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Okongwu could make instant impact, help Warriors right away

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  • This is the seventh installment of a series breaking down the potential selections for the Golden Warriors with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft.

If there is one thing working against the Warriors, it’s time.

As a veteran team, the Warriors' window is quietly getting smaller and smaller. It happens to every great team, but this one seems different. After five incredible seasons, they had a huge down year, which handed the franchise a golden ticket of sorts. How they cash in that ticket is up for discussion.

It’s a wide open draft and we’ve run through plenty of prospects that could go No. 2 overall. Golden State could deal this pick for a veteran that fits its player arc, but if they stick around and make the selection, they could be looking for a player that is further along in their development.

USC big man Onyeka Okongwu could fit the bill. He’s a defensive stopper with long-term offensive potential. He’s also a hustle player who knows his role and how to win.

Here is a look at how Okongwu grades out as a prospect and some thoughts on whether he would work for the Warriors when the draft rolls around next month.

Stats

Stats: 16.2 points, 8.6 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 2.7 blocks, 61.5% FG, 25% 3-point FG

Age: 19 Height: 6-foot-9 Weight: 245 Wingspan: Estimated 7-foot+

Okongwu is a big, powerful four/five combo with a huge motor and tremendous potential on the defensive end.

He has a solid 7-foot-2 wingspan, gets off his feet quickly and has a frame that already is far along in development.

 

As a true freshman, he posted 10 games over 20 points, including a breakout 33-point performance against Pepperdine on No. 11. In 28 games, he finished with 11 double-doubles and he posted an incredible 20-point, 13-rebound, 8-block performance against Florida A&M.

Strengths

Okongwu is one of those rare players that can step on the floor and impact his team’s ability to win games from a young age. He did so as an 18-year-old freshman and there is a chance he can do the same at the NBA level.

He has an incredible motor on both ends of the court, but he’ll earn minutes early on the defensive end. Okongwu has quick feet and fluid hips, which allows him to defend at multiple levels.

Per 40 minutes, he averaged 3.5 blocks per game and he should be an elite rim protector at the NBA level. In addition to blocking shots, he’s very good in the pick-and-roll, he’s switchable at the four and the five and he’s shown that he can hold his own as both a team and an individual defender.

On the offensive end, he is slightly limited in his range, but there is still a lot to like. He does his work early in the post and has a variety of spin moved to get to the hoop. Okongwu also has a soft touch around the rim and can score with either hand.

In the pick-and-roll, he’s a big target and a strong finisher. His range is out to about 18-feet, but he has a soft tough from the free throw line and there is potential for him to extend his range past the 3-point line in the future.

Okongwu is a very good offensive rebounder and he does a nice job of attacking the glass and rebounding outside of his zone. As he gets stronger, he has an opportunity to become a double-double machine.

RELATED: 2020 NBA Mock Draft 18.0

Weaknesses

Due to his limited opportunities to space the floor at USC, there are some question marks about Okongwu’s range. He’ll need to work on extending his range to the corner three early in his career to fit the mold of a modern NBA center.

Okongwu got to the line 5.1 times per game, but hit just 72 percent from the stripe. He has a soft touch and should improve, but he also needs to work on playing through contact and getting to the line even more due to his limited range.

As a passer, Okongwu has decent court vision and can make the basic pass, but he has a long ways to go before a team completely runs an offense through him. He finished his lone season at USC with a 1.1-to-2 assist-to-turnover rate, but he wasn’t asked to be a facilitator all that much and the turnover number is low for a player who led his team in scoring.

He can get anxious on the defensive end and leave his feet too often. He also might struggle with personal fouls early in his career.

 

Okongwu is strong, but he’ll need an NBA training staff to take the next leap and defend bigger fives in the league. He’ll also need to show improvement as a rebounder, especially if he is going to stay near the basket early in his career.

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Fit with Warriors

This is a high basketball IQ, high motor player with tremendous upside. He might not be an elite offensive weapon, but that is what Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Andrew Wiggins are for.

Okongwu could slide right into the starting lineup at the five for the Warriors and create a very nice defensive front line with Draymond Green. He would have an opportunity to learn from one of the best defenders as a young player.

On the offensive end, he would be a fourth or fifth option early, but he has an ability to play in the pick-and-roll, run then floor and create secondary opportunities with his offensive rebounding. It’s easy to envision him finding success in a two-man game with either Curry or Thompson.

While James Wiseman might have a higher ceiling than Okongwu, he also has a lower floor. With his motor and defensive instincts, Okongwu should be a rotational player for the next decade, with potential for more.

If Golden State keeps its pick, this might be one of the safer selections they can make. Okongwu is a nice fit with the current roster and he’s not that far away from producing.

Player Comparison

Bam Adebayo, Serge Ibaka (before 3-point shot)