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.

Pacers coach Nate McMillan slips and falls while arguing call (video)

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Nate McMillan slipped up in his handling of Victor Oladipo‘s early fouls during the Pacers’ Game 2 loss to the Cavaliers last night.

Then, the Indiana coach literally slipped while arguing that LeBron James should have been called for offensively fouling Lance Stephenson.

LeBron James: Reporter warned me about question on Gregg Popovich’s wife before live TV interview

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In her on-court interview with LeBron James following the Cavaliers’ Game 2 win over the Pacers last night, TNT sideline reporter Allie LaForce asked him about the death of Gregg Popovich’s wife.

LeBron appeared emotional as he gathered his thoughts.

That prompted some to criticize LaForce for ambushing LeBron on a sensitive subject on live TV. But that’s not what happened.

Uninterrupted:

LeBron:

I’m not on social media right now, but I was made aware through some friends through texts that a question was asked to me postgame, and a lot of people feel I was blindsided. That is absolutely false. Allie LaForce told me that she was going to ask the question and if it was OK.

And once I started talking about it, once we were on air, actually my emotions kind of took over. And that was just my emotions coming straight from my heart about the late Erin Popovich.

It’s unfortunate. It’s a tragic loss. My thoughts, my prayers, once again goes out to the Popovich family, to Gregg, to the Spurs family, to the whole Spurs fan base.

And also guys, please get off Allie LaForce’ back, because she followed the proper protocol and she warned me. So, get off her back, man. She’s very professional, and she does a great job at her work.

Like I said, thoughts and prayers to the heavens above. We all know the man above never makes mistakes, even when we question it. But it’s a sad, tragic time right now for the NBA family, and we’re all praying and hoping for the best.

It would have been surprising if LaForce hadn’t done that. Somewhere between nearly nobody and absolutely nobody in her position is trying to embarrass players.

PBT Extra: If Portland is going to turn series around it starts with Damian Lillard

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This was the year the Trail Blazers were going to break through. They were defending better as a team. There was some depth on offense. And Damian Lillard was playing at a level that will get him on many voters’ MVP ballots.

Instead, they are down 0-2 to Anthony Davis and New Orleans, having dropped both games at home to open the series. Portland is on the verge of being bounced in the first round for the third time in four years.

If Portland is going to turn this series around, it starts with Lillard, something I discuss in this latest PBT Extra. C.J. McCollum needs to get more buckets, Jusuf Nurkic needs to contribute more on both ends, but for Portland it all begins and ends with Lillard and it’s on him to start the turnaround.

Rockets easily overcome James Harden’s horrid shooting night, win Game 2 over Timberwolves

AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith
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James Harden shot 2-for-18 – the worst field-goal percentage (11%) on so many attempts in a playoff game in nearly a decade and the worst ever in a first-round game.

The Rockets still won by 20 because of their stout defense, a strong supporting star in Chris Paul and Harden’s foul-drawing ability.

Houston’s took a 2-0 series lead with a 102-82 win over the Timberwolves on Wednesday. Game 3 will be Saturday in Minnesota, but the top-seeded Rockets have seized firm control.

Every No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 seed to take a 2-0 lead in a best-of-seven first-round series have won it. There’s little reason to believe Houston will become the exception.

The Rockets are no longer as reliant on Harden, the likely MVP who seemed to wear down last postseason.

They buckled down defensively before letting up in a fourth quarter that was entirely garbage time. Houston forced more turnovers (16) than allowed assists (15) and contested shot after shot.

It’s becoming increasingly clear the Timberwolves have no quick solution to the Karl-Anthony Towns problem, and it’s not simply a matter of deciding to feed him more. Yes, he can get favorable post matchups against the Rockets’ switching scheme. But Minnesota lacks quality entry passers. The Timberwolves are also short on shooters and need him to spread the floor – even if that skill is less-helpful after a switch. Towns scored just five points in 24 minutes tonight.

His teammates were barely, if at all, better. The focus has turned to Towns, but this was a far-wider letdown.

On the other hand, Paul (27 points and eight assists) led Houston’s offense. Gerald Green (21 points and 12 rebounds) got hot. Even Harden (7-of-8 on free throws) chipped in thanks to his elite foul-drawing ability.

The Rockets aren’t always the most enjoyable team to watch, and that was the case tonight. Mostly, because they put this game out of reach long before it actually ended.