July 28, 2014

Medina
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Cavs draft picks: Cleveland linked to McLemore and Oladipo

Kansas guard Ben McLemore has been compared to Ray Allen and Dwyane Wade. (AP PHOTO)

Editor’s note: The following is the fourth of four stories examining players the Cavaliers might select with the first pick in the NBA Draft.

Some scouts compare Kansas shooting guard Ben McLemore to Ray Allen, who has made more 3-pointers than anyone in NBA history.

Others compare him to Dwyane Wade, who is not a great shooter but who could get to the hoop at will earlier in his career.

While those comparisons seem to be at odds with one another, they also illustrate why the Cavaliers can’t rule out taking the 6-foot-4¾, 189-pound McLemore with the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft.

“He can absolutely shoot the ball and he’s one of the best athletes in the draft,” said Ryan Blake, the NBA’s senior director of scouting. “He can score inside a la Dwyane Wade and he’s smooth like Ray Allen. And he can defend.

“He could be that Dwyane Wade or Ray Allen type. If that’s what you come down to — at best Dwyane Wade and at worst Ray Allen — that’s not bad.”

As much talent and potential as McLemore has, the Cavs might not even consider him the best shooting guard in the draft.

That distinction could go to Indiana’s Victor Oladipo, an off-the-charts athlete and relentless defender who is still developing offensively.

There have been reports the Cavs love the 6-4¼, 213-pounder’s game, but with Kentucky’s Nerlens Noel, Maryland’s Alex Len and Georgetown’s Otto Porter also in the mix — as well as a possible trade — it will be extremely interesting to see how everything unfolds Thursday night.

When all is said and done, however, Sheridan Hoops draft expert Joe Kotoch doesn’t expect McLemore or Oladipo to be in Cleveland. The last true shooting guard drafted No. 1 overall was North Carolina State’s David Thompson in 1975.

“I think the combination of his position, having Dion Waiters, I just don’t think it’s a fit for them,” Kotoch said of the Cavs taking McLemore. “Oladipo’s really intriguing. He’s a worker. He has worked his way up from a second-round caliber prospect to potentially a guy who could go second.”

The 20-year-old McLemore, who had to sit out a year for academic reasons after attending four high schools, averaged 15.9 points, 5.2 rebounds and 2.0 assists for Kansas as a redshirt freshman.

McLemore averaged 3.7 free throw attempts per game and is not considered a great ballhandler. Wade averaged 7.8 his final season at Marquette, but Blake still sees some similarities.

“He came in so confident and he’s worked so hard to get where he is,” Blake said of McLemore. “He’s not going to stop working. He has that spark. This guy is going to continue to get better.”

McLemore shot .495 from the field overall, .420 on 3-pointers and .870 at the line for the Jayhawks. All are solid indicators he will be able to score from the perimeter in the NBA, but Kotoch still has concerns.

“He has All-Star abilities, but he’s a guy I look at and say, ‘Is the Ray Allen comparison fair?’” Kotoch said. “Probably not, but he has some similarities in terms of game style. He’s good with the ball in his hands and without. He can shoot and he has range.

“But I would have liked to have seen him dominate like his abilities and talent say he should have. There are times when he disappears. Some teams will say, ‘Whatever. Look at when he was on.’”

Oladipo isn’t nearly as polished at the moment, but his offensive game has not stopped improving — there have never been any questions about his defensive abilities — since he averaged just 11.9 points as a senior at DeMatha High in Maryland.

Oladipo averaged 7.4 points as an Indiana freshman, 10.8 as a sophomore and 13.6 last season as a junior. He did the latter despite taking just 8.4 shots a game, thanks to .599 shooting from the field overall, .441 on 3-pointers and .746 at the line.

“The bottom line is he’s improved dramatically as a shooter and he’s probably the best athlete in this draft,” said Kotoch, who has Oladipo as the second-best player available behind Noel.

“He’s going to be a great defender and complimentary offensive player. If you surround him with a really good point guard and another dominant scorer, he becomes a very, very good third player in a team’s foundation.”

Due to his relentless work ethic and terrific defense, Oladipo is the type of player who will help a team immediately even if he struggles offensively.

“Defensively, you know this guy is going to earn minutes,” Blake said. “He’s such an athlete and hard worker, he could turn into a (Metta) World Peace kind of guy with a great attitude and even better offensive game.

“Whatever team takes him, you’re going to love this guy when he gets into your camp. He’s going to make your team work harder.”

Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or rnoland@medina-gazette.com. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.