What will the Bobcats do with the No. 4 overall pick in next month’s NBA draft? This is the third of a five-part series looking at why Charlotte should and why it shouldn’t take some of the top prospects available: Trey Burke, PG, Michigan, Soph. 2012-13 stats: 18.6 points, 6.7 assists, 3.2 rebounds, 1.6 steals, 2.2 turnovers
In recent years, NBA general managers have made a habit of falling in love with potential over production and talent over skill. Trey Burke’s going to make one of those GMs pay for that again this year.
In the Bobcats’ case, can you justify passing up this level of production in a class so weak? Can you really pass up on the guy that, in my opinion, is the draft’s best player? And can you pass up a point guard that just led one of the youngest teams in the country to the national championship game?
If the draft for talent, trade for need mantra that keeps emanating from the Bobcats’ front office is true, Burke has to be firmly in the discussion regardless of Kemba Walker’s presence on the roster.
I’m not a big fan of comparisons, but there’s just too much Chris Paul in Burke’s game to ignore. Watch the way they both change pace off the dribble and use the in-and-out dribble to abuse defenders. Watch the way they put defenders on their back off the pick and roll and almost always make the correct decision with the ball in their hands. But most importantly, watch the way they win.
Watch the way they make their teammates better. So much of playing point at the NBA level is about being able to make the correct decision off the pick and roll and Burke does this to perfection.
That’s not to say Burke will end up being as good as Paul at the next level. Few are. But he has a lot of the same craftiness and tools that remind you of Paul coming out, and the risk is just so low with Burke.
In a draft full of gambles in the top 10, he’s the safe pick. He’s just too smart with the ball, too quick, too productive, and too competitive not to end up being an above-average starting lead guard in time.
Why Not Burke?
At what point are the Bobcats going to use one of these lottery picks and get their franchise cornerstone? Kemba Walker has to be it, right? He improved in every facet in Year 2 and looks like a guy to build around. His play warranted that. He has two more years on his current contract, before potentially entertaining offers from other clubs as a restricted free agent.
And as long as Walker’s in Charlotte, there are more pressing needs than drafting another point guard. Build around that cornerstone, not against it. It’d be one thing if Burke or Walker were a bigger point guard that could slide over and play off the ball — but they’re not. They’re both smaller point guards who need the ball in their hands. Their games are just too similar for Burke to be a realistic option for the Bobcats here.
Walker doesn’t need someone taking away his time developing on the court. He needs scorers on the interior and shooters on the wing to open up lanes for when he penetrates and fill the lanes when he has the ball on the break.
Walker’s not a top-10 point guard in my opinion yet, but he’s on the brink. And that should be good enough to believe the Bobcats are set at point guard — without Burke.
Eastern Conference Scout’s Take
I thought throughout the season that Burke’s stock should have been higher, and I think the NCAA tournament reminded everyone just how good he is and can be. His game really fits better in the pros where the floor’s more spread to attack off the dribble, and the officials don’t allow as much hand-checking and holding on the perimeter. He’s a true point guard and those aren’t as common as you may think.
I think his shooting’s underrated, too. He shot 38 percent from three, but so many of the ones he took were from NBA range. He’s going to struggle to defend with his frame at first and he can’t take some of the shots he took in college, but he probably has the least holes in his game coming in off anyone in his class . . . it’s hard not to like guys at the next level that are as competitive and confident as he is.
From a physical perspective, Oladipo’s like a shooting guard created on a video game — 6-foot-4 with a 42-inch vertical and a 6-foot-9 wingspan packaged with one of the more explosive first steps you’ll ever see. He was also a dominant wing defender at the college level.
Trey Burke might be the best offensive player entering this draft and he went 16 of 44 in two games facing Indiana.
Oladipo’s length and tremendous lateral quickness help him defend anyone from point guards to small forwards and will allow his future coach tremendous lineup flexibility. Then there’s the fact that he’s an open-court terror with tremendous body control in attacking the rim that’s made some commentators throw out the next D-Wade comparison.
And that’s the tantalizing part if you’re the Bobcats, you can’t help but wonder: Just how good is this guy going to end up being on the offensive end?
His sophomore to junior jump from role player to National Player of the Year contender was as substantial as his work ethic was legendary at Indiana.
Some guys are just late developers and improve at a more rapid pace, over time. Russell Westbrook comes to mind. He always had the body but needed his game to catch up. Oladipo could be that guy. The risk is that for some players that never happens. Some never become more than role players with a motor.
It’s hard to think of a scenario where Oladipo doesn’t become at the very least an extremely valuable role player, but is that worth a top-five pick?
There’s just still so much yet to develop in his game but so much to like. His rebounding, defense, toughness and athleticism all translate immediately at a glaring position of need and that’s why it’s hard to imagine that the Bobcats won’t give him a long look at fourth overall.
Why not Oladipo?
It’s hard to doubt a player that’s shown the level of Oladipo’s improvement and physical tools. But will he ever be more than a role player? Do you really want to draft a shooting guard who’s not much of a scorer? That’s the problem here:
The Bobcats just drafted Michael Kidd-Gilchrist a year ago, a star at Kentucky who made his reputation as a defender and rebounder. So how do you then try to pair them together? Can either become the halfcourt wing scorer the Bobcats need?
The question that’s difficult to solve: How good of a shooter is Oladipo really? He shot 44 percent from deep last year but the sample size is extremely limited, shooting only 68 three-pointers the entire year. By comparison, North Carolina’s Reggie Bullock, who also shot 44 percent, fired up 202 triples.
Plus, in Oladipo’s first 24 games last season, he went 21 of 39 from deep. In his last 12, he went just nine of 29.
And how does Oladipo’s shot really translate? His form isn’t ideal and rarely ever did he shoot any threes closely resembling NBA range. That’s why I just don’t think Oladipo’s the fit here. The Bobcats desperately need a great shooter to stretch the defense, and I have a hard time thinking a guy who only attempted 1.9 triples per game fits the bill.
There’s a lot to like about Oladipo’s efficiency in shooting 60 percent from the field, but so many of Oladipo’s points came off transition and offensive rebounds. His ability to score in the halfcourt leaves a lot to be desired and as much as the Bobcats need defense, they desperately need scorers who can create offense for themselves late in the shot clock.
So much of the NBA is about isolation offense in the halfcourt and at this point, Oladipo doesn’t offer much in the form of counter moves, change of direction and pace and just overall shake to his game when attacking the rim that he’ll need to be the half-court scorer teams are looking for in the top five picks.
He has all the tools to develop it, but again that’s all potential over production at this point.
Eastern Conference Scout’s Take
There’s so much to like with Oladipo. He’s probably the most athletic guy in this draft class and, in time, has the potential to be one of the better wing defenders in the league. I was blown away by his progression this year. The one thing that really makes me nervous though is he’s basically all right side.
He almost never drives left unless he’s got a wide-open lane. Even when he does go left, he’s almost always trying to cross back. His crossover is frighteningly quick, but besides that left to right cross, he’s essentially a straight-line driver at this point. He turns the ball over at way too high of a rate for a two, and he lets the ball get too far away from him when he tries to penetrate. Those two things make me nervous in trying to determine how he translates. And I really don’t think the percentage he shot is a real accurate indicator of where he is as a shooter. His individual workouts are really going to tell a lot in that regard.
In the end though, I’d be surprised to see him drop below the top five. His potential’s probably higher than anyone in this draft besides McLemore and the elite ability to defend gives you some protection if his offense doesn’t develop.