Warriors

NBA Draft 2020: How Isaac Okoro could be Warriors' next Andre Iguodala

NBA Draft 2020: How Isaac Okoro could be Warriors' next Andre Iguodala

Editor's note: As the Warriors prepare for the 2020 NBA draft, during which they will have a lottery pick for the first time since 2012, NBC Sports Bay Area will present a twice-weekly series spotlighting two players expected to be evaluated. This is the seventh of a 12-part series over a six-week span.

When the Warriors traded Andre Iguodala to the Grizzlies last summer, coach Steve Kerr needed a moment. Maybe two.

He understood the complexities of who Iguodala was, and for a variety of reasons, was closer to him than any other player on the team. Kerr described the move as “a gut punch.”

The Warriors have spent the past nine months scanning the market for someone with similar attributes and come up empty. Now preparing to assemble a roster for the 2020-21 season, they surely know of a young wing at Auburn who is in some ways reminiscent of Iguodala.

Meet Isaac Okoro, a 6-foot-6, 215-pound freshman wing whose athleticism -- 38-inch vertical leap -- and refined defensive mentality have moved him out of mid-first-round projections and into the lottery, where the Warriors currently sit.

In seeking a comparison for Okoro, Iguodala is among the names tossed out by NBA scouts and those who specialize in evaluating college talent. Among the other names are Toronto’s OG Anunoby and, at the top end, Jimmy Butler of the Heat and Kawhi Leonard of the Raptors.

Here is an analysis offered by The Stepien Report, which might be the most comprehensive independent evaluation service: A glue guy on offense ... high IQ ... high-level defensive player on and off the ball ... active hands. Iguodala is mentioned as a comparison.

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After leading McEachern High to a 32-0 record as a senior, Okoro entered his freshman season as a four-star prep recruit. He quickly proved capable of making five-star plays, everything from game-winners in the paint (vs. South Alabama) to pivotal 3-balls in the waning minutes (Kentucky) to posterizing dunks (Vanderbilt) to coast-to-coast from rebound on one end to crossover in the middle to rousing dunk at the finish (Alabama).

Despite having a jump shot that needs repair, Okoro finished his freshman season with a 112.8 offensive rating, ranking second in the SEC.

It’s his defense, though, that excites scouts. He was effective at guarding four positions for the Tigers and displayed a distinct feel for activity all across the floor.

The NBA has evolved into a league of wings and every team covets them, particularly those who can contribute on both ends. It’s a position of need for the Warriors, and they’ve made apparent their desire to add young players fitting that role.

Okoro fits. He’s the top small forward in some mock drafts, No. 2 on others.

The biggest knock on him, in addition to his inconsistent jumper, is that he is too deferential on offense. Okoro acknowledges he’s not a big scorer, that he’s more of a utility player on offense, a “Swiss-Army-knife” type capable of providing in several areas.

There is practically no chance Okoro will be the No. 1 overall pick. Not flashy enough on offense. But if the Warriors make a trade to move back a few spots, he’ll be on their radar.

[RELATED: Warriors found diamond in rough by drafting Paschall]

Unlike the previous five springs, when the Warriors were preparing for the playoffs, Kerr has time to evaluate potential draft picks. Asked earlier this month which attributes he focuses on when studying video, Kerr told NBC Sports Bay Area earlier that he looks for two-way engagement, defensive fundamentals and willingness to share the ball.

If those qualities seem familiar, it’s because they are. They also match those of a former member of the Warriors, an NBA Finals MVP now on the roster of the Miami Heat.

Isaac Okoro profile

Position: Small forward

Class: Freshman

Birthdate: Jan. 26, 2001 (19)

Hometown: Powder Springs, Ga.

2019-20 stats: 12.8 points (51.2 percent FG, 28.6 percent 3p, 67.4 percent FT), 4.4 rebounds, 2.0 assists.

Height: 6-foot-6

Weight: 220

Wingspan: 6-9

What they’re saying: "He's an NBA player right now, but if he starts to get to the point where he can see it and make it, then he's an NBA All-Star. He's Victor Oladipo times two." – Auburn coach Bruce Pearl, assessing Okoro’s potential with a reliable jump shot.

Nets GM Sean Marks denies wild Gregg Popovich 'Godfather offer' rumor

Nets GM Sean Marks denies wild Gregg Popovich 'Godfather offer' rumor

Could Kevin Durant and Gregg Popovich team up in Brooklyn?

As unlikely as the scenario is, there is a rumor floating around the NBA Twitterverse that the Nets are preparing to try to lure the legendary coach away from the San Antonio Spurs.

Stick with me here.

