Former Indiana Hoosiers star shooting guard Victor Oladipo is gaining momentum in the conversation for the No. 1 overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft—and rightfully so.
ESPN's Chad Ford (subscription required) cites sources in his latest big board who say that Oladipo has entered the discussion for the top selection on June 27, which is held by the Cleveland Cavaliers. The second pick is held by the Orlando Magic, and they're reportedly very interested as well.
The Cleveland Plain Dealer's Cavaliers beat team of Mary Schmitt Boyer and Jodie Valade noted last week that Oladipo would be visiting the team, and that he had already been to Orlando:
Certainly there could be some smokescreen tactics at work here to force teams lower on the draft totem pole to consider trading up to grab him. However, there is reason to believe the interest is genuine given how pro-ready Oladipo's game seems to be.
Oladipo did not participate in drills at the NBA Draft Scouting Combine in Chicago, but the massive improvement he showcased in his third and final season with the Hoosiers makes him such an intriguing prospect.
There has never been a question about Oladipo's defense—he is the reigning Big 10 Defensive Player of the Year. What was most impressive about his recent campaign was the staggering leap he took in offensive efficiency.
A formerly shaky jump shot was suddenly reliable from mid-range and beyond the arc, as Oladipo made 59.9 percent of his shots from the field and was at 44 percent from three-point land. That, combined with his knack for getting to the rim, caused his stock to soar.
It makes some sense that Oladipo compares himself to Miami Heat superstar Dwyane Wade—and that he's garnered such a comparison—mostly due to his affiliation with Indiana head coach Tom Crean.
At Marquette, Crean fostered a key stage in Wade's development, and Oladipo thrived under Crean’s tutelage in Bloomington, too.
Former Memphis Grizzlies veteran scout Tony Barone Jr., though, compares Oladipo to Tony Allen—only with a reliable jumper:
Allen is arguably the best man-to-man, on-ball defender in the entire NBA, so the fact that someone with the experience of Barone holds Oladipo in such high regard is an outstanding compliment.
That doesn't mean the evaluation is a hyperbole. Oladipo has the athleticism and lateral quickness to stay in front of even the most agile 2-guard counterparts he'll face.
What Oladipo also brings to the table is strong rebounding from his position. He pulled down 6.3 rebounds despite standing at a modest 6'4". That is a testament to his leaping ability, but also accentuates his intangibles, fundamentals and relentless motor.
There aren't many prospects who put forth the maximum effort Oladipo gives on both ends of the court, which bodes well for the translation of his game to the NBA .
Given how big of a step he took in his final collegiate season, it's hard to gauge what his true upside as a pro will be. There's reason to believe that someone as perpetually energetic as Oladipo could become even better with total focus on basketball.
With regard to how he'd fit with the Cavs—assuming they hold onto the top pick—Oladipo would enter an environment where defense is constantly preached by head coach Mike Brown.
Dion Waiters was selected No. 4 overall last year and functions mostly as a 2, though he's more of a combo guard. A small lineup with him, Oladipo and star point guard Kyrie Irving could be devastating for opponents in the open court. Oladipo's penchant for crashing the boards and his defensive tenacity could also make it work.