Onyeka Okongwu

Onyeka Okongwu

So your NBA team is looking for a big man this year. Well, buckle up then...because the pickings are going to be slim compared to recent years. It's no secret that this is going to be a point guard heavy draft. This draft is shaping up to be one in which it wouldn't surprise me if teams prioritized need overvalue. Some GM's might still stick strong with their BPA (best player available) approach, but don't be surprised if others take the initiative to try and fill a need early. 

While many will be quick to say that the overall talent in this year's "Big's" class isn't elite, I still believe there are some serious intriguing prospects that need to be considered. Insert USC big man Onyeka Okongwu, a strong fluid athlete who is a bit undersized at 6'9" for a traditional center but makes up for it with a 7'1" wingspan and serious athleticism. Early on in the year, I was a bit skeptical of the hype surrounding Okongwu. His talent seemed obvious, but was he worthy of a Top 10 selection? I had my doubts.

But that's the most exciting part of the process of scouting. Once you have some questions, you dive right back into the film. After further review, Okongwu has continued to impress me with a variety of areas and it often leaves me wondering if he could be preferred by some NBA Front Offices instead of one time Memphis big man James Wiseman. 


When you take a look at Okongwu's production, his numbers across the board should solidify what you see on tape. Onyeka is a rim running lob threat with an old school traditional post-up game. He's got a nice developing outside shot that should only improve with repetition. All of the pieces are coming together for the USC freshman, but if Okongwu can solidify that outside shot to a respectable level, it's going to spike his improvement as a basketball player. If you take a look below, you'll also see that Okongwu impresses across the board when it comes to Synergy rankings. In fact, Okongwu ranks in the 94th percentile when it comes to Post-Up opportunities. 

Onyeka Okongwu Synergy



Right off the bat here, let's set the tone for the type of athleticism that Okongwu possesses in his game. Although he might be a bit undersized for a center at 6'9", Okongwu plays much bigger than his size. His athleticism and reported 7'1" wingspan makes up for a lot of concerns in a hurry. Nice little pick and pop here from Onyeka who surveys the defense and then it's time for liftoff. 


Like this play a lot from the big man. First of all, get your eyes on Onyeka right away once USC gathers this defensive rebound. He does a great job of getting his head around and making eye contact with the ball handler. Notice also how fluid and quick the big fella gets up the floor. The more you watch Onyeka, the more you come away impressed with his body control and touch around the rim. 


The footwork that Okongwu puts on display throughout his post-up opportunities leaves you extremely intrigued with his potential. There's a number of times that he might try to force things and doesn't give himself extra time for a bigger window, but the positives outweigh the negatives. Nice job here by Onyeka of feeling out the help and using the nice footwork and patience to get a good look. 


As you might have noticed earlier in the Synergy rankings, Okongwu ranked in the 90th percentile when it came to Offensive Rebounds/Putbacks. Okongwu has a knack for the ball, and when he gets a window of space to attack the rim...look out. 


This is an interesting look at Onyeka in a Post-Up opportunity. Watch as the USC wing in the corner cuts through. If Onyeka waits just a bit longer in the future, the defender should go with the wing allowing more spacing to open up. Here though, Okongwu does a great job of using an up-fake to set up the defender. One of Okongwu's strongest selling points is his fantastic touch around the basket and his jump hook is going to be his bread and butter early in his career. 


Again nice feel here by Onyeka to set up the defender with a quick dribble gather and notice the feet here. Once Okongwu feels that he has the Colorado defender out of position he does a great job of utilizing a nice step-through for an easy slam.


Okongwu has a sneaky good face-up game developing as well. The thing he will need to improve on is his mid-range game. If you watched Okongwu throughout the year, you might notice that some teams would play off of him and make Onyeka prove his outside shot, as did Washington and fellow draft prospect Isaiah Stewart when the two faced off during the year. Okongwu has the shooting form to allow his offensive game to blossom especially from a post-up situation. Still notice in this clip the combination of footwork and touch with the left hand. 


Another look at the type of tools that Okongwu has in his arsenal. Nothing fancy here except a simple rip through and an explosive first step that gives Onyeka an and-one opportunity after blowing by the defender.


Something that stood out to me, besides Okongwu's ability to finish around the rim with both hands, was his soft hands when receiving passes. Here we see Onyeka catching a bullet pass from the ball-handler and going up right away with it. Another side note, often with young bigs you'll see them bring the ball low to gather, Onyeka does a great job on tape of keeping the ball high and not wasting any unnecessary movements. 


Another nice look at the potential of Okongwu as a face-up option. The spin dribble is a beautiful go-to move for Okongwu. This is the type of patience that is useful for Okongwu with the USC offense creating movement away from the ball. Notice the help coming from the South Dakota St defender but Okongwu is too quick for his reach.


Wanted to make sure to include a clip here of Okongwu shooting it from outside. You can tell that the confidence still needs to be built up for his outside shot, but the form is promising and you can see that he's capable to stretch the floor. If Onyeka can make defenses respect him from outside, it will only make him that much more effective as a post-up threat. 


Throughout this Film Room, I thought it was important to focus on the offensive side of the ball when it came to looking at the potential Top 10 selection in this year's draft. But I couldn't help myself...let's talk a little bit about the defense as well. Okongwu has some intriguing potential as a shot-blocker thanks to his length, instincts, and his ability to get up in a hurry. Often you'll see explosive big players need time to load up their explosive leaping ability, but Okongwu can get up quickly in even his second or third jumps without much load up. Here we get a look at Okongwu volleyball spiking a lay-up attempt. 


Onyeka Okongwu finds himself in most NBA circles as the 2nd big man to come off of the board in the NBA Draft behind Memphis freshman James Wiseman. Okongwu most likely could have benefited from some private workouts for NBA teams, so it will be interesting to see if Front Offices fall in love with his film instead. There's plenty to like and plenty of potential for Okongwu to become a big-time player at the NBA level if he can continue to see development in his game on both sides of the ball.