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- Onyeka Okongwu Scouting Report
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I absolutely love Onyeka Okongwu. He has everything you can ask for from a modern NBA big man. He’s can guard all five positions, plays longer than his frame, and has the timing to be an elite shot-blocker. He hustles, plays with physicality, and has a high defensive IQ. While he has room to improve on the offensive side of the ball, mainly his interior passing, shooting, and footwork, he shows potential. He shot an impressive 72% from the line which lets me know he can grow into his shot with discipline and proper coaching. Overall, I think he is a high floor, high ceiling prospect that will thrive in the modern NBA.
What truly stands out is his steals, blocks, and shooting percentages. As a 6’9’’ forward, Okongwu finished with a whopping 1.2 steals per game and 2.7 blocks. Not many guys his height can average 2.7 blocks yet alone 1.2 steals. This speaks to his on-court awareness, basketball IQ, understanding how to maximize his length, and his anticipation skills.
The accolades continue when talking about his percentages. He shot an impressive 61% from the field, a number is hard to achieve if you aren’t 7’0’’. Okongwu plays hard in transition, often out-hustling his defenders down the court for easy buckets. He has a nice touch around the basket, and his offensive rebounding ability gave him plenty of opportunities for easy put-backs. These are the gritty players every coach loves.
While he was disappointing from three, his 72% from the free-throw line is encouraging. As a big man, this free-throw percentage is above average. This shows me that he has the potential to become a good shooter in the league. With his defensive prowess, the NBA should watch out for Okongwu.
One thing that immediately stands out when watching this kid’s tape is his ability to disrupt the passing lanes. He has synergy with his body meaning that he understands how to get the most out of his physical stature. For instance, while undersized at 6’9’’ 245 pounds, he has a phenomenal length that he uses to be a menacing disrupter. Not only does he disrupt passing lanes, but he also uses his quickness to beat guys down the court on transition plays. Averaging over a steal a game to complement his blocking ability makes him a truly unique prospect. I mean look at these highlights from his game against Colorado, a would-be tournament team.
Onyeka Okongwu looked like a top-3 pick last night vs. Colorado.
21 points on 10-13. Post footwork, lefty touch, quick back-to-basket hips. Special mobility/coordination. Four steals, reacting with speed. Moved OO ahead of Wiseman on board after 1 NCAA game, haven't looked back pic.twitter.com/WDZXyODRPg
— Jonathan Wasserman (@NBADraftWass) February 21, 2020
Continuing with defense, I have to commend his pick and roll defense. He has the lateral speed to handle pick and roll coverage, even occasionally beating smaller guards to their spots. Okongwu handles himself very well in isolation sets, again using his lateral quickness to beat guys to the paint. He can guard the perimeter and projects to be a position less defender. The NBA continues to value this type of big man – think of Pascal Siakam, Draymond Green, and Bam Adebayo. These are guys that have no trouble switching on opposing guards, giving coaches the confidence to play them for long stretches of time. Their versatility makes them useful acting as the de-facto center in small-ball sets. Expect coaches to fall in love with Okongwu.
Pretty insane how well Onyeka Okongwu moves defensively. Beats guys to spots. pic.twitter.com/He2S8Oe3R4
— Ethan Piechota (@EthanPiechota) June 10, 2020
Zero issues whatsoever for Onyeka Okongwu switching PnRs in this game. Awesome laterally, and picked up his 7th block of the game here pic.twitter.com/JQyEzegttV
— Max Carlin (@maxacarlin) June 10, 2020
Okongwu is by far one of the best, if not, the best shot-blocker in the draft. He’s able to quickly cover ground on open shooters, which makes him feel longer than his 7’1’’ wingspan. His help defense is spectacular and has the timing to collect blocks on driving perimeter players. Blocking is instinctual and Okongwu has that instinct. Coupled with his other defensive traits: quick feet, pick and roll coverage, perimeter defense, Okongwu has all-defensive potential. As someone who loves defensive players, his size and traits make me excited to see Okongwu in an NBA jersey.
Complementing his defense, Okongwu is a great rebounder, particularly on the offensive end. Again, instincts come into play on the offensive glass and Okongwu has it. He uses his impressive vertical to leap over opponents and length to reach for would-be unreachable balls. He’s strong using his strength and quick feet to get great positioning on rebounds. Okongwu looks like an intimidating offensive presence.
The negatives come on the offensive side of the ball. He has poor ball-handling skills which often results in turnovers in the paint. He catches the ball, holds it, and then waits for the play to develop. While not terrible in spurs, he consistently stalls the offense. If he gains confidence in his dribble, he can play a more dynamic role in an offense.
While his post-game is solid, he needs to improve by not relying solely on his athleticism to gain positioning. With an already weak lower-body strength, I fear that bigger, stronger NBA bigs could take him out of the post entirely. This would force Okongwu to rely on his shooting and ball-handling to score, areas he currently struggles with. He needs to hit the weight room and improve his confidence in handling the ball. If he can get some finesse moves down, Okongwu won’t be such a one-dimensional offensive player.
As of now, his shooting is a weak point. He relies on hook shots but releases the ball too low to be consistent. If he learns to release the ball at his highest point, his hook shot will land. His shooting mechanics look fine, but his lower body strength comes into question. He doesn’t get enough lift on his shot, a by-product of his tenacious defensive energy. Expending so much energy on the defensive side of the ball hurts his form on the offensive side of the ball. Getting stronger, especially in his legs, will pay dividends to his offensive game.
Okongwu’s length and athleticism will make him a valuable contributor on pick and rolls. However, he struggles with passing, often getting the ball at the top of the key but not knowing what to do with it. If he can improve his decision-making, his offensive potential will skyrocket.
Best Team Fit
I really like the fit with Karl-Anthony Towns. Okongwu and Towns cover each other’s weaknesses very well. Oknongwu is the menacing interior post presence while Towns is the more polished scoring and shooter. With emerging star D’Angelo Russell’s defensive deficiencies, I would love to see the Timberwolves add a defensive contributor. Also, Okongwu’s ability to move the floor bodes well with the Timberwolves’ offense. D’Angelo Russell thrives in transition but doesn’t have a big man with the speed to run the floor. Adding Okongwu will provide a much-needed spark to this team’s transition offense. Furthermore, Okongwu’s ability to guard the perimeter helps to mask Town’s struggles on the perimeter. Lastly, Town’s loves to play outside the box in halfcourt sets. Okongwu provides a valuable post replacement when Town’s steps outside. Overall, I would love to see Okongwu grow alongside this duo for years to come.
Okongwu reminds me of a lot of Bam Adebayo. Bam was also a defensive menace at Kentucky, showing an ability to play all five positions, get positioning on rebounds, and move well in transition. People questioned Bam Adebayo’s shooting abilities coming into the NBA. Many believed Bam would only be a defensive menace with limited offensive potential. However, in his third season, Adebayo has developed his offensive skills, growing more skilled in the paint and consistently hitting mid-range jumpers. Excitedly, I believe Okongwu is more versatile offensively than Adebayo. Teams can’t ignore his offensive potential and polished defensive game given other prospects’ limitations.
I have Okongwu higher than most scouts and analysts. I truly believe he has one of the highest ceilings out of any prospect in this draft. He has the quickness and athleticism to complement his modern NBA frame. Also, he’s tenacious on the boards and hustles in transition. Even more impressive is his high floor. Okongwu will make an impact day one and at worse be a high energy defensive presence. Yet, he has the potential to become a Pascal Siakam or Bam Adebayo type of player on both ends of the court. Okongwu is a top-three prospect who will be a steal for teams that draft him at his current mocked position.