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2020 NBA Draft: Onyeka Okongwu fits the Wizards' post needs

2020 NBA Draft: Onyeka Okongwu fits the Wizards' post needs

The Washington Wizards are likely to have a lottery pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. Here is the latest in our series on draft prospects who could fall around where the Wizards will select...

2020 NBA Draft Wizards Prospect Preview: Onyeka Okongwu

Team: USC
Position: Forward
Age: 19
Height: 6-9
Weight: 245
Wingspan: 7-1

2019/20 stats: 27 G, 30.6 mpg, 16.2 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 1.1 apg, 1.2 spg, 2.7 bpg, 61.6 FG% (6.3/10.1), 25.0 3PT% (0.0/0.1), 72.0 FT%

Player comparison: Tristan Thompson, Bam Adebayo

Projections: NBC Sports Washington 9th, Sports Illustrated 8th, Ringer 5th, NBADraft.net 8th, Bleacher Report 7th

5 things to know:

*There is a consensus by a majority of the mock drafts that Okongwu is the second big man to go off of the board in this year's draft. Even at 6-foot-9, he's unstoppable in the post and an imposing force. He does everything that a team would ask of a traditional big man. Okongwu is not afraid to challenge any opponent that stands in his way and will work harder than his opposition. 

*His range of coverage and shot-blocking ability are the most enticing parts of Okongwu's game. Despite his physique, he has the versatility to guard all positions on the court and a knack for reading shots. A stellar on-ball defender, he still cleans up the boards nicely and can completely take over a game on the defensive end. 

*Okongwu went to Chino Hills High School, the same one as the three Ball brothers. He played with all three while in school. With that much personality, Okongwu was shuffled back in the spotlight and was ultimately ranked only 20th in his recruiting class. In 2016, he and LaMelo Ball shared the MaxPreps National Freshman of the Year honor.

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*His debut with the Trojans took the fanbase by storm. While against lowly Florida A&M, he completely took over with game-highs in points (20), rebounds (13) and blocks (8) all in 25 minutes. He became the first USC player to record a double-double in his first game since Taj Gibson, who also had a nice NBA career. 

*Okongwu has worn No. 21 as his jersey number since 2014. He wears that in honor of his older brother, Nnamdi, who died from a skateboarding accident that same year. 

Fit with Wizards: 

There is no denying that the Wizards are devoid of a post presence of shot-blocking and rebounding. It's been a noted need since the departure of Marcin Gortat. 

Okongwu would fit that gap in the Wizards roster, almost instantly. He's a rim protector and a great rebounder. If the Wizards are addressing that spot in the draft, Okongwu is more likely to be available where the team is picking than fellow big man James Wiseman. Washington would need some help from the ping-pong balls to get Wiseman. He's not falling to the ninth pick.

Some evaluators, though, feel that Okongwu is a better long-term prospect than the potential No. 1 pick. Comparisons have him to 2017 draftee Bam Adebayo, who became an All-Star after three seasons. Okongwu hasn't shown range, but his fundamentals and soft-touch show that he could develop it.

His defensive prowess and rebounding skill will be why the Wizards draft him, but he can more than hold his own offensively. Okongwu has all the bells and whistles in terms of post moves to be able to create his own shot, which means he could be inserted into a lineup immediately. 

If past history is any indicator of how the Wizards will pick, Okongwu is another guy that fits what Tommy Sheppard values. The USC center has the fundamentals, motor and does all the little things on the court. 

In NBC Sports Washington's mock he does fall to the Wizards at No. 9, but other mocks don't have Washington as lucky. 

Best highlight video:

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Lakers' LeBron James says 'The Great Wall of John coming soon' after watching Wall's workout video

Lakers' LeBron James says 'The Great Wall of John coming soon' after watching Wall's workout video

John Wall threw a bomb into the NBA universe when he posted this snippet of his workout on social media and looked like an absolute monster. 

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Just Wait On It...🤫👌🏾‼️

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Many players around the league hopped into Wall's comments section to send the 5x All-Star some love and one of them happened to be the King, LeBron James.

"Yessir!!! The Great Wall of John coming soon!!" James said. 

Wall and James have been good friends since Wall entered the league in 2010 — the two have exchanged advice over the years, trained together in the offseason, and participated in heated head-to-head battles as well. 

"LeBron's a great leader," Wall said back in 2014. "Patience — that's something he has preached to me since his rookie year."

A few more high-profile athletes showed Wall some love on Instagram Sunday night — Former Wizards' star Gilbert Arenas, former Wizard Isaiah Thomas, and Washington Football Team QB Dwayne Haskins. 

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Bradley Beal knows how much returning to NBA games will mean to John Wall

Bradley Beal knows how much returning to NBA games will mean to John Wall

The NBA currently has plans to open its 2020-21 regular season in December. If that holds true, John Wall will take the floor for the first time in nearly two full years.

He had surgery to repair a ruptured Achilles in February 2019, but had been out since the previous December due to bone spurs. Two years is a long time to sit out, especially when it coincides with what should be a player's prime.

Bradley Beal, meanwhile, has continued to lead the Wizards in Wall's absence. And now that his 2019-20 season has been shut down, he too is looking towards next year and he can't wait to reunite with his partner in the backcourt.

"Oh man, I'm beyond excited. I'm not going to lie," Beal said Sundy afternoon on NBC Sports Washington.

But beyond his own anticipation, Beal has grown close enough to Wall over the years to understand how much returning to the court will mean to him. Wall has not only been out of the game for a while, much has changed during that time. He has spoken sentimentally about what his first game will mean to him.

It will be the first game since his mother's death due to cancer. And it will be the first time he will play in front of his son.

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Wall has lived a tumultous life. Beal knows full well what the game of basketball has meant to him throughout all of it.

"I'm more happy for him than anything because he gets to get back on the floor. He hasn't been on the floor in a long time," Beal said. "For him to be able to get his place of peace, his muse back and his love and joy back, I think that will be great. I'm definitely looking forward to just us together."

When Wall does play again, there will be plenty of focus on how he looks when he returns after so much time off and after a very serious injury. There have been encouraging reports and video footage of him playing in practice situations, but the true test will be in an NBA game situation.

RELATED: WALL LOOKS AS GOOD AS EVER IN LATEST WORKOUT VIDEO

In that time, Beal's game has transformed significantly. He has blossomed into a two-time All-Star who now counts an expanded repertoire of play-making skills. He was forced to add elements to his game with Wall out of the mix.

Though they have played seven NBA seasons together, there is some intrigue and mystery about how they will look when they reunite. Both should be different players and people than they were when they last shared the court.

The Wizards' roster has also been overhauled around them. They have young players on the rise like Rui Hachimura, Troy Brown Jr. and Thomas Bryant.

"With where I've taken my game to him being a five-time All-Star, we can really grow our team and our young stars that we have in the making," Beal said. "I'm excited and I know the fans are too. It can't come any faster."

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