PBT Draft preview: Victor Oladipo may be the hottest prospect in the draft

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For the next few weeks PBT will be profiling likely first-round draft picks in the upcoming NBA Draft. Today we talk about Indiana’s wingman.

ESPN’s well connected Chad Ford put it this simply in a chat Wednesday: “Oladipo is the guy that GMs love in this draft.”

Victor Oladipo was one of those guys with all the athletic gifts you could imagine to temp scouts but he never could put it all together… until this year. When he started to show some really offensive game to go with his defense suddenly scouts were both impressed and thinking his ceiling is even higher.

He has the size — 6’4” with a 6’9” wingspan — and skills to be an elite NBA defender on the wing. At Indiana he was disruptive, getting his hands on balls and deflecting passes. Do that and scouts will have interest. But Oladipo also shot 44.1 percent from three last season and showed some real offensive skills, and that changed things. Suddenly teams were thinking he could be a young Tony Allen type, with more offense.

So he is shooting up draft boards.

STRENGTHS

It’s a good thing when you combine crazy athleticism with a great motor. We’ve already talked about defense, and that’s important, we’ll get to that again. But his athleticism makes him very dangerous in transition.

But his offense is more than just that — he shot a ridiculous 59.9 percent last season. Oladipo is an aggressive, hungry scorer who attacks the rim and moves well off the ball (something you don’t see every day from stars in college ball). What may most impress teams is guys that get better on offense tend to have a good work ethic, a good sign for adjusting to the NBA.

But what really interests teams is his defense — in college he was a lock-down defender and that could continue in the NBA. His physicality and quickness lets him guard the two and the three.

WEAKNESSES

There are questions. He can guard the two in the NBA, but can he really cover threes? Also, he has had some issues with turnovers.

But the big questions come back to the offensive end. He shot a high percentage but the question is can that improvement curve continue. In addition, this is not a guy who can create his own shot — he needs to play with a strong guard (or three) who can handle the rock.

There are other concerns, but his effort on the court and work ethic off it largely offset those.

WHAT DOES DAUSTER THINK?

We don’t get to watch as much of these guys as college writers do, so we turn to Rob Dauster of NBC’s CollegeBasketballTalk.com.

There was not a more improved player in the country this past season than Victor Oladipo. He managed to transform himself from an afterthought in the preseason, a guy known for nothing more than his ability to jump and his ability to defend, into arguably the best all-around player in the country. He was a first-team all-american, and rightfully so. In addition to being a highlight reel in-the-making and the best on-ball defender in the country, Oladipo was no longer a liability offensively. He was able to put the ball on the floor and get to the rim, and he turned himself into a good enough shooter that he hit 44.1% from three, although he took less than two-per-game.

Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Oladipo’s game is that he played his best in the biggest games of the year. If you only watched Indiana play the likes of Michigan and Michigan State, you would be surprised that Oladipo only averaged 13.6 points this season. He was willing to defer to the other talents on Indiana’s roster, but he was capable of taking over when needed. He’s also an incredibly hardworker, which leads you to believe that his development is far from finished.

I’m not sure that Oladipo is ever going to be a real threat on the offensive end of the floor, but he’s the same kind of competitor and defender as a guy like Tony Allen. It’s important to remember that Allen averaged 16.0 points as a senior at Oklahoma State and was named the Big 12 Player of the Year; he wasn’t always just a defender. In an ideal world, Oladipo would have that kind of a career.

WHERE DOES HE GET DRAFTED?

In the top five. There is some buzz the Cavaliers could take him in the No. 1 spot, but Draft Express has him at No 4 and that seems a more likely landing spot.

Report: Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer no longer considering Suns job

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There’s been a lot of talk as the coaching carousel ramps up, long before the NBA season is even over. Now, we know one coach won’t be heading to the Phoenix Suns: Atlanta Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer.

Budenholzer was reportedly among one of the candidates for the Suns job, but according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowksi the Hawks coach has decided not to pursue the position after being given the opportunity to do so.

The Suns coaching search still includes current interim coach Jay Triano and former Memphis Grizzlies head man David Fizdale.

Via ESPN:

Budenholzer met with Suns general manager Ryan McDonough and owner Robert Sarver early this week, but there was never traction on reaching a contract agreement as the week wore on, league sources said.

As the Suns kept interviewing candidates — including David Fizdale and interim coach Jay Triano — Budenholzer informed the Suns on Thursday that he would no longer be a candidate for the job, sources said.

Phoenix fired Earl Watson just three games into the season. Budenholzer had a hefty resume to consider — he won 60 games in Atlanta in 2014-15, heading to the Eastern Conference Finals.

The Suns need someone to guide their young star in Devin Booker. Who they choose will influence the direction of their franchise for longer than the next coach may even be around.

Warriors beat Spurs in glum Game 3

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The Spurs were playing with heavy hearts following the death of Gregg Popovich’s wife, Erin. Kevin Durant and Shaun Livingston appeared to injure their left ankles on back-to-back plays late.

Everyone seemed ready for the Warriors’ 110-97 Game 3 win Thursday to end well before it did.

Soon enough, the first-round series will. Golden State is up 3-0, and all 127 teams to win the first three games of a best-of-seven series won it – most of them via sweep. Game 4 is Saturday in San Antonio.

