There's no denying that this year's competition from the PAC 12 conference was anything but amazing. But if you focused on getting away from the poor records, you would notice that there is still a fair share of promising prospects. Insert Stanford Cardinals Forward and athletic wing Kezie "KZ" Okpala. The 6'9 Sophomore has taken a big step forward in his development this year and looks to have some momentum as a mid-first-round pick in June. Okpala won't wow you with his scoring outburst, but is a raw player that does a lot of things at a high level. If you take a look at his production during his tenure at Stanford, you'll see some numbers that tell the obvious...a long wing with scoring ability but still developing an outside shot.
For us to truly show you how KZ might be useful at the next level, it's easier for us to show you some of his film and break it down in depth there. So let's get rocking.
at #7 NORTH CAROLINA 11.12.18
QUICKNESS & LENGTH
Although some might point out Okpala's thin frame, he does a great job of using his height and length to get where he wants. Combine that with a quick first step and some promising footwork...and you might have something brewing. Here we see Okpala going right at Nassir Little of North Carolina. Little is a highly touted recruit out of high school and has a reputation for his defensive ability. It's important to note that Little also has a large strength advantage over Okpala. Great play and finish here by KZ.
Again we get to see the quick first step by KZ here. I like his ability to get somewhere with his dribble and get downhill immediately. Then we get to see the explosiveness of KZ attacking the rim.
The best possible thing for KZ to make an impact early in his potential NBA career is by being a factor on the defensive side of the ball. The potential is there, due to his plus length for his position, and he will need to make it happen until the rest of his body fills out. Here we get a good look at KZ reading the defense and anticipating a play.
VS ARIZONA 1.09.19
Good clip here of seeing the type of athlete that teams would be getting when it comes to Okpala. He's a lot more physical than you think when you watch him play. Don't get fooled by the thin frame.
GETTING TO THE RIM
Real nice play here by KZ to show his ability to get to the rim in traffic. Okpala won't be the quickest player on the court, but he does a great job of using his footwork and his hesitations off the dribble to get where he wants. Great recognition by KZ as well here to go into the defender with the tough finish.
It's important to look at Free Throw form of some of these lower known prospects, especially when they don't have the best percentages from the line. Okpala has shot in the high 60 range for two years at Stanford. His touch looks pretty solid. Simple and smooth, it's something that scouts might say he just need more reps or some fine-tuning in order to get his numbers up.
at CAL 2.3.19
FINISHING IN TRAFFIC
If a prospect is lacking in one area (weight), I try to ask myself if he has any other skills that can make up for it in his development. It's often time when you play a position like Okpala to succeed at the next level when you are thin framed. But a couple of things that can help him? Footwork and Length. He checks both of those boxes. This play checks a lot of boxes off when it comes to KZ's potential. First, we see the explosiveness to attack as well as his ability to read the defender. Then we see a beautiful spin dribble, and KZ ends the play with a tough finish against a bigger defender. The flashes are there, and they are intriguing...
Most will look at KZ as a player that is going to want to attack the rim whenever he can...but that's not entirely true. In fact, Okpala's offensive versatility is coming along nicely. Here we get a good look at Okpala creating off the dribble, specifically his pull-up game. One of the knocks on Okpala is his consistency with his balance and footwork when he has to shoot off of the dribble. It will be something to monitor as he moves forward, but here we get a good look at him under control.
Like I've stated before, Okpala does a great job of using his hesitations and length to beat quicker defenders. His body control is underrated and it's going to be fascinating to see what he can do once his frame begins to fill out. KZ is always a threat to finish strong at the rim and he knows he can't go into the paint soft.
There's always a couple of players in each draft class that slips through the cracks during the draft process. I expect KZ to be one of those players. He's not going to get a lot of national attention, but he can play and I am going to be fascinated by where he ends up. If he could land in the right situation, he will be in the league for a long time. Okpala could be a player that spends his first year getting a lot of developing in the G-League, but it wouldn't surprise me if he turned into a solid role player immediately.