Onyeka Okongwu finished his spectacular freshman season with a statline of 16.2 PPG, 8.6 RPG, 1.1 APG, 1.2 SPG, 2.7 BPG, and 2 TOPG on 62% shooting and 72% from the free throw line. The premier big man in this draft class has drawn warranted top 10 rankings. See more below as to why I have him as my #2 overall player:
Name: Onyeka Okongwu
Height/Weight: 6’9/ 245
Wingspan/ standing reach: N/A
Hand size: N/A
College/ country: USC
Tools: Defense, rebounding, IQ, athleticism
- High energy big on both ends
- Long arms to make up for height
- Excellent rebounder
- Jump shooting upside
- Excellent help defender
- Effective in P&R on both ends
- Quick second jump
- High defensive IQ
- Plays under the rim too much; settles for layups when he can get dunks
- Needs to polish shooting mechanics, particularly in off-hand; push shot
Overall: Okongwu is the top ranked big man on the MavsDraft board in the class due to his elite defensive ability, being able to guard almost any type of player, as well as his athleticism, rebounding, IQ, and pick & roll threat offensively. He can switch with ease and move on the perimeter, while also being able to lock down an interior force. Additionally, he defends the P&R well and should be able to contribute on both ends of the P&R from day one. As Oknogwu continues to add strength, his finishing at the rim and defending the rim should climb towards being one of the best paint controllers in the league. Another area that Okongwu is underrated in is his passing ability. While he is not an advanced passer yet, he makes great reads and has good vision, particularly from the top of the key. Many NBA teams run sets through their centers at the top of the key, so this could be a chance where Okongwu can make defenses pay. With the emergence of Bam Adebayo this season, teams should be lining up to take a chance at a do-it-all big man.
Okongwu has a few general outcomes: In the one he doesn’t end up being a shooter, he still is one of the best defensive players in the league and makes heady offensive plays to still average a double double. This is likely the median outcome. In a floor outcome, he develops his jump shot, but his lack of under the rim play limits him offensively, while he continues to be a defensive force. In his ceiling scenario, he has a capable jump shot, lives up to the defensive potential, and finishes at a high level at the rim. He could also sprinkle in a few assists a game on top of all that. None of these outcomes are unrealistic, and the constant that I see is his All-Defense potential, which is something most lottery teams need to establish a successful core for the future.
NBA Comparison: Floor: Daniel Theis; ceiling: Bam Adebayo
Projected draft range: 2-9
Okongwu fits with virtually any team in the league, due to the modern nature of the NBA and how bigs are used. Mobile and switchable athletic bigs are a hot commodity, so it will take a lot to pass up on Okongwu. The best fits, given the current lottery standings, are Cleveland, Minnesota, Atlanta, Detroit, Charlotte, and Washington. The only team in the top 10 that has a legitimate argument to turn down Okongwu is the Bulls due to the current Markkanen/Carter pairing, assuming new management prefers to stick with those two. Okongwu would immediately improve many of the poor defenses listed from the teams above, both in the short term and for years to come. The Cavs have needed a defensive anchor for years, as they continue to rank near historical defensive inefficiencies year after year. Atlanta simply needs somebody to be able to clean up for the defensive woes of the backcourt. Detroit needs a replacement for Andre Drummond, and a general key building block. Charlotte has a chance to compliment a borderline all-star guard in Devonte’ Graham, who lacks defensive prowess. Graham and Okongwu could also be a dynamic guard/big combination for years to come. Washington could use an NBA ready defensive presence to compliment an already strong offensive frontcourt. The fits are seamless for Okongwu, and should be one of the best return on investment players in the draft.