There’s hope neither Durant’s nor Livingston’s injury is serious. Durant walked off on his own, though gingerly. Livingston shot his free throws before exiting.

Durant (26 points) and Klay Thompson (19 points) have carried the Warriors’ offense with Stephen Curry sidelined by his own injury. If Durant isn’t at full strength for Game 4, Golden State could really struggle to score.

But it still might not matter, as the Spurs are overmatched against the Warriors’ dialed-in defense. Draymond Green (10 points, seven assists, six rebounds, four blocks and two steals) led tonight’s effort.

After two losses in Oakland to start the series, returning to San Antonio didn’t do much for the Spurs, who were 33-8 at home and 14-27 on the road this season – the NBA’s largest home-road disparity in a half decade. It’s just had to see San Antonio – whether Popovich returns or Ettore Messina remains acting coach – finding enough sources of offense.

Pelicans move one game away from sweep after bashing Blazers in Game 3

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But for a moment, the Portland Trail Blazers felt as though they could turn the series. For half a quarter, the Blazers had hope. Then, Nikola Mirotic dropped a career-high 30 points, Anthony Davis added a double-double of 28 points and 11 rebounds, and the New Orleans Pelicans moved one game away from completing a sweep of the third seed after a big win on Thursday night, 119-102.

Under the guidance of Mirotic, the Pelicans unleashed a barrage of 3-pointers starting midway through the first quarter. The game was close to being a contest, but Jrue Holiday and Mirotic started to pour it in after being uncorked, with New Orleans taking a 16-point lead going into the second period.

Running up and down the court in a panic, Portland looked nervous in the spotlight. The Blazers racked up 12 turnovers by halftime, all while rattling 3-pointers off the back iron. Portland rushed its offense in the face of unlikely success by the Pelicans, who continued to rain down from deep. New Orleans hit four big shots in the final 1:47 of the half, including three from beyond-the-arc.

Never one to back down, Blazers star Damian Lillard tried to force the issue. He would finish with 20 points on 5-of-14 shooting, but most evidentiary of his night was Lillard lobbing up a wild 28-footer with 24 seconds left in the half as he tried to answer a gutshot 3-pointer from E'Twaun Moore from a moment before. It didn’t work, and the Pelicans took commanding 64-45 lead to start the third quarter.

So went the story of the rest of the game, as Portland couldn’t fully tamp down the New Orleans offensive attack for longer than a few minutes at a time. Even after one 10-0 run for the Blazers in the third, the Pelicans ended it in the most deflating way possible — a wide open dunk for Mirotic on a cut after Portland’s defense fell asleep.

It was an electric atmosphere at Smoothie King, and the sellout crowd that gave us a glimpse of what kind of homecourt advantage the Pelicans could have in the second round. The New Orleans fans were in a back-and-forth with the players, with Smoothie King working to such a fever pitch it felt as though every shot hoisted by the team in red and gold was destined for the nylon.

Demoralized, Portland battled — flailed, really — but the Blazers couldn’t make up any ground as the momentum continued for New Orleans. Finally Blazers coach Terry Stotts relented and waived the white flag for Portland with 7:55 left in the fourth quarter as he subbed in his bench.

Even with a 49-win season under its belt, the questions surrounding the Blazers become more serious. The team that had a 13-game win streak this season now will face rumblings about whether Stotts will remain with the team. An exit for Stotts would be unwise for Portland — he did wonders with a team that didn’t play up to its potential most of the year — but it’s not out of the ordinary for a team looking to break through to look elsewhere, especially after Lillard’s meeting with owner Paul Allen.

Although their work isn’t done yet, New Orleans looks as though it’s a team to be feared in the playoffs. What it needs to do is concentrate on sweeping the Blazers, not only to give themselves confidence heading into the second round but to show their second-round opponent (likely the Warriors) that they aren’t to be taken lightly.

How Porltand can counter in the deciding Game 4 isn’t clear. The Pelicans have looked like the better team for nearly every quarter of the series, and the Blazers clearly don’t have an answer for them on either side of the ball.

Happy New Orleans fans will pack Smoothie King on Saturday for Game 4 at 2:00 PM PST in Louisiana. Davis will look to win his first playoff series, and Portland will try to avoid their most embarrassing sweep since they lost to the San Antonio Spurs in the 1999 Western Conference Finals.

Steve Kerr, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili celebrate the life of Erin Popovich (VIDEO)

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The NBA community has been effuse in their thoughts and condolences to San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich over the past 24 hours. Erin Popovich, 67, passed away on April 18, leaving behind her husband, Gregg.

Many were taken aback at the news, including players like LeBron James and Kevin Durant, both of whom were emotional when they first heard the news of Erin’s passing.

Gregg Popovich was not with the team to coach them in their Thursday night matchup against the Golden State Warriors, as Ettore Messina took the reins for Game 3.

Meanwhile, those close to the Popoviches spoke about Erin, her influence on Gregg, and how much both mean to them. Steve Kerr, who played for Popovich in San Antonio for four seasons, told reporters that Erin was, “The sort of balance that Pop needed.”

Current Spurs Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker also voiced their support for the Popovich family.

Via Twitter:

Here’s hoping Popovich finds some solace in the support he’s received over the past day.