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.

James Harden on recruiting Chris Paul from LA: “He didn’t seem happy”

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One of the most interesting storylines of the first month of this upcoming NBA season will be the Houston Rockets.

The team has paired MVP candidate James Harden with one of the greatest point guards of all time in Chris Paul, but it remains to be seen whether the two will be able to work together with the kind of efficiency that Mike D’Antoni’s team had in 2016-17.

Harden has been the subject of some chatter already this offseason after a photo of him surfaced on Instagram. In it, Harden looked to have added a significant portion of muscle this summer, which may help him as he moves back to a more off-ball style of play with Paul in the fold.

Harden was also the subject of significant scrutiny at the end of last season, where he failed in the playoffs in spectacular fashion against the San Antonio Spurs.

In a recent interview with Sam Amick of USA Today, Harden said his newfound weight gain has been part of his plan to combat late-season fatigue. Harden has also introduced yoga and pilates into his workout routine.

Perhaps more interesting information from Harden’s interview with Amick revealed just how much impact he had recruiting Chris Paul in the trade from Los Angeles Clippers, and Paul’s attitude at the end of the season toward his former team.

Via USA Today:

Harden, who signed a four-year extension this summer and will earn a combined $228 million by the end of the 2022-23 season, had everything to do with the move.

“I just knew that in the summertime obviously (Paul) was a free agent, and I wanted to see where his head was,” Harden said of Paul, who will now be a free agent next summer. “He didn’t seem happy, so after that we just took it from there.

“Obviously Golden State has been in the Finals and won two out of three, so that’s what everybody is trying to build up against. But we’re right there. We’re right there. Obviously, we have a lot of work to do, but it definitely puts us in a better chance.”

It certainly makes sense that after years of perpetual playoff failure by the Clippers that Paul would want to move on. Harden and CP3 seem to enjoy each other at the moment, and a pairing does seem to make sense on paper. We will see how that plays out over the course of next season.

Giannis Antetokounmpo announces he will not play for Greece in Eurobasket

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Giannis Antetokounmpo said had big plans to play for the Greek national team this summer, taking his country back to the top of the European ladder at EuroBasket (they had won the tournament a dozen years ago).

Instead, a sore knee will keep the Greek Freak out of EuroBasket. He made the announcement on his Facebook page.

Antetokounmpo had missed all but one of Greece’s early EuroBasket tune-ups due to a sore knee. That, understandably, concerned the Bucks, especially with his four-year, $100 million contract extension about to kick in next season.

Antetokounmpo is in China promoting shoes, but said he on Facebook he took a physical while there and was not able to complete the exercises due to pain.

“It is by far the biggest disappointment in my career. I must deal with the problem,” Antetokounmpo said in the Facebook post (written in Greek).

Within hours of the post going up, the Greek basketball federation released a statement slamming the Bucks and Antetokounmpo, saying they had done an MRI of his knee and found no damage.

“The simultaneous report by the Milwaukee Bucks and Giannis Antetokounmpo himself, by phone and social media from faraway China, and not by the appropriate official manner, of his inability to join the national men’s team saddens us … but is not surprising… A series of indications … had convinced us of the existence of an organized and well-staged plan by (the Bucks), with the full knowledge if not encouragement of the NBA that put the athlete on the spot and forced him to announce today that he is no longer part of the men’s national team.”

Great, just what the world needs, another conspiracy theory.

While NBA teams generally are not huge fans of their stars playing in national team tournaments (due to the injury risk), teams cannot stop a healthy player from playing. Antetokounmpo said this was his decision because he is in pain and has to think about the upcoming NBA season.

Whatever the Greek Federation believes internally, slamming the player and his team publicly like this is one good way to make sure he will not want to play for them in the future. He’s got knee pain, they are saying “you’re fine, walk it off, ” and that must have Antetokounmpo and the people around him wondering if the Greek Federation has his best interests — or theirs — at heart.

Akron store already selling “Stay Home 23” shirts, hats as LeBron decision looms

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We’ve seen this movie before.

There is all sorts of buzz around the league that LeBron James has one foot out the door in Cleveland. While people around LeBron denied he the rumor he is “100 percent” leaving, good luck finding any league source who thinks he is staying put next summer. Nothing is set in stone, his options — including staying — remain open, but we’ve all been down this road before.

The hometown fans are going to do their part to urge LeBron to stay.

Fan sentiment has some pull with LeBron (he came back to win the city a title). However, what matters more is a sense of a plan to keep the Cavaliers as title contenders for the coming years — and that is more than just Dan Gilbert paying the tax. The Cavs did nothing this summer that got them closer to beating Golden State, and while they swung for the fences with Paul George, what they really needed was wing defenders and athletes, and they didn’t get those either. Luc Mbah a Moute signed a one-year deal for the minimum somewhere else. Instead, Cleveland overpaid Kyle Korver.

Despite all that, the Cavs remain the team to beat in the East. If Cleveland gets to the Finals — LeBron’s eighth in a row — and they win or make it close, he may see staying as his best option. A season can be a lifetime in the NBA in terms of shifting attitudes. Still, I wouldn’t bet the rent on it.

Marshall Plumlee gets camp invite, partially guaranteed contract from Clippers

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The Los Angeles Clippers have 14 fully guaranteed contracts on their roster, plus a partial guarantee for DeAndre Liggins (who likely is on the roster opening day). They also are pretty much set at center with DeAndre Jordan and Willie Reed (plus when they go small they can play Blake Griffin there, something I wish they’d do a little more).

That said, Doc Rivers — just a coach now — needs bodies for camp, so in comes former Duke star and Knick Marshall Plumlee, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Plumlee played in 21 games for the Knicks last season, logging a total of 190 minutes. He bounced between New York and the D-League Westchester Knicks, when down he averaged 12.3 points and 9.8 rebounds a game.

He’s not making the Clippers’ squad (barring injury), but he could show well and get noticed by other teams. Over the course of a season, there will be a need for bigs as guys go down injured, Plumlee is getting a chance to show how his game has developed. And he makes some money in the process.