14. Who will be this season’s Victor Oladipo?
Oladipo took the league by storm last season, vaulting himself from flawed sidekick to All-NBA badass. The most likely scenario this season is that no one comes close to the type of improvement we saw from him last year. That said, there are a few candidates who could be set to defy our expectations and show us that they’re not done getting better.
Jabari Parker is an easy choice. Oladipo was the No. 2 pick in the 2013 draft, so let’s look at the same pick in the 2014 draft right? The similarities go further than just that, however. Parker will have plenty to prove after two ACL injuries have cost him serious time and a second contract with the Bucks. He won’t necessarily be the first option for Chicago, but Oladipo wasn’t supposed to be the undisputed first option in Indiana either.
Dante Exum has been plagued by injury since he came into the league, but entering into his fourth season, the former No. 5 pick will likely be the third guard in the Jazz rotation behind Ricky Rubio and Donovan Mitchell. That is if he can stay healthy. If he can do that, Exum has a bright future as an uber-lengthy defender and herky-jerky playmaker. With healthy Exum and Mitchell as the backcourt of the future, the Jazz would be set for a while.
D’Angelo Russell is looking to make a splashy comeback of his own in Brooklyn where a strong organizational culture seems to be brewing. The only missing ingredient is star power, and Russell will have every chance to provide it if he can. The former Buckeye needs to improve his 3-point shooting both off the catch and off the dribble, but he’s made strides as a passer during each of his three seasons in the league. If he fails to make the leap into stardom, backcourt partner Caris Levert might just be ready to do it instead.