Onyeka Okongwu believes he can be a defensive anchor in NBA like Bam Adebayo

Chase Hughes
·3 min read

Okongwu believes he can be a defensive anchor in NBA like Bam Adebayo originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

USC big man Onyeka Okongwu has been widely compared to Heat star Bam Adebayo and it sounds like Okongwu is fully embracing the parallel. Okongwu put it plainly on Friday while addressing the media ahead of next week's NBA Draft.

"I just want to be a player like Bam. Bam's my size, same athleticism. It took him a while to really be that All-Star player that he is [now]. I could definitely follow that development process and be the type of player like Bam is," Okongwu said.

The two actually faced each other in high school, but as Okongwu alluded to, it's about their build and playing style. Like Adebayo, Okongwu prides himself on defensive versatility.

The 19-year-old Okongwu averaged 16.2 points, 8.6 rebounds and 2.7 blocks last year at USC. He made the All-Pac 12 team as a freshman.

Adebayo has become an increasingly lofty comparison for Okongwu, as Adebayo just helped lead the Miami Heat to the NBA Finals. He was so good in the playoffs, that he likely raised Okongwu's draft stock as teams are now searching for the next Adebayo.

Okongwu appears to be a great fit for where the league is heading. He's a big man who can play the four or the five with the quickness to switch onto guards.

If you ask him, he feels those skills will translate quickly to the NBA level.

"I can definitely switch on screens, I move well on my feet. I have great lateral foot speed for somebody who is 6'9", 6'10"-ish," he said. "I definitely am going to be able to bang down there with the big players and play with some of the chippiest guards. I'm confident in my ability to hold my own, to be able to guard bigger players and guard fast, shifty players."

The Wizards are picking ninth on Wednesday and could use a player just like Okongwu. They had the worst defensive rating in the NBA last season, were among the worst rebounding teams and gave up the third-highest field goal percentage within five feet of the rim.

Okongwu believes he could help a team just like Washington.

"I can really be that defensive anchor on a team that needs help defensively," he said.

There has been a lot of momentum linking Okongwu to the Wizards outside the organization, but no real clues yet connecting the two sides outside of the fact they will be picking in his range and need what he provides. Okongwu was instructed by his agent to not reveal which teams he's worked out for or interviewed with.

It's possible the Wizards have done both with Okongwu, we just don't know. We also don't know for sure whether he will be on the board at nine, as some mocks have him going as high as the top-four.

If he is there, however, it could make for an easy decision for the Wizards.