Name: Onyeka Okungwu
Measurables: 6’9″, 245 lbs, 7’1″ wingspan
College/International Team: USC Trojans
Stats last season: 12 games played, 17.0 points, 7.6 rebounds, 6.8 assists, 1.6 steals per game; 6.3/16.7 FGs (37.5%), 1.7/6.7 3Ps (25.0%), 2.8/3.9 3Ps (72.3%) — stats not updated for Okungwu
Onyeka Okungwu was a stalwart for his high school basketball team at Chino Hills alongside the Ball brothers (Lonzo, LiAngelo, and LaMelo). He won several state titles and awards while at Chino Hills, including becoming the fifth player of all time to win California’s Mr. Basketball multiple times in a row. While at USC, Okungwu lived up to his five-star recruiting status particularly on the defensive end as he averaged 3.1 blocks per 40 minutes. He’s going to be a defensive stalwart in the NBA as he’s capable of guarding multiple positions and possesses the switchability, physicality, and athleticism that teams covet in their modern-day bigs. His rim protection is outstanding and he has the mobility to step out and guard smaller players on the perimeter as well. That versatility makes him equally potent on defense in the pick-and-roll or in transition. Okungwu has the upside to become one of the best defensive big men in the NBA.
Offensively, it’s a bit of another story. 16.2 points per game aren’t bad by any means but Okungwu picked on smaller and less physical competition in the post which he won’t be able to do in the NBA. He only attempted four 3-pointers in his freshman year at USC and it’s unclear if he’ll ever be able to get points outside of the post in the NBA. His post offense is unrefined and needs some serious work as he won’t be able to take advantage of his pure physicality in the same way against pro players. Okungwu also struggles to handle the ball in the painted area as he often has tunnel vision and makes poor decisions with the ball (2.6 turnovers per 40 minutes despite low usage). One area where he probably doesn’t get the love he deserves is in the fast-break offense as he can pick off passing lanes and run the floor like a guard. He’s also an outstanding lob threat as he gets great verticality and possesses an insane standing reach (7’1″ wingspan). Okungwu has some development to do on offense, but his defense should translate right away and make him a high-impact rookie.
Rim protection – outstanding verticality and athleticism
Defensive mobility – can step out to guard smaller players on the perimeter
Should be one of the best rebounders in his class
Excellent lob threat who is a great pick-and-roll roll man
Runs the floor on the fast break and finishes at the rim
Post offense is unrefined and needs work
Unclear if he’ll ever possess any real range offensively
Poor passer and has tunnel vision in the paint
Needs to show a bit more discipline on defense at times
Best Landing Spot
Minnesota Timberwolves. The Wolves have their offensive core in place with D’Angelo Russell and Karl Anthony-Towns running the show next season, but they could use some help on the defensive side of the ball. Okungwu would complement KAT perfectly in the frontcourt as he could provide the rim protection, rebounding, and athleticism that Towns doesn’t, while KAT’s elite offense would open up lanes to the basket for Okungwu. The presence of KAT and DLo means little pressure offensively for Okungwu while he goes to work with his pro-ready attributes.
Worst Landing Spot
Atlanta Hawks. The Hawks are not a good team by any stretch but they appear to have their frontcourt locked in now with the addition of Clint Capela alongside John Collins. Okungwu would struggle to get playing time in Atlanta given the frontcourt talent ahead of him and he wouldn’t get the offensive touches he needs to refine his game. This would be a similar situation to Mo Bamba in Orlando as a high-quality prospect struggles to develop behind solid frontcourt players.
Draft range: top-ten lock, possibly top-five
Basketball IQ: 9. Okungwu usually knows exactly where to be on the defensive side of the floor, especially when a loose ball might be up for grabs. His elite rebounding also showcases his strong IQ for the game and he does a great job of rolling to the rim at the right times.
Passing: 6. Okungwu often struggles with the ball in his hands around the rim as he doesn’t have a refined post-game and he struggles to find open teammates. He won’t be asked to handle the ball much in the NBA but his turnover-prone nature (2.6 turnovers per 40 minutes to 1.1 assists) is a real issue.
Shooting: 5. Okungwu’s lack of shooting could end up being a problem depending on where he lands as I haven’t seen anything in his game that suggests a future as a 3-point specialist, or even a mid-range shooter. For some teams that won’t be an issue, but it can’t be ignored as a flaw in his game.
Dribbling: 5. More of the same as the above for Okungwu. He’s not going to be asked to control the offense very often at all, though, and his ability to get to the lane in transition is a real strength in his game.
Hustle: 9. If there’s a loose ball on the floor, you can count on Okungwu to find it. He’s an incredibly high motor player and works hard on both ends of the court. His hustle plays on offense make life easier for his teammates as he contributes as a constant lob threat and hard-nosed offensive rebounder.
Rebounding:9. Okungwu’s rebounding may be the most impressive part of his game as he can really do it all. His vertical bounce, insane athleticism, and floor awareness allow him to be a force on the glass and he’s going to be a constant double-double threat in the NBA.
Defense: 9. This is where Okungwu carries most of his value. He’s a force to be reckoned with on the defensive end of the floor as he has the physicality and verticality to be a dominant presence at the rim while still having the athleticism and mobility to guard out on the perimeter. He’s going to be an impressive defender right away.
Athleticism: 9. Okungwu is an athletic freak and he probably would have had some insane testing numbers at the combine had it taken place. He moves like a guard in transition and has better foot speed than some of the guards in this draft class. His athleticism shines through everything he does on the court.
Upside: 8. Okungwu won’t turn 19 until December and he has plenty of time to hone in the offensive piece of his game to match with his elite defensive play. He does have upside as a shooter as he once made 17 free throws in a game at USC and will continue to work on his form. At the very least, Okungwu is going to be a high-motor, defensive big man, but the athleticism and work ethic to be much more.
Total rating: 72/100
Lamelo Ball NBA Comparison
Okungwu is likely the best defensive player in this draft class and he reminds me a ton of Bam Adebayo on that end of the floor. He can cover a ton of space with his closing speed and he has the mobility to guard on the perimeter as Bam does. Offensively, he reminds me of an early-career Montrezl Harrell as a high-energy big man who finds ways to score despite an unrefined post-game. Like Trez, Okungwu should make all kinds of winning plays despite not getting all of the fanfare. If Okungwu can develop more offensive range he could be a Pascal Siakam-type player in the future, or perhaps John Collins if he finds his range from deep. Okungwu has a wide range of outcomes but his baseline is likely that of a poor man’s Ben Wallace who was a defensive stalwart in the NBA for many years.
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