Draft Projection: No. 2: Orlando Magic
Positives: Insider Only
Negatives: Insider Only
Summary: June 26 Update: If Noel is the best talent, then surely Oladipo takes the prize as the surest thing. He too has weaknesses. He's a bit undersized for his position and his offense is still emerging. The rest of his game, however, is extraordinary. If Noel is the best rim protector in the draft, then Oladipo is the toughest on the perimeter. He's an exceptional athlete who plays with an intensity that few can match. There isn't a coach in the NBA who wouldn't love to have him on his team. He has the "it" factor that few players possess. I'm not sure what his ceiling will be, but I'm confident that whatever it is, he'll max it out.
Quick fact: Oladipo not only doubled his steals per game from his sophomore to junior season, but he also led the Big Ten in field goal percentage (59.9 percent) and effective field goal percentage (64.8 percent).
June 25 Update: If the Cavs pass on Noel, the Magic are leaning strongly toward selecting him with the No. 2 pick. If Noel is off the board? Things get a little tougher. The Magic have explored a number of trade options, and if nothing can be worked out, it appears they are eyeing Oladipo over Ben McLemore. While McLemore is a stronger offensive player, Oladipo's defense and crazy motor hold a strong appeal for the Magic.
June 24 Update: While Oladipo's No. 1 ranking on our Secret NBA Draft Big Board may surprise some, I'm not shocked. The key to his ranking is that his low score is only 7. With a narrow range between his low score of 7 and his high score of 9, Oladipo is widely regarded as the safest pick in the draft. While he doesn't garner a 10 from anyone, teams believe he's unlikely to fail. A number of GMs have privately confided in me that he's their favorite player in the draft -- not necessarily ranked No. 1 on their boards, but their favorite player. His range looks like it's from No. 2 to No. 5 on draft night.
June 18 Update: The Magic are in the hunt for Eric Bledsoe. If they can address their point guard issue via trade, they're free to take the best player available at this spot. Indiana's Victor Oladipo and KU's Ben McLemore are widely seen as the two best fits in Orlando. While McLemore might have more pure upside, I continue to hear that Oladipo has the upper hand. McLemore was in Orlando last week, but according to multiple accounts, his workout wasn't terrific. Noel is a strong possibility, too, if he doesn't go No. 1 to the Cavs.
June 10 Update: Oladipo had his first workout last week -- with the Suns. Oladipo's main competition at the workout was Shabazz Muhammad (Ben McLemore also was in Phoenix that day, but declined to work out with Oladipo or Muhammad). By all accounts the Suns (like just about every other team) were impressed. Sources say that Oladipo has moved into the Cavs' conversation for the No. 1 pick, and also is under heavy consideration from the Magic at No. 2. Sounds like it would be a surprise if he goes past the Suns at No. 5.
May 28 Update: Although Oladipo didn't do anything surprising at the combine, his athletic testing (he measured with an off-the-charts 42-inch vertical) and his interviews appear to have given him momentum. A number of GMs told me Oladipo was their favorite player in the draft. That doesn't mean they'll draft him No. 1, but, as one GM said, "I know he's the one guy in this draft that my head coach would love to have right now. He's an impressive young man on and off the court." GMs were impressed by Oladipo's mixture of candor and intensity in the interviews. Although there still are legitimate questions about his upside offensively, and it's unlikely the Cavs will select him at No. 1, Oladipo now looks like a lock to go in the top 5, with Orlando, Charlotte and Phoenix his most likely landing spots.
May 20 Update: Victor Oladipo probably received the most positive feedback of anyone at the camp. Oladipo did not participate in drills either Thursday or Friday, but he was terrific in the athletic testing, measured out a bit taller than expected and impressed a number of teams in the interview section.
While no one I spoke with declared him the top player on their draft boards, a number of GMs told me Oladipo was their favorite player in the draft, possibly the player with the most upside of anyone on the board.
