Of all the top prospects in the upcoming 2020 NBA Draft, arguably no one currently has as much upward momentum as USC big man Onyeka Okongwu. He didn't get nearly as much attention as some of the other top names throughout his lone collegiate season, but recently that has begun to change.
The Warriors reportedly have him ranked above James Wiseman, and they're not the only ones. The Athletic's John Hollinger recently released his top 20 players in the draft, and Okongwu is his top-ranked big man and No. 4 overall prospect. Beyond that, he believes Okongwu and Golden State would be a great match.
"Okongwu was awesome as a freshman and the only reason I don’t have him higher is that today’s game doesn’t value bigs as much," Hollinger wrote. "He still might be undervalued here. Relative to his position he’s arguably the best player in this draft, and in particular would seem to be an outstanding fit with the Golden State Warriors."
The Warriors are all but certain to have a top-five pick in the draft, meaning Okongwu theoretically would be available to them at their selection. Even if it's the No. 1 overall pick, Okongwu might be the right choice.
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Why? Based on statistical comparisons, he is quite similar to multiple recent No. 1 picks.
As a freshman at USC, Okongwu led the Pac-12 in PER (31.1) and shot 72.2 percent from the free-throw line. Since 2011-12, only four other major conference NCAA freshman posted a PER above 30 while shooting at least 70 percent from the charity stripe. They were, as Hollinger noted: Anthony Davis, Cody Zeller, Karl-Anthony Towns and DeAndre Ayton.
That's some exclusive company. Davis, Towns and Ayton all went first overall in their respective drafts, while Zeller went fourth in his. If Okongwu ends up like any of them, whichever team selects him won't regret it.
"While Okongwu’s ceiling probably profiles closer to that of Ayton’s than Towns’ or Davis’, that would still be a hell of an outcome with a meh lottery pick in a weak draft," Hollinger argued. "As with a player he’s frequently compared to -- Miami’s Bam Adebayo -- his height may be held against him at 6-foot-9. Unlike Adebayo, however, Okongwu shows enough promise as a shooter that he may be able to play next to a true 5 as his skill level progresses. He’s already a better post scorer than Bam, but he doesn’t have his ballhandling and passing skill."
Adebayo was just named a first-time All-Star in his third NBA season, but in terms of their collegiate production, Okongwu was more statistically impressive across the board.
Are you sensing the trend here?
Okongwu shot 61.6 percent from the field as a freshman and ranked second in the Pac-12 with an average of 2.7 blocks per game. He offers positional versatility, and won't turn 20 years old until December.
There's plenty of risk involved with all of the top prospects in the draft, but Okongwu might be the safest bet to live up to expectations.