From the moment he was hired, Twin Cities media has been discussing how much Flip Saunders likes Victor Oladipo, shooting guard from Indiana.
Once the lottery happened, and the Wolves remained in the 9th spot in the draft order, it appeared that they would have no chance at acquiring him. Despite that, rumors persisted that Saunders was enamoured of Oladipo, and was discussing possible trades with teams in the top five, as well as investigating the possibilities for trading down.
In the last week, a couple of things have happened to move the narrative along.
In Darren Wolfson's indispensible Scoops column last week, he reported that Oladipo's representatives were unwilling to have their client work out for the Wolves unless they could show the ability to move up into the top four of the draft. What "show the ability" to move up means was not and is not clear.
This week comes the news that Flip Saunders is flying to Washington DC to meet with Oladipo today. Again, Doogie has the scoop. He further suggests that this meeting means that Flip has demonstrated that a trade up is possible.
I'm not so sure we can draw that conclusion; it isn't clear to me that Oladipo is working out for Saunders, merely that they are meeting. This might just be a compromise from his representatives. In the meantime, Otto Porter is also in DC at the moment, and Saunders has suggested that in addition to Oladipo, there is one other player he would trade up for; speculation is that player is Porter. Whether that is any more then coincidence is unknown.
So. Rumors are flying, as they always do at this time of year. Cleveland is taking Noel, or Len, or Oladipo, or Porter, or trading the pick. Every team in the top five is willing to trade, or they love two players, or something.
This happens every year. I remember in 2005, there were even rumors that Cleveland was considering Carmelo Anthony over LeBron James. There's a lot of internet to fill up.
In the meantime, Jerry Zgoda is still expressing the belief that it's more likely they trade the 9th pick for a veteran then they trade up for a prospect. See his twitter feed (and he's still on about Afflalo...).
In any NBA transaction, it's always more likely that it doesn't happen until it actually happens. There are a million rumors, other teams may swoop in with better offers, trades go off the rails. It isn't easy. However. This Oladipo thing seems, from my outside vantage point, to have at least a little momentum. If it were completely off the radar, I doubt Flip would be jetting off to DC.
So...is it a good idea? Well, that depends on the deal, of course, but my gut reaction is no. I would be hesitant to give up assets to move up for him. The threshold question is: how good is he? Or, how much better is he then the available prospects at the 9th pick?
vjl110's data suggests that he isn't clearly better then a couple of other guards who might be there at nine: C.J. McCollum and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. I'm sure vjl will chime in below, but while his model suggests that Oladipo has the best chance of being a star among those three, McCollum has a higher expected peak wins. Caldwell-Pope lags a bit behind the other two, but is still a solid shooting guard prospect.
Oladipo brings things to the table. Again, those with more knowledge of college basketball should chime in, but he is a fierce defensive player who piled up a large number of steals in college. He also was a very strong rebounder for his position. On offense, while he was able to get to the rim and finish unassisted, he didn't do so very often, and carried a low usage rate for a potential star in the NBA. There are also serious questions about his ability to make three pointers. He does have tremendous leaping ability and other physical attributes.
Here is his scouting video:
He uses his athleticism impressively in the paint, in transition, and on the offensive glass, but his ball handling is quite suspect.
Be that as it may, Flip is clearly interested. Which raises the question: how would a deal be structured? The possible targets are Orlando, Washington, and Charlotte, who have the 2, 3, and 4 picks respectively. To guarantee Oladipo, they would have to trade with Orlando, who could very well pick him themselves. However, Washington and Charlotte seem like more natural trading partners.
Presumably the exchange would be the 9th pick for the higher pick with added value going to the other team. The question is what the nature of that added value is. There are two ways such a deal could be structured: either a player the other team wants could be included from the Wolves, and/or a bad contract could come back to the Wolves. The first option is preferable (I want no part of Ty Thomas' contract), but is it possible?
The obvious choice here is Derrick Williams. We will hopefully know by the end of summer what his trade value is, a topic I must admit I'm not clear on. Is he enough to move from 9 to 3 with similar salary coming back (say, Jan Vesely)? I don't know, but I presume this is the kind of deal Flip would like to make.
My feeling is this: in a vacuum I probably make that deal. It's at least in part to move on from Derrick Williams as opposed to being overwhelmed with desire to move up for Oladipo. However, I would prefer to explore trades for veterans using Williams and/or one of the Wolves draft picks. I know we like young players on rookie contracts, but the Wolves need to be a lot better this year, and rookies aren't going to help do that. If I could get Jared Dudley, for example, that seems better to me. Less exciting, but more helpful. In any event, they are going to have to find a veteran two guard, and it's going to be tough if they rely on free agency.
Still, it wouldn't be the worst thing. Oladipo has things going for him, and looks like he might be a good NBA player. It beats the hell out of drafting Shabazz Muhammad or Alex Len, that's for sure. It seems likely that Flip is going to try to make this happen. Chances remain small, but you never know. I wouldn't have thought they could get the 5th pick in 2009 for Randy Foye and Mike Miller, but there you go.
How do you see this playing out?