The Washington Wizards are likely to have a lottery pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. Here is the latest in our series on draft prospects who could fall around where the Wizards will select...
2020 NBA Draft Wizards Prospect Preview: Isaac Okoro
2019/20 stats: 28 G, 31.5 mpg, 12.9 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 2.0 apg, 0.9 spg, 0.9 bpg, 51.4 FG% (4.5/8.7), 29.0 3PT% (0.7/2.5), 67.2 FT%
Projections: NBC Sports Washington 4th, Sports Illustrated 6th, Ringer 10th, NBADraft.net 7th, Bleacher Report 9th
5 things to know:
*Okoro is one of the most explosive athletes in this draft. He embodies exactly what NBA teams are looking for in a multi-skilled, all-around athlete. As a 6-foot-6 wing, he has the strength to get into the paint but the speed, passing and ballhandling of a guard. Okoro will need to improve on his range, especially given his size, but is already built to compete against NBA talent.
*His best skill is his defensive coverage. Not many players projected to be lottery picks have the same open-court defensive ability of Okoro. He can guard all five positions and have a ton of success. Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl called him the best defensive guard he's ever coached. A team that doesn't immediately need a playmaker but a solid piece (i.e. the Warriors), could really utilize a player like Okoro.
*Okoro has played at an elite level for several years now. In 2018 he was a member of the United States Under-17 team playing alongside James Wiseman, Wendell Moore and R.J. Hampton. Most of his contributions came off the bench (4.3 points and 1.6 steals per game) s the team went on to win the gold medal at the FIBA championship.
*Injuries are not common for Okoro. However, he did strain his hamstring last season that forced him to miss three games. Once he was out of the lineup of one of the top-five teams in the country (the only non-senior starter), Auburn inexplicably lost to inferior opponents Missouri and Georgia. The offense just looked clunky and out of sorts without him. His scoring ability may not be as such of an asset as other areas of his game, but he is a key figure in an offensive rotation.
*At 19 Okoro already had one jersey retirement. McEachern High School retired Okoro's No. 35 after four all-Georgia honorees and a 32-0 record his senior season.
Fit with Wizards: A wing without much of a 3-point game might not be exactly what the Wizards are looking for in this year's draft. Washington has plenty of players who have a natural driving ability in John Wall, Bradley Beal and Rui Hachimura.
What Okoro would bring though is a defensive intensity that is lacking from their guard play and a leader off the bench. The 19-year-old would immediately become Washington's best and most versatile defender.
His build and size are similar to a typical NBA frame. Even if he came in a game as a specialist, Okoro is 'NBA ready.'
Okoro could play in any lineup. He doesn't need the ball in his hands to be effective. A high basketball IQ could have him flirting between multiple units, as long as that unit doesn't need him to be an outside shooter. Small lineup or big lineup, he could find himself in any role.
There are few Wizards that have those abilities; to guard all five positions and have versatility for his size. Isaac Bonga has a game that is consistent with Okoro's, but Okoro has far more confidence and ballhandling ability. By no means is he a flashy player, but solid all around.
That is where he might be a target for the Wizards. Last draft general manager Tommy Sheppard went with the safe, solid pick in Hachimura over several potential playmakers that were available. It paid off. Okoro could be the safe and solid pick this season as well.
Over time he will need to improve on his shooting range. It's difficult to have a long career as a wing with just a physical style and strong defense.
If he's the best player available when the Wizards select their pick, he should be the guy that comes off the board.
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