Victor Oladipo – The Safe Investment
Anyone who's seen Victor Oladipo play this season would probably object to an article structured around the premise that he is "safe." Such a seemingly banal term should not apply to this pick-pocket, a tomahawk-dunking guard with steely nerves and singular determination.
However, under the new collective bargaining agreement, teams are incentivized to harvest reliable talent on the cheap through the draft. A quality starter on the rookie scale (a maximum of 4 to 6 million dollars per year) is the greatest financial coup that a general manager can pull off besides singing a worthy max player (Kevin Durant and Russel Westbrook max deals, not Rashard Lewis and Roy Hibbert max deals). Say what you will about John Wall's inconsistencies, but the Wizards have gotten tons of bang for the buck on his modest 4 year, $24 million deal. (For some context, Jose Calderon is currently a $45 million dollar man.)
This obvious value is why I would take Victor Oladipo with the first pick of the draft. There is no one in this draft whose game screams perennial all-star. Cody Zeller and Trey Burke may be fine pros, but they are not Tim Duncan or Allen Iverson. Ben McLemore may be worth a max extension in 2016, or he may be Gerald Green.
Though I wince every time Dick Vitale compares Oladipo to Michael Jordan, he is the most NBA ready player in college basketball. He is quick enough to hound point guards and long enough to defend shooting guards and small forwards. He is a strong rebounder for his size, and his excellent shooting percentages (59.9%FG, 44% 3PFG) are just as indicative of judicious shot selection as an improved stroke. Though Oladipo lacks polish as a perimeter shot creator, he seems to be content getting his points in the half court off of smart cuts, open spot ups, and crashing the offensive glass, also known as "the crap most players don't want to do." Oladipo may not be the next Jordan or Wade, but he's most certainly a quality starting shooting guard for years to come, a defensive terror with an efficient, if unspectacular, offensive repitiore. Faced with an uncertain, underwhelming draft board, I would make the safe investment and take Oladipo as early as possible.