During a recent episode of the "Let's Get Technical" podcast, former NBA player Gerald Brown joined hosts Rasheed Wallace and Bonzi Wells, and guest Amin Elhassan. Brown said this:

"There's a story going around that the owner of the Brooklyn Nets is looking to make a 'Godfather offer' to Gregg Popovich, and when I say the 'Godfather [offer], it's something he can't refuse," Brown said. "Hearing this news, and it's probably going to circulate more in the days to come, I'm not really buying it at all."

Brown didn't cite a source on this rumor. But back in March, ESPN's Stephen A. Smith did mention Popovich's name as one of three candidates for the Nets' job (H/T The Spun), along with former Cleveland Cavaliers coach Ty Lue and former Warriors coach Mark Jackson.

The Pop-to-Nets rumor had enough legs to make it all the way back to Brooklyn GM Sean Marks, who was asked during an interview on WFAN radio in New York about the idea of pursuing the longtime Spurs coach.

"Pop has a job," Marks told Joe Benigno and Evan Roberts on Friday. "So I will say that. And, obviously, we all know he’s an amazing, amazing coach, and to be quite frank, an even better leader. So I’ll let Pop continue to coach for the Spurs, and He owes it to them and they owe it to him. I’m sure he’s quite happy there."

[RUNNIN' PLAYS PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

But would it make sense for the Warriors nemesis to leave San Antonio for Brooklyn?

The Nets need a permanent coach for the 2020-21 season. Brooklyn fired Kenny Atkinson in March, and interim coach Jacque Vaughn will guide the bare bones team through the NBA restart in Orlando, but he might not be the answer in the long run.

Durant and fellow NBA superstar Kyrie Irving are going to want a coach with experience and a proven plan. While Lue won an NBA title with the Cavs, and Jackson laid the foundation for the Warriors, they aren't the sexy picks.

Why would Popovich leave San Antonio, where he's coached for 24 seasons? The Spurs have been considered the gold standard for NBA teams for the last two decades, but they've fallen on hard times. Their streak of 22 straight NBA playoff appearances likely will come to an end this season, and they don't have a bonafide superstar to build around for the next few seasons.

So maybe it's time for Pop to chase a new challenge. Of course, he's 71 years old and has been coaching in the league since 1988, so maybe his next move is to hang up the clipboard.

But if Popovich wants one more chance to win a ring, bolting for Brooklyn might not be the worst idea, especially if the Nets are willing to make a "Godfather Offer" to him.

[RELATED: Durant all smiles on Dubs anniversary]

There would also be the strange twist of Durant teaming up with Warriors coach Steve Kerr's mentor.

If Pop really did make the move, the Warriors wouldn't have to deal with him in the Western Conference, but if they return to NBA title contention, they might be looking at Popovich, Durant and Irving across from them in the NBA Finals.

Now that's a juicy storyline. NBA Twitter might explode if that happened next summer.

Heat guard Tyler Herro studies Warriors' Klay Thompson to improve shot

Heat guard Tyler Herro studies Warriors' Klay Thompson to improve shot

Klay Thompson's shot is that of near perfection. Steph Curry might be regarded as the greatest shooter in NBA history, but his fellow Splash Brother's form is picturesque. 

Miami Heat rookie Tyler Herro is taking note, too. The shooting guard has taken advantage of his time away from the court before the NBA's restart by watching film on Thompson and other greats.

"Klay Thompson, Ray Allen, CJ McCollum, Steve Nash and Bradley Beal are the guys that’s I’ve watched, just picking different things from each player," Herro recently told reporters, via the South Florida Sun Sentinel's Ira Winderman. 

[RUNNIN' PLAYS PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Herro, 20, is averaging 12.9 points per game for the Heat while shooting an impressive 39.1 percent from 3-point range. As a rookie, Thompson shot 41.4 percent from deep and has a career 41.9 shooting percentage from beyond the arc. They don't make many like Klay. 

Miami's young sharpshooter is studying one specific part of Thompson's game, too.

"You know, Klay and Ray, they do the catch-and-shoot very well," Herro said. "So that's the thing that I pay attention to when I'm watching them. But every player that I watch, or the coaches have me watch, I can dissect something new or something different from their game to try to add it to mine."

[RELATED: Steph has funny prediction for Warriors-Cavs bubble rematch]

Herro and the Heat resume their season Aug. 1 against the Denver Nuggets in Orlando. In just his first season, he has helped the Heat become a contender as a feared outside shooter and will play a big role once the NBA returns. 

Rested, healthy and full of more knowledge from hours watching film, we'll soon be able to see what exactly Herro picked up from Thompson other great shooters.