"Athletically he's so gifted," one GM said. "And he combines that with hard work both in the game and in practice. He keeps working on his game and getting better. His attitude was just special in the interview we had. He's humble, but confident. He doesn't draw attention to himself, but when he speaks he sounds like a leader. I worry about his jump shot a little and his ball handling, too. But I really feel like he's going to get better. And if he does? We'll all regret not taking him. All of us."
I wouldn't be surprised if, by the end of this process, Oladipo ends up No. 1 or No. 2 on a number of boards.
May 15 Update: It's unclear whether Oladipo will participate in the drills portion of the combine. Scouts have zero questions about his elite athletic abilities or his character. It's the skills they want to see. If Oladipo is confident that he'll shoot the ball well, it might be worth him participating in the drills. If he drained jumpers, he'd get a boost.
May 8 Update (Projected No. 4, Suns): Though the Suns just hired Ryan McDonough as the new general manager, the team still has many basketball needs. Right now its biggest problem seems to be character and drive. The Suns are a leaderless group that desperately needs toughness and energy. While Oladipo is far from a polished product, his lockdown defense, elite athletic abilities and super-high motor seem like the perfect antidote to the malaise in which Phoenix found itself this season. C.J. McCollum could be another possible pick at No. 4. He would give the Suns the pure scorer it lacked all season.
May 2 Update: Oladipo continues to be one of the more debated prospects at the top of the draft. I recently spoke with a number of NBA GMs and the question about his ceiling is the same: "Can he develop the skills and attitude of an NBA scorer?" If the answer is yes, then it's not out of the question that he could be a Dwyane Wade-type player. If the answer is no, someone like Tony Allen might be his best comparison.
Apr 9 Update: Oladipo announced that he's declaring for the 2013 NBA Draft. Oladipo is the best perimeter defender in the country and an elite athlete who plays at a relentless pace. He's still a work in progress offensively, but he can guard three positions on the floor and is an elite finisher at the rim. His shooting has dramatically improved, as have his ballhandling skills, but they'll need to continue to improve for Oladipo to be a scorer at the next level. Look for him to go somewhere between No. 3 and No. 8 in the draft.
Apr 2 Update: Oladipo's terrific season came to an end on Thursday at the hands of Syracuse. While Oladipo led all scorers on the Hoosiers with 16 points on 5-for-6 shooting, the length of Syracuse clearly gave him and the rest of the team problems and kept him from being the factor he normally is. He continued to show that he's the best perimeter defender in the country by giving Michael Carter-Williams trouble when he guarded him, but overall it was a bit of a disappointing end to what was an otherwise stellar season. It's highly likely Oladipo will declare for the draft, and when he does, I see him going somewhere between No. 2 and No. 8.
Mar 26 Update: The Oladipo bandwagon is running at full speed again. After a tough game against Wisconsin in the Big Ten tournament (4-for-12 from the field) and a so-so outing in a blowout against James Madison in the opening round of the NCAA tourney, Oladipo saved the Hoosiers' season Sunday. After he and the entire team struggled to contain Temple's Khalif Wyatt in the first half, Oladipo shut Wyatt down in the last six minutes of the game and then came up with a game-winning 3 with 15 seconds left to put the Hoosiers in the Sweet 16. Oladipo's toughness defensively, combined with that improved jump shot on the offensive end, make him a very intriguing pick.
Mar 13 Update: The Oladipo bandwagon has finally stopped going 200 mph. In fact, he slid one spot in our latest rankings. He struggled with foul trouble and with offense for a few games before breaking out again with a very strong performance against Michigan on Sunday. Not everyone loves Oladipo. A number of scouts are more comfortable with him as a late lottery pick thanks to his unpolished offensive skills. But there are others who still see him as a potential No. 1 pick.
Feb 27 Update: Oladipo continues to skyrocket up our board. He had another signature performance against Michigan State last week, scoring 19 points, grabbing nine boards and collecting five steals. Oladipo has weaknesses, but his infectious energy, toughness and elite athletic abilities are so enticing to scouts that I think everyone is afraid to pass on him. When people start throwing out comps like Dwyane Wade and even (gulp) a young Michael Jordan, you pay attention. If he continues this all season and helps IU win a title, he's got a shot at being the No. 1 pick.
