Victor Oladipo is a special player not just because of his chiseled NBA body and trampoline-like athleticism, but also his tireless work ethic and charismatic, winning, personable attitude.
Simply put, he is the Renaissance Man of NBA prospects—he has it all, and he does it all.
Currently, the First Team All-American is projected to hear his named called right on the edge of the top five picks in the upcoming draft. Draft Express' Jonathan Givony has him going No. 4, while ESPN's Chad Ford and CBS Sports' Jeff Goodman and Matt Moore put him at No. 5.
But if you couldn't already tell by the two opening gushing lines, I would take him No. 1 and not think twice about it.
Of course, the Cleveland Cavaliers, who spent a top five pick on fellow shooting guard Dion Waiters last June, seem intent on adding a defensive presence down low in Nerlens Noel. So, for now, we'll concentrate on the second pick.
Most believe that to be Ben McLemore.
Trey Burke would fill a need at point guard for the Orlando Magic, and Otto Porter is an intriguing all-around threat with few weaknesses, but the Kansas shooting guard with a smooth stroke, bouncy athletic ability and drool-worthy offensive potential seems to be the consensus for who Rob Hennigan should select.
I can't deny the allure of McLemore, but I can see more in Oladipo.
Let's begin with the physical attributes.
Oladipo's official measurements from last week's combine put him at 6'4" and 213 pounds. He has a lengthy 6'9" wingspan and 8'4.5" standing reach with an unbelievable vertical of 42 inches.
Just for fun, if you combine his standing reach and vertical, you have a vertical reach of 11'10," which is only eight inches shy of Dwight Howard's NBA record.
And he's a shooting guard.
Oladipo doesn't just have an impressive combination of length and athleticism—he has a combination of length and athleticism that is already at an elite level in the NBA.
Which isn't exactly surprising considering he constantly threw down slams like these:
Heck, he even has quite possibly the greatest missed dunk ever:
But the point here isn't to argue Oladipo's ability to revive the lacking dunk contest. Most importantly, his physique and athleticism point to a seamless transition from college to the Association.
He's strong and physical; he won't get pushed around by NBA guards. He's fast and long; he'll be a nuisance on defense. He's athletic; his perceived inability in the half-court offense will be quelled by his superiority in transition.
All-in-all, Oladipo's physical traits are NBA worthy. You could replace his brain with that of a sheep, and he'd still be able to make an impact at the next level. He's that athletically impressive.
But we've seen it countless times before: a player with raw talent and gaudy physical tools comes pathetically shy of his potential because he lacks the mental fortitude necessary.
With Oladipo, that won't happen. His mentality is even more impressive than his physicality. To get a good idea of the kind of person he is, watch one of his interviews at the combine, courtesy of Jonathan Givony:
Jonathan Givony @DraftExpress
Victor Oladipo: “I’m just abnormal. I’m a weird dude – I’m not gonna lie to you.” http://t.co/iuh3kyqrUV5/17/2013, 9:54:08 PM
The term "gym rat" is a painful cliche that is constantly overused, so we'll avoid using it here. Instead, we'll just say that Oladipo is addicted to the gym.
And we're not just talking regular ol' shootarounds here. Oladipo is a warrior who genuinely wants to work to get better, and as such, his weaknesses are quickly disappearing.
At first, the knock on him was his inability to hit a jump shot. So he addressed that with ferocity:
Zak Boisvert @ZakBoisvert
Victor Oladipo on his growth as a shooter http://t.co/p193AUWQxc5/18/2013, 3:34:57 PM
As a result, his shooting percentage skyrocketed from 47.1 to 59.9, his three-point percentage from 20.8 to 44.1 and his true-shooting percentage from 54.5 to 67.1.
Now, the worry is that he can't create his own offense. But with the tenacious way that he works to improve, it wouldn't be surprising if that weakness was also soon a distant memory:
His work ethic is evident in the strengths of his game, too. He averaged 6.3 rebounds, 2.2 steals and 0.8 blocks last season, which are solid numbers by themselves.
But the things Oladipo does that don't show up in the box score are what define him as a player: Diving for loose balls, tipping a rebound to an open teammate, never taking a play off, guarding the opposing team's best player, getting his long arms in the passing lanes:
Mike Pegram @peegs
Crean: Said Victor Oladipo's 15 first half deflections was something he's never seen. Finished with 22 for the game1/27/2013, 8:57:03 PM
Keep in mind when reading that stat, by the way, that Tom Crean has coached some guy named Dwyane Wade, too.
Oladipo is a special player with a motor, hunger, focus and humility that can't be taught.
McLemore is a special player with a questionable mentality who often disappeared from the limelight at Kansas.
You make the choice.
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