Sixth Pick Tournament Round One: Victor Oladipo vs. Dario Saric

Published: June 3, 2013
Russ Reed and Michael Pellissier go head to head in today’s matchup, which pits Indiana shooting guard Victor Oladipo against International small forward Dario Saric in round one of the Sixth Pick Tournament.

The Case for Victor Oladipo (Russ Reed)

Teams drafting in the lottery are generally left in something of a conundrum; youth, potential, and raw athleticism are usually favored in the earlier picks, but often at the expense of fundamental play and maturity. Victor Oladipo is a curious case; despite declaring for the draft as a junior, he’s the same age as the freshman Muhammad (who admittedly is something of a “special case” himself in this respect), and he combines a strong attitude and fundamental play with an impressive athletic profile(42” vertical and a 6’9” wingspan, coupled with fast twitch agility and strength), and a potential to improve (enormous increases in shooting percentage and offensive efficiency from year two to year three.). But for all of Oladipo’s offensive upside, what makes him a near lock to be, at his lowest projected career arc, an impact contributor to a team is his defensive ability. There is no wing better defender in the draft. There was perhaps no better wing defender in last year’s as well, MKG included. Oladipo essentially offers the best of both worlds; a legitimately projectable offensive game coupled with a sure thing in his defense. Should he not ultimately capitalize on the former, the latter will certainly keep him in the league for years to come.


Victor Oladipo is a terror on the defensive side of the ball. The numerical production is impressive: 3.1 steals (good for 2nd in the nation), 1.1 blocks, and 5.3 defensive rebounds per 40 min are all phenomenal numbers for a 6’4” guard. But where Oladipo truly shines is in shadowing his man on the perimeter and his ability to switch; he uses his impressive lateral quickness (10.69 lane agility at the combine, which actually seems a bit slow in comparison to his game tape) coupled with his wingspan to deny 1’s and 2’s penetration, and his chiseled frame and strength help him in bodying up 3’s and even 4’s at the college level. His athletic prowess isn’t wasted an iota; a high motor is a skill in the NBA, and Oladipo makes his living playing with high energy and hustle. He causes mayhem off the ball as well; boasting a 4.6 steal %, Oladipo uses his impressive awareness level, coupled with his speed and length, to peel off and deflect passes in the lane and to rotate to the shooter. He plays fundamentally sound; low, with his head up, and fully aware of the system he’s in. His energy is infectious; Oladipo is one of those rare players that makes watching his defense an exciting spectacle, and any team in the NBA could use him on this basis alone as a solid rotation player today.

Offensive Production

Perusing Oladipo’s advanced statistical offensive production is a pleasure. Oladipo ranks 8th in the nation both with a .599 FG% and a .671 TS%, including 44% from downtown and 75% at the stripe. While these numbers almost certainly have to be called “unrepeatable”, it is more due to just how incredible they are rather than a lack of faith in Oladipo’s offensive skill level. He shows good form on his jumpshot, and, coupled with his spike in production, there’s no reason to believe that Oladipo hasn’t legitimately improved on his shooting ability. But Oladipo’s spectacular offensive production (culminating in a 125.7 Offensive Rating, good for 20th in the nation) wasn’t just predicated on catch and shoot; his 3.6 offensive rebounds per 40 minutes, coupled with his elite finishing ability, accounted for 18% of his offense, and he uses his speed to get out in transition and finish above the rim. Oladipo was one of the most statistically impactful players in the nation, as his 6.8 win shares (good for 13th in the nation) and 28.9 PER (good for 20th) illustrate, but it was his unforeseen jump in offensive production (4.2 offensive win shares alone) that ultimately contributed to Oladipo’s steep rise up NBA draft boards.

Offensive Potential

While Oladipo has demonstrated a promising increase in his shooting, questions remain regarding his ball-handling and ability to create offense. In half court sets as the primary ball-handler, Oladipo was turnover prone, and only occasional flashed an advanced ball-handling skill; he instead was often found settling on his speed and explosion to simply blow past defenders and get to the basket area, where about two thirds of his offense came from. Despite his lack of consistent, advanced ball-handling moves, Tom Crean trusted Oladipo enough to use him in isolation at the top of the key in almost 20% of Indiana’s possessions. Some players can’t create off the dribble simply because they lack the athletic prowess (it requires not only speed but quickness and fast-twitch ability to consistently beat a man off the dribble), but Oladipo has all of these in spades. Rather, what Oladipo is missing is the requisite skill level, which could potentially be reached given enough reps (and which has been improved significantly from his freshman year on); if his rise in shooting production is any indication, it won’t be due to a lack of work ethic that Oladipo fails to establish an advanced ball-handling repertoire. He compares to former Hoosier Eric Gordon in this respect, who, despite obvious athletic ability, had questions regarding his ball-handling at the next level.

