The Washington Wizards will have the ninth overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. Here is the latest in our series on draft prospects who could fall around where the Wizards will select...
2019 NBA Draft Wizards Prospect Preview: KZ Okpala
Max vertical: 37 in.
2018/19 stats: 16.8 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 2.0 apg, 1.0 spg, 0.5 bpg, 46.3 FG% (5.9/12.7), 36.8 3PT% (1.1/3.0), 67.1 FT%
Player comparison: Kyle Kuzma, Gerald Green
Projections: NBC Sports Washington 25th, NBADraft.net 23rd, Bleacher Report 27th, Sports Illustrated 29th, Ringer 41st
5 things to know:
*Okpala is a tall, lanky wing who loves to drive from the perimeter to the rim. He made the All-Pac-12 team this past season after improving his scoring average from 10.0 points as a freshman to 16.8 points as a sophomore. He also increased his rebounds per game average from 3.7 to 5.7.
*He is arguably one of the most athletic players in this class. At 6-foot-10 in shoes, he has great size for a wing player and measured at the NBA combine with a 7-2 wingspan. He also has an impressive vertical leap of 37 inches which would be good even for a point guard. He is also fast in the open court. Teams will be enticed with his ceiling on both ends of the floor.
*Okpala scored a lot in college but has a raw offensive game. He isn't fully there as a ball-handler and has an improving, but still inconsistent outside shot. The fact he made a leap from his freshman to sophomore year as a three-point shooter was a very good sign. His 36.8 three-point percentage on three attempts per game is encouraging but does not offer any guarantees that he can stretch the floor at the next level. His 67.1 free throw percentage doesn't help his cause.
*He is just the third player from Stanford to leave for the NBA before his junior season, joining the Lopez twins, Brook and Robin, who were first round picks in 2010.
*Okpala is the son of two Nigerian immigrants. He had a 4.4 GPA in high school.
Fit with Wizards: Okpala would fill a need for the Wizards in that he is a forward and they don't have many of those under contract for next season. He would also give them a young player with high upside, something they currently lack.
But Okpala also seems to offer decent bust potential. Ever since Kevin Durant came into the league, there have been a lot of players like Okpala to come along, ones that are tall enough to play inside but prefer to work on the perimeter.
Sometimes that can work, like with Giannis Antetokounmpo or Brandon Ingram (sort of). But for every success story, there seem to be a lot of guys like Perry Jones and Thon Maker.
Okpala seems very much like boom or bust, and the Wizards may not be able to afford taking a chance like that.
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