Feb 21 Update: At the top of the shooting guards are two major talents: Kansas' Ben McLemore and Indiana's Victor Oladipo. Both players are potential top-five picks. McLemore currently sits at No. 1 on our Top 100. Oladipo, who has been the fastest riser on our Big Board this season, has moved all the way up to No. 5.
Both players are big-time athletes. McLemore is a better shooter and brings more size (6-foot-5, 195 pounds) to the table. He's more of a natural scorer than Oladipo, and his overall game is more polished. Oladipo is a better defender and is a bit more comfortable playing off the dribble. Also, Oladipo has a better motor than McLemore and appears to have an edge that McLemore lacks. Both players are a terror in transition. While scouts currently favor McLemore, Oladipo's stock is rising to the point that he now has an outside chance of being the No. 1 pick.
Feb 14 Update: Oladipo continues to catapult up our board thanks to more stellar performances like his 26-point, 8-rebound, 3-assist beatdown of Ohio State last week. His incredible defensive ability is a known quantity. It's his improved defensive game that has moved him into the top-10 pick conversation. A few scouts are pushing even harder, claiming he's a top-five pick. In other words, his rise on our Big Board may not be over.
Jan 28 Update: A little more than a month ago, I had Zeller atop our list of the best college players in the country and had him ranked as a top-three prospect in the NBA draft.
A month later, it's harder for me to argue for either ranking. As far as top college players go, his production simply doesn't quite reach the level of some of his competition. In fact, I think it's fair to argue that teammate Oladipo actually might be more valuable to the Hoosiers right now.
I know Jay disagrees and makes the statistical argument for Zeller. But after watching Indiana the past month, I understand those who side with Oladipo as well. He plays so hard, is so disruptive on the defensive end and sets the tone for this Indiana team. It certainly feels as if it's Oladipo, not Zeller, who sets the pace for the Hoosiers.
And if you want advanced stats for support, Ken Pomeroy's Offensive Rating has Oladipo slightly ahead of Zeller. Yes, Zeller rebounds slightly more than Oladipo, but Zeller is 6-foot-11 and Oladipo just 6-5. Zeller's rebounding rate for a big man is very average. Oladipo's rebounding rate is excellent for a guard. Oladipo shoots a higher percentage than Zeller despite the fact Zeller's shots are much closer to the basket. Oladipo's shooting percentages as a guard are ridiculously good.
Oladipo certainly was the best player on the floor Sunday against Michigan State. His 21 points (on 8-of-12 shooting), 7 rebounds, 6 steals and 3 blocks terrorized Michigan State on both ends of the floor. Once again, he was the engine that made Indiana run.
As far as best college players go, Oladipo, Michigan's Trey Burke, Creighton's Doug McDermott, Gonzaga's Kelly Olynyk and my personal favorite, Kansas' Ben McLemore, all would get the nod over Zeller at the moment.
Oladipo's draft stock? He's steadily risen on draft boards all season. He's currently sitting at No. 17 on our Top 100 and, given his trajectory and Zeller's fall, I don't think it's out of the question that Oladipo goes ahead of Zeller on draft night.
Jan 16 Update: Oladipo is a tough, explosive athlete who is proving this season that he's more than just a lock-down defender. His jump shot has started falling and he's been less hesitant to attack the basket. The result is that Oladipo may be one of the two or three best wings in the country.
Dec 17 Update: Zeller gets the lion's share of attention from NBA scouts, but on their frequent trips to watch Zeller in action, a number of scouts have walked away with another name highlighted on their iPads: Oladipo. Last season, he was considered a high-energy athlete with no real offensive game. This season, with an improved jumper and even better defensive numbers, some scouts believe they've found the next Tony Allen. Oladipo's energy is infectious, and he can lock down just about everyone, from point guards to power forwards. And on offense, he shows an above-average ability to finish around the rim. Plus, even his 3-point shot is starting to fall a little bit. No one is calling Oladipo a lottery pick right now, but it's looking more and more likely that he will hear his name called somewhere in the first round in June.