By Gordon’s third year in the NBA, he had become a good to very good ball-handler at the 2, who had the ability to consistently get to the rim while limiting turnovers. He certainly had a head start coming out as a freshman, but it isn’t absurd to believe Oladipo could show similar improvement. Getting to the rim is an extremely valuable skill in the NBA; it’s why Austin Rivers was picked 10th in the draft despite needing significant work in just about every other aspect of his game. Should Oladipo make strides in his ball-handling, we are looking at a potential All-NBA defender who rebounds, shoots for solid percentages, can get to the rim at a decent clip, and finishes way above it in transition. That sounds like a Dwayne Wade-esque ceiling, something every team should be shooting for in a draft as shallow at the top as this one. Which is precisely why Oladipo most likely won’t even be available at 6.

The Case Against Dario Saric

In many ways, Saric is the polar opposite to Oladipo. While Oladipo spent three years in college, Saric will enter the draft as a 19 year old European. While Oladipo has merely average height for his position, Saric stands at an imposing 6’10” at the small forward position. And while many consider creating offense to be the weakest part of Oladipo game’s, an equal amount consider it to be Saric’s greatest strength, at least in terms of creating for others. An ultra-young, ultra-big, potential point-forward with court-vision and passing ability, and one who fills the position of biggest need on the team; what’s not to love? Simply put, Saric differs from Oladipo in many respects, and few of them are as positive as the above. While Oladipo possesses supreme athleticism, Saric is merely average to slightly below in this category. While his lack of hops and speed isn’t a huge concern considering his size and play-style, his lack of lateral quickness is; this team would draft Saric as a 3, and that’s where his game fits. He will never have the frame necessary to guard NBA 4’s, and it seems, he lacks the prerequisite agility and foot-speed to guard the 3 (those who advise against taking Anthony Bennett, for example, for his defensive shortcomings on the perimeter, but advocate Saric, take notice; at least the former has the athleticism necessary to “keep up” occasionally).

And while it is certainly an awkward science when comparing European to American statistics, the results are nonetheless in Oladipo’s favor; Saric didn’t come close to his offensive efficiency, shooting 36% from the field, including 30% from three and 50% from the line (these are sub-Aminu numbers). And in terms of maturity, the two seem at opposite poles; Victor Oladipo has earned nothing but praise for his work ethic and attitude, while many question Saric on both counts (though to be fair, Saric’s youth seems to be a contributing factor). Should Oladipo fall to 6 (where Saric will surely be available), the choice is obvious; outside of the 4, no position on this roster is a “sure-thing”, and you never pick the inferior player because he seems to fill a greater need, particularly when your answer at SG is the oft-injured and potentially unhappy Eric Gordon. One can only hope this actually becomes a debate, and a short-lived one, come draft night.

Draft Express Video                     Combine Interview                   Career Stats

 The Case for Dario Šarić (Michael Pellissier)

When you read Dario Šarić’s name, you may have thought: “Oh, no, not another European wing: these guys are softer than Charmin.” Let me stop you right there. Dario Šarić is Eastern European, so you know he’s tough! In fact, Šarić means “cactus” in Croatian, and if you can stand the screaming, check out what a cactus did to this idiot. His stats will not astound you, but he has been playing professional basketball with grown men, and since returning to Croatia’s league, Šarić has averaged an impressive 15 points, 8 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.1 blocks, and 1.9 steals per game; also, he has registered this statline in just 30 minutes per game.

Šarić’s rebounding and size would be a welcome addition to the Pelicans squad. Rebounding isn’t exactly a sexy stat, but good offensive rebounding creates extra possessions for a team and good defensive rebounding denies the opposing team extra possessions. Games can be won in many different ways, and rebounding is one of them.

Šarić is still very young (he just turned 19 in April), and he does have some warts: he needs to fill out his frame (typical of a 19 year old) and is also considered a fairly weak defender. His free-throw shooting, considered to be one of his weaknesses, improved significantly upon his return to the Croatian league, as he shot a respectable 73% from the line. He has a budding skill set and plenty of room to improve, and Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated had this to say about him.

While draft boards across the league will fluctuate wildly over the next few weeks, many agree on this: Saric is the most talented international import. An Eastern Conference executive described Saric as “skilled beyond his years”; a Western Conference talent evaluator said Saric is “the best passing big man in the draft”; and several personnel men cited his diverse offensive repertoire as proof that the 19-year-old Saric will be able to play right away.

