The 2013 NBA draft is being perceived as one without a franchise player or superstar athlete. While the paper evaluation certainly suggests that to be true, there's one player that has consistently reminded us that we play the games for a reason.
That player is Victor Oladipo—the best player in this draft class.
Oladipo has been given a variety of labels—most notably, that of a defensive-minded player without any defined offensive skills. This comes after a season in which Oladipo was a finalist for the Naismith and Wooden Awards.
With a closer evaluation, however, we'll see just how close Oladipo is to breaking out at the next level.
According to Chad Ford of ESPN Insider (subscription required), the 6'4", 213-pound Oladipo boasts a 6'9" wingspan and the prototypical body of a 2-guard at the NBA level.
For those who might question Oladipo's overall strength, here's your reason to walk away peacefully.
Chad Ford @chadfordinsider
Victor Oladipo told us he bench pressed 185lbs 15 times. Great number for a guard.5/17/2013, 5:17:38 PM
That's far from a quality that general managers care for, but it's a testament to his strength—something that does have a place on the court.
Oladipo didn't stop there, as he continued to impress during his other drills. Not only was he posting strong numbers, but he was proving just how elite of an athlete he truly is.
Allow his leaping ability to speak volumes to that.
Chad Ford @chadfordinsider
Victor Oladipo with a 33" standing vert and a 42" max vert. Wow.5/17/2013, 4:12:14 PM
It still doesn't stop there.
The comparisons between Oladipo and Ben McLemore will likely continue throughout their respective careers, as they're the top prospects at their position. In terms of what they did at the combine, however, the edge was clear.
It just wasn't in the person's favor you expected.
Chad Ford @chadfordinsider
Oladipo 3.25 sec & McLemore 3.27 similar sprint scores. Oladipo 10.69 much better than McLemore 11.87 on agility drill #NBACombine5/17/2013, 4:44:52 PM
Athleticism isn't an issue for Oladipo—not one bit.
Elite Defensive Presence
When you combine strength, elite athleticism, blazing lateral quickness and a massive wingspan, you have the tools necessary to be a dominant perimeter defender. When you're a smart player with a great sense of timing, you have the complete package.
Oladipo has all of those traits and more.
Oladipo does an excellent job of remaining in front of his man, maintaining his defensive base and keeping his feet and shoulders in the proper position to cut off driving lanes. He also explodes on the ball, turning errant passes into easy baskets in transition.
If that's not enough, he blitzes the pick-and-roll with poise and precision, and tenaciously attacks the defensive glass. The proof of that is in the numbers.
Oladipo averaged 6.3 rebounds, 2.2 steals and 0.8 blocks per game.
Perhaps nothing is as intriguing about Oladipo's defensive ability than the way he thinks. While some players wait for a play to develop, Oladipo sees it break down before it happens and almost always comes out as the victor because of his ability to anticipate.
Remember folks, this article isn't calling Oladipo the next Michael Jordan. But as was Jordan's, Oladipo's anticipation is impeccable and his mental game is always a few steps ahead of the competition.
The most common misconception about Oladipo is that—though he's capable of scoring in transition—he's all but helpless in the half court. The reason for this belief is that Oladipo didn't create his own shot at Indiana and thus averaged a pedestrian 13.6 points per game.
How quickly we forget that those 13.6 points came on nearly 60 percent shooting from the floor, including 44 percent from beyond the arc.
The truth of the matter is, Oladipo was a victim of his system, as Tom Crean ran an uptempo offense that looked for whichever player was open. That approach worked to an extent, as Indiana finished the season at 29-7 overall and 14-4 in the Big Ten.
Unfortunately, Indiana fell in the Sweet 16 of this year's NCAA tournament—a loss that saw Oladipo go for 16 points with just one missed field goal attempt.
Upon further evaluation, Oladipo actually has a stronger handle than most shooting guards at his level of progression. His jump shot is at it's best while his feet are set, but Oladipo has a strong enough pump fake where he can take the opposition off of the bounce.
As the video above displays, he's certainly doing everything he can to patch the remaining holes in his game.
You can teach a player how to shoot, box out and dribble. You could even show a player how to run an offense given the proper tools and time in a room with game film.
What you can't teach a player, however, is what Victor Oladipo and many of the NBA's best possess—intangibles.
Oladipo isn't just a supremely athletic player with the skill set necessary to be a star at the next level. You can find those same traits in a number of players who have never competed for a title or made an All-Star appearance.
The difference between those players and the great ones are the things that you can't see.
Chad Ford of ESPN Insider is one of the many who have labeled Oladipo as the player with the "best motor in college basketball." The difference between Oladipo and the player who had that label last season, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, is simple.
Oladipo has the established skills to go with it.
This is no knock against Kidd-Gilchrist, who has the work ethic necessary to develop those abilities and become a star in his own right. But Oladipo possesses the heart, will power, work ethic and motor necessary to do the things that the average player wouldn't even attempt.
Whether he's diving for a loose ball or even just throwing his body into a player 50 pounds heavier than him, Oladipo does the things that coaches dream of—he gives everything he has.
When it comes right down to it, Oladipo may not be the best jump-shooter in this draft class or the most skilled slasher. He isn't the most dominant shot-blocker and won't lead the league in double-doubles.
What he will do, however, is scratch and claw his way to victory by any means necessary.
As long as that mental approach remains in tact, it will be the separating factor between Oladipo and the rest of this draft class—it will be what makes Oladipo a star in the NBA.
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