Victor Oladipo has been a frequent topic of debate during the 2012-2013 season. His gradual improvement has landed him in nearly every NBA draft conversation, with some even considering him a potential top-five pick.
When addressing his best-case and worse-case NBA player comparisons, let's first address Oladipo's no-case scenario.
There aren't many comparisons that grind my gears more than the one I've been hearing over the past month of the season; Victor Oladipo is not your next Dwyane Wade, nor does he project to be anything like him.
The difference between a guy like Wade and Victor Oladipo is the range of their scoring joy stick. Wade can attack the rim moving north and south or shake his defender east and west with the mid-range pull-up or step-back game. Having the ability to separate in that 15-to-23-foot range and knock down shots off the dribble is what makes Wade such a difficult one-on-one mismatch and true go-to scoring option.
Oladipo's most effective offensive attribute is his ability to attack north and south. He can explode toward the rim and finish in traffic. But rarely, if ever, will Indiana give Oladipo the ball in isolation and watch him go to work.
He gets his baskets off backdoor cuts, transition opportunities, drives to the hoop or spot-up jump shots. Oladipo is a complementary scorer—someone who plays off his teammates instead of creating half-court offense himself. He did improve off the dribble and is now capable of beating his man and getting to the rack. But creating perimeter offense is not in his arsenal, which is a skill that separates the go-to options from the complementary ones.
Not having a perimeter game (step-backs, pull-up jumpers) will limit Oladipo's scoring opportunities at the next level. Defenses will end up forcing Oladipo to beat them from outside, making it difficult for him to attack the basket one-on-one off the bounce.
That's why if Oladipo's game stays around where it is today, his worst-case NBA player comparison will be Memphis Grizzlies' Tony Allen.
Allen is the starting shooting guard for one of the toughest teams in the NBA, particularly on the defensive side of the ball.
More than anything, it's Oladipo's defense that makes him such an appealing NBA prospect. Teams interested in his services won't be targeting the 13.6 points per game he scores at Indiana; they'll be after his lock-down defensive tools to go along with the few easy buckets that his athleticism gets him a game.
Tony Allen starts for Memphis because of his ability to blanket the opposing team's top perimeter scorer—a valuable skill to offer. He scores around nine points per game the exact way that Oladipo gets his—finishing off his teammates' passing and creativity.
If Oladipo's offense really rounds out, and by that I mean he develops a more refined perimeter game, he'll have the opportunity to make a similar impact as Andre Iguodala.
Though Iguodala has an extra inch or two and a stronger overall frame, it's how he contributes offensively that would reflect Oladipo's best-case scenario.
Iggy is an off-ball scorer like Oladipo is now, but he's capable of separating on the perimeter by rising and firing over defenders. This is what would propel Oladipo to the next level as a scorer and make him more of a threat in a half-court set.
But at the end of the day, I don't think there's any mirror image of Victor Oladipo, and that's what makes him such a unique prospect.
You just can't duplicate his motor and athleticism, and though his offensive game has expanded, it's his ability to make plays without the ball that differentiates him from everybody else.
Oladipo isn't a projected lottery pick because a team believes he'll be one of the top scoring options in its rotation. Instead, he's a no-risk complementary contributor who makes plays on both sides of the ball and a guaranteed rotation player in a draft filled with uncertainty.
Worst-case scenario you get a guy like Tony Allen who Ds up first and finishes off others' creativity. Best-case scenario you get a two-way wing like Andre Iguodala who can play on the perimeter or slash in the half court.
Either way, Oladipo is an NBA asset worthy of a lottery selection.