Perhaps more important, Saric has the drive to get better. “He’s a workaholic,” a scout said. “He lives in the gym. With his basketball IQ, you’re talking about a kid with All-Star potential.”

Intelligence is the most undervalued skill in basketball. Players with jaw-dropping athleticism make GMs drool, but basketball is a chess game, and young players with skill and intelligence (like Šarić) can be plugged in immediately and contribute, especially if they have size. Saric’s height will allow him to see the floor with clarity (over defenses) and he is also a very skilled passer at a young age.

Shot-creation is at a premium in the NBA, particularly in regards to guys who can create for others. NBA offense is typically run through guards, and most small forwards are counted upon to score, not create for others. Šarić has the ability to create his own shot and find others, which is a rare combination at his position. This alleviates the ball-handling burden on the guards. There is something to be said for an NBA team that can switch the point of attack quickly, and having more facilitating options (with a wing like Šarić) means that a team can swing the ball and attack from several different places and exert more pressure on the defense to properly execute its rotations. This makes the offense less predictable and more effective, and the fact that few small forwards can do this makes Šarić a unique find.

Consider San Antonio’s offensive machine. Tony Parker is undeniably the key cog in the engine, but the Spurs are loaded with smart players who make the correct basketball plays and execute at a high level. These players enhance his ability to operate. The Spurs spread the floor, change the point of attack, and have weakside action to prevent weakside help and also to generate open looks. Simply put, their constant movement doesn’t allow a defense any respite and creates open looks for skilled finishers. This offense, however, relies upon having 5 offensive players who can think at a high level and that have definitive skill sets. Šarić is this type of player. He sees the game at a high level and is able to find his teammates in positions where they are capable of scoring. His size would also provide the Pelicans with another screen-setting option.

Also, word on the streets is that Šarić will make his Croatian home available for travel to any and all Pelicans fans, and his mother has a Croatian reputation for making the best Bagel Bites in the nation. A pizza sensation is quite a temptation.

Questions Regarding Oladipo

I’m not going to sit here and pretend that I don’t like Victor Oladipo as an NBA prospect or as a Pelican. Hell, I love the guy’s intangibles and athleticism, but Oladipo does have question marks. First and foremost, Oladipo has already completed his junior season in college. His improvement on offense this year was impressive, but in 3 college seasons, he could not eclipse 14 points per game. As I said earlier, NBA guards carry a heavy burden of creating offense, and Oladipo took 3 years to make his mark scoring the ball.

Oladipo shot an impressive 44% from 3 last season, but was that a product of defenses keying in on Cody Zeller? In his previous two seasons, Oladipo shot 20% and 31% from deep. Sample size is a key consideration when evaluating someone’s shot. Oladipo could’ve put in work to establish a better outside shot, but one good shooting season does not necessarily indicate that he will be a successful jump shooter in the NBA.

If Oladipo is not as good of a shooter as his numbers from last year indicate, he may have trouble scoring in the NBA. Defenses are faster, more athletic, and smarter in the NBA than they are in college. If he cannot shoot, they can cut off his dribble penetration and leave him to take inefficient jumpers. His defender would also be able to help off of him and contain other Pelican players. Consider that Tyreke Evans entered the NBA after a college freshman season in which he averaged an impressive 17 points per game. He blasted out of the gate en route to a Rookie of the Year award, but the next year, Evans’s scoring dropped, and it has in every year since, because teams figured out that he can’t shoot jumpers. The knock on Oladipo (besides the questions about his shooting consistency) is that he cannot create his own shot. In isolation situations, Oladipo turned the ball over on 28% of his possessions (DraftExpress). Isolation also constituted just 8% of his offense (DraftExpress).

Oladipo’s defense may be a sure thing in the NBA, but his offensive ability is still unproven.


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For previous Sixth Pick Tournament Matchups, click here. 


  1. Caffeinedisaster

    June 3, 2013 at 9:22 am

    Wow!  Oladipo is not murdering Saric in the polls as I initially thought he would.
    I would love a chance to get BOTH of them on this team.  Have Saric handle the ball with Oladipo/Davis cutting and Rhyno/Gordon spotting up from outside.

    • Caffeinedisaster

      June 3, 2013 at 9:23 am

      Needless to say, I chose Oladipo.

    • Michael McNamara

      June 3, 2013 at 10:08 am

      Caffeinedisaster I have started feeling the same way as of late. I would love to stay at 6 because I think a Tier 1 prospect (for this draft) will still be there, but I would love to jump back in to the middle of the first round because I think there will be some solid Tier 3 prospects with long term upside that can fill roles for us.

