Victor Oladipo could be a star at the next level. (Credit)
On February 19 in East Lansing, Michigan, the Michigan State Spartans hosted the Indiana Hoosiers in a matchup of two top five teams in the country. Indiana ended up winning by four in one of the best games of the season. Afterwards, all of the talk was about Indiana being the team to beat in the upcoming NCAA tournament, but my focus was squarely on the Hoosiers superstar sparkplug Victor Oladipo.
ESPN had Oladipo ranked as the 54th best shooting guard (not 54th overall, not even the 54th best backcourt player) in his class coming out of high school in 2010. He was slotted behind the likes of Justin Coleman, Jelan Kendrick and Jordan Siebert. Don’t stress if you had to run over to Google to check them out, we did too.
After seeing 18 minutes per game in the 7th man role as a freshman, Oladipo forced his way into the starting lineup as a sophomore and became a key player not only in Indiana’s return to the NCAA tournament, but also in handing eventual national champion Kentucky one of its only two losses of the season.
Then came the breakout.
Heading into his junior year, all of the hype surrounding the preseason No. 1 Hoosiers was about big man Cody Zeller. Zeller was awesome last year, but by around mid-December, Oladipo had stolen the show. His high-flying dunks and lockdown defense threw him up to the top half of the Wooden Award list. After 26 points, eight boards, and a victory on the road against Ohio State and all-world defender Aaron Craft, Oladipo went off for 19 points, nine boards, and five steals in the February 19 matchup with Michigan State.
That was the point in the season where he not only solidified his place as a first team All American, but also pretty much locked up his spot as a top-10 pick in the draft.
Defensively, Oladipo is more than ready to make the jump to the next level. While some scouts say his offensive game needs some work (and to an extent, they’re right), Oladipo can come into the league right away and be an effective NBA player on both ends. He moves incredibly well without the ball and can create his own shot, even when a play is not drawn up for him. Standing 6’5’’, he is also a well above average rebounder for a shooting guard (a big plus as teams continue to go small).
He’s not a finished product yet, either. He’s raw and he’s got plenty of room to improve his game. This makes him even more tantalizing when you consider that multiple NBA and college basketball analysts compare Oladipo to… wait for it… keep waiting… Dwyane Wade. Yes, pretty outrageous comparison at first glance, but when you stop and think about it, Oladipo has almost the exact same skill set that Wade does.
Sure, Wade is 31-years-old and arguably the fourth best shooting guard to ever play (My list is: Jordan, Bryant, West, Wade), but think back to when Wade was just starting his pro career. He was a better scorer, clearly, but remember the Marquette offense revolved almost completely around him. Oladipo’s FG/FT/3PT shooting percentages all top Wade’s. Again, Wade did take more shots, but the numbers make it clear that Oladipo has put in the work to improve his jump shot.
He looks more fluid and comfortable with his release than he did early in his career, and the ball seems to be coming off of his hands a lot softer and with better rotation. Oh yeah, and they both have this thing called "the clutch gene." When it came down to it, if Indiana needed someone to get them a bucket, they went right to Oladipo. You already know who the Golden Eagles went to in the clutch when they made their Final Four run ten years ago.
I always find it hard to say a draft class is weak until we see at least one or two years of it in NBA games. In a couple of years, Victor Oladipo is going to be the best player out of this group. It may not happen next year, and you may not realize it right away, but if he lands in the right place and progresses the way he should, general managers will be kicking themselves for passing on him.
By: Ross Keith