Because Noel will be gone, Bobcats should pick Oladipo

June 26, 2013 

The Charlotte Bobcats declare that they will draft the best player available on Thursday night, no matter what their current roster looks like.

If he’s there at No.4, that player should be shooting guard Victor Oladipo.

I love the intensity that Oladipo showed while playing for Indiana, and I think he’s only going to get better in the NBA. He’s a wickedly good defender, a quickly improving scorer and a player whose energy level could push the Bobcats to places they aren’t yet sure they can go.

Plus, his melodious last name offers the opportunity for a chant to echo through the arena after he throws down another dunk just like he did at Indiana: “Oh-la-DEE-po! “Oh-la-DEE-po!”

Look, I’d take Nerlens Noel – just as my esteemed colleague Tom Sorensen would -- if he by some miracle ended up falling to No.4 Thursday night. But that’s a pipe dream. I think Cleveland will pick Noel No.1. If that doesn’t happen, somebody else is going to do something to get Noel off the board before No.4. He’s just too good a shot blocker and too valuable an inside presence for that not to happen.

So the question then becomes what to do next. Alex Len from Maryland or Oladipo’s college teammate, Cody Zeller, would certainly help solve the Bobcats’ big man problem.

But Oladipo, to me, helps solve more problems. He helps your perimeter defense right away. He helps your three-point shooting (he shot 42 percent from three-point range in his last season at Indiana). He also gives the Bobcats more exuberance, more confidence and more athleticism.

Yes, his offense can be off and on, and his skill set is somewhat similar to 2012 No.2 overall pick Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. But I just don’t think he’s a player you can pass up.

A recent survey by ESPN’s Chad Ford of 50 front-office types around the NBA rated Oladipo as the best prospect in the draft, slightly ahead of Noel. With his ridiculously good work ethic, he’s as safe a pick as you can get in this wide-open draft.

One more backup plan: Let’s say both Noel and Oladipo are gone by the time the Bobcats get to use their No.4. If they don’t trade down, in that case they should choose UNLV forward Anthony Bennett, who could help them get more low-post scoring and rebounding.

The Bobcats have to get a starter with this pick, but there are lots of options. They need a little of everything. When you go 28-120 over the past two seasons, you aren’t set much of anywhere (the notable exception is point guard, where Kemba Walker has established himself).

Bobcats general manager Rich Cho said Wednesday in a pre-draft press conference that the Bobcats need more shooting, more rebounding, another big man and more depth. Oh, is that all? Where do you sign up for the playoff tickets!

Oladipo won’t be a savior, but no one else in this draft looks likely to be one, either. And I like the fact that he has made himself so much better every year.

In high school, Oladipo was modestly recruited by most of the largest schools. As a freshman at Indiana, he played about half of each game for a team that went 3-15 in the Big Ten. But he got better as a sophomore, and then he became a major national star as a junior, and then he decided to go pro.

Now Oladipo is a surefire top-10 pick. He’s going to be very good somewhere. I’d like that somewhere to be Charlotte.

Say it with me – “Oh-la-DEE-po! “Oh-la-DEE-po!” Now see if you can say it without smiling.

Scott Fowler: sfowler@charlotteobserver.com; Twitter: @Scott_Fowler

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