      • Caffeinedisaster

        June 3, 2013 at 10:38 am

        Michael McNamara  Same here.  I don’t really think it’s worth giving up assets to trade up.  I think we should just select best available @ 6.  Snag a Tier 1 guy that will eventually be a starter.  Some of the Tier 3 guys are nice, but we have more pressing concerns right now.  If we strike it big in free agency, then our Tier 1 @ #6 becomes an elite backup.

      • eMariii123

        June 3, 2013 at 11:16 am

        Michael McNamara Caffeinedisaster Would you rather trade Vasquez or Lopez for a mid 1st-round pick, or package Vasquez and Lopez for a proven NBA player?

      • JabberWalker

        June 3, 2013 at 11:20 am

        eMariii123 Michael McNamara Caffeinedisaster Or take on Perk’s contract for OKC’s pick?

      • Roger.That.

        June 3, 2013 at 1:07 pm

        JabberWalker eMariii123 Michael McNamara Caffeinedisaster You could just buy a pick in that neighborhood for a couple million dollars – no need to take on one of the worst contracts in the NBA.

      • Caffeinedisaster

        June 3, 2013 at 2:07 pm

        eMariii123 Michael McNamara Caffeinedisaster I’d prefer to package them for a proven 1,3 or 5.  I think either of them is worth more than just a mid 1st-rounder.  Perhaps their stock will get even greater this upcoming season.

      • nolafredo

        June 3, 2013 at 3:17 pm

        Michael McNamara Caffeinedisaster I keep saying it: buy Dallas’ pick if someone falls — because someone always falls.  
        If we land Porter or Bennett or Len at #13, I’d be happy to trade for Matrix’s bad contract.

    • Houpgarou

      June 3, 2013 at 12:42 pm

      Both would be nice, but my preference would still to get dipo and schroeder.  
      It’s known Dallas is amenable to trading their pick to clear cap space for a possible howard add.  I’ve mentioned before that if we swap them lopez (whose $$ I believe is not guaranteed) for marion and their first, they could cut lopez and save 11-12M in cap room between marion and the rookie cap hold.

      • palochak

        June 3, 2013 at 12:59 pm

        if I remember correctly, Lopez is guaranteed 500 k this year and next

      • Jason Calmes

        June 3, 2013 at 9:52 pm

        palochak According to this, it’s just $500k next season, nothing the following, but there’s an inconvenient deadline for use in a salary dump for another team.

      • Caffeinedisaster

        June 4, 2013 at 8:05 am

        Houpgarou Caffeinedisaster Lopez for Marion & their 1st rounder?  That’s assuming that Brow is ready to move to the 5…….or we’re drafting Len/Zeller.  Very intriguing.

  2. Papa Pelican

    June 3, 2013 at 10:34 am

    Oladipo,Burke,Carter-Williams are worth 6th pick to me

    • Roger.That.

      June 3, 2013 at 10:58 am

      Papa Pelican It would be ridiculous to take Burke if MCW is on the board.

  3. lsutigers33

    June 3, 2013 at 10:51 am

    Rumor that Timberwolves would trade D Williams?   Would we look at D williams and 9 for the 6 pick?
    Or could we get D Williams and 9 for EG?

    • Roger.That.

      June 3, 2013 at 10:58 am

      Timberwolves wouldn’t give up D Williams to move up from 9 to 6.  They
      want to get into top 3 to grab either McLemore or Oladipo.  Free Alejandro.

    • JabberWalker

      June 3, 2013 at 2:36 pm

      lsutigers33 Do we want Derrick Williams?

      • veezyv

        June 3, 2013 at 6:42 pm

        JabberWalker lsutigers33  I do

      • lsutigers33

        June 3, 2013 at 7:44 pm

        JabberWalker lsutigers33 I would, few yrs experience, good size, very athletic and can be a solid 3.   I think if we make a deal with Dallas for 13 and Marion, Williams and Marion would be a great combo at SF with Miller getting some minutes.
        Saric may still be available at 13 and Len or Zeller may be avail at 9.

      • Caffeinedisaster

        June 4, 2013 at 8:02 am

        JabberWalker I wouldn’t mind having him.  He’s very athletic and can shoot the corner 3.  Don’t forget that at one time people were indecisive over who the #1 pick should be, he or Derrick Rose.  I think a change of scenery would do him good.  Get him out of that frozen tundra and down to Nawlins, baby!

