POP’s Scouting Report: USC’s Onyeka Okongwu

At 6’10, 245 pounds, and a 7’2 wingspan, USC big man Onyeka Okongwu is one of the most coveted players in the 2020 NBA Draft. The 19-year-old played only one season at USC after being a four-year letter winner at Chino Hills High School, where he was a teammate of the potential number one pick Lamelo Ball. You can tell on film that Okongwu is a freakish athlete with his ability to play above the rim and block shots. Before attending USC, Okongwu finished 20th in ESPN’s top 100 and 30th in Rivals top 150.

Okongwu was phenomenal in his one season for the Trojans where he started at center, averaging 16.2 points, 8.6 rebounds, and 2.7 blocks in 30.6 minutes per game on 61.6/25/72 shooting splits. His jump shot is a work in progress as 64.4 percent of his shot attempts came from within five feet of the basket, according to The Stepien.

However, he is a freak athlete who loves to play above the rim, and that is what makes him such an exciting prospect. His ability to put back shots, convert lobs on the pick and roll, and block shots at the rim jump off the page.

Defense is Okongwu’s biggest strength. His physicality and ability to block shots is what has him projected to fall between picks four and 10. However, Okongwu is going to need to polish his offensive game if he really wants to make an impact in the league. Although he has shown that he has a quick first step and can work with his back to the basket, he really needs to work on his jump shot. Okongwu only attempted four 3-pointers in his single season at USC, however, his shooting form is not “broken” by any means. He has a high arc and wide base that produces a lot of spin on the ball, which shows since he shot 74 percent from the free-throw line in college. However, if Okongwu really wants to become a dominant big, he’s going to have to work on his jump shot so he can become a two-way stretch big.

If Okongwu ends up in Detroit, he will be entering an already crowded frontcourt alongside Blake Griffin, Thon Maker, Justin Patton, and Christian Wood (hopefully). Okongwu would have the potential to contribute from day one if the Pistons were to retain Wood and move Griffin. However, I see Okongwu’s fit as more of a backup to Wood, or as a starter, if Detroit does not retain Wood. The only concerning thing to me is that Okongwu could turn into an Andre Drummond 2.0; an athletic big who can play above the rim and is an elite rim protector. I definitely believe that Okongwu has a higher ceiling than Drummond did, given he is already more polished than him. However, a Wood/Okongwu frontcourt could turn into something really exciting to watch.

Okongwu’s sheer athleticism and high ceiling make him one of the most intriguing prospects in this draft class. If he is still on the board at pick seven, I think drafting him will definitely cross Troy Weaver’s mind.

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