holes for the Suns. Effort, defense, and athleticism were all areas the Suns were lacking in last season, and Victor would be a marked improvement in all of them. The issue for the Suns is will he still be there at #5? Oladipo isn’t likely to be selected before Noel which rules out the Cavs. The Wizards already have Bradley Beal, so they may not want to spend a Top 3 pick on another shooting guard. Thus the issue comes down to Orlando and Charlotte. Both teams could use a shooting guard, especially Charlotte who spent the season trotting out Ben Gordon and Gerald Henderson. One of those two will take Ben McLemore. If it’s Orlando, then Charlotte might snatch Oladipo at #4. If however, Orlando opts to take a point guard like Trey Burke, then the Suns should be able to take Oladipo at #5.
A lot can happen between now and the draft, but from my perspective, Oladipo is the best-case scenario for Phoenix.
And 1 … A second-rounder to consider
Deshaun Thomas from Ohio State. Though it was LaQuinton Ross who broke the Arizona Wildcats’ hearts in this year’s sweet 16, it was Thomas who kept the Buckeyes in that game and led them in scoring all season long. Thomas ended the season ranked 21st in the nation in scoring, and he was tops in the Big 10. Thomas is projected to slip to the second round because he contributes very little outside of the scoring column. He is an adequate rebounder, but he’s not much of a defender.
Thomas has the potential to be an instant offense, off the bench scorer. He reminds me of a taller MarShon Brooks. If he can translate his game to the league, Thomas could easily carve out a niche for himself in the vain of Jamal Crawford or J.R. Smith. Or he could be a total bust. We’re talking about a second round pick, many of whom don’t make the roster of the team that picked them. Thomas may only have one skill, but scoring is a universal need for every team in the NBA, and he’s someone the Suns should definitely consider.