  4. Roger.That.

    June 3, 2013 at 11:02 am

    I’d love to hear the BSS writers update their top 6 big board for the Pels now that more info has shuffled out and thoughts have congealed.
    Mine is (in order):  McLemore, Oladipo, Porter, Noel, MCW, Zeller 
    At this rate we could still snag MCW to be our athletic/long point guard of the future with Vasquez the placeholder/future backup.  But I’m worried he’s rising too fast and won’t be on the board in 3 weeks.

    • Michael McNamara

      June 4, 2013 at 7:44 am

      Roger.That. After individual workouts and as this tournament wraps up, we will all post our Big Board. With the way this draft is, I think everyone’s will be differenct, which is exciting in a way

  5. nolafredo

    June 3, 2013 at 3:14 pm

    I expect this to be the most lopsided of the battles.  It’s simple: if Oladipo is there at #6, the Pelicans will draft him.
    Or rather, IF Oladipo is there and the Pelicans don’t draft him, then I expect McNamara and Schwann to storm Benson Tower ahead of the angry mob.

  6. jsl05

    June 3, 2013 at 3:41 pm

    Just like with Porter’s matchup yesterday, there’s no way the Pelicans pass on Oladipo. I do love Schroeder, though.

  7. TMBocage

    June 3, 2013 at 3:53 pm

    Oladipo. Then maybe we can ship out Eric Gordon and his inflated contract.

  8. maxdf3

    June 3, 2013 at 7:24 pm

    Oladipo will not be there at the 6th pick, in my opinion. No point in getting your hopes up thinking Oladipo will be available when really he is more than likely a top 5 pick. I voted for Saric for this reason, not cause I think saric is a better player or that I want him on the team more then Oladipo, but because Saric will be there at 6 and well Oladipo won’t be..

    • CD87

      June 3, 2013 at 8:01 pm

      maxdf3 I think the whole idea of this tournament is when the pelicans are on the clock and these two options are available what would you choose. I agree that oladipo will most likely not be there when its our turn to pick but if and its a big if I would go for him over saric.

  9. thebetterdirtybirds

    June 3, 2013 at 9:18 pm

    Ok, let me make this clear: I voted for Oladipo because he is the better player and in my opinion the best player for the Pels to take in this draft, but I’m going to make a case for Saric. If the top 5 miraculously goes as projected right now, should the Pels consider Saric? What Saric provides: He provides ball handling, playmaking, and leadership for the Pelicans. He fills the huge need at SF and has a great size advantage over the average SF. He is also an outstanding passer, something I was surprised with by watching many highlight videos. Weaknesses: Athleticism, athleticism, athleticism. This leads to all his other weaknesses. How can we count on him to defend a Melo or Durant? They will fly right by him every time with his terrible quickness and agility. He will also be unable to get by defenders like Durant, making him have to settle for his below average jumper. My choice, assuming Noel, Mclemore, Burke, Porter, and Oladipo are gone, would be between MCW, KCP, and McCollum (not really sure which I like the most, I will have to see their workouts and such. In fact, I probably like all three more than Burke). But say Saric has a workout and shoots lights out? He’s definitely a possibility.

    • BowToTheBill23

      June 3, 2013 at 9:27 pm

      Not a big fan of Saric. I’m trying to win a title and to do that, I’m gonna need to beat Durant, Lebron, and wiggins. We need an elite wing defender in addition to someone who can create havoc at the point of attack. I’d take McCollum to shoot like crazy, mcw to be a freak at d on the opposing pg, or kcp since he is almost an ideal sg for our system. I’m not a big fan of a forward whose main skill is passing. Granted I have not watched him play, but he sounds like a rich man’s Darius miller. All I want from my sf is 3/d and to keep the ball moving on offense. Not a big fan of point forwards unless his first name is Lebron. Just my 2 cents

  10. Jared Ennis

    June 4, 2013 at 1:25 am

    Saric is an interesting guy. He will probably never be more than a solid role player but I like him. However, Oladipo is one of my favorite guys in the draft. I am on the Oladipo bandwagon and I would love for him to be a Pelican. Sorry Saric.

  11. daThRONe

    June 4, 2013 at 10:00 am

    I choose Oladipo. I feel the reasons are self explanatory.

  12. jsl05

    June 5, 2013 at 10:47 pm

  13. Pingback: New Orleans Peicans interested in Croatian forward Dario Saric | New Orleans Pelicans |

  14. JabberWalker

    June 6, 2013 at 4:32 pm

    It’s funny now to think that if Michael’s sources are correct and Dell’s low on Oladipo and high on Saric, how backwards the results of this vote are.

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  17. Pingback: New Orleans Pelicans 6th Pick Tournament: Porter vs. Oladipo | New Orleans Pelicans |

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