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Could one of college basketball’s biggest risers be the answer to San Antonio’s flawed defense?
The Spurs found themselves in 12th place in the Western Conference at 27-36 before the Coronavirus pandemic put the regular season on hold. Despite picking up an impressive win over the Dallas Mavericks in their last game, the Silver and Black appeared to be a lottery lock with little hope to make a late run at the postseason.
San Antonio has qualified for the playoffs an NBA-record 22 consecutive years, but sadly their streak is more than likely coming to an end. This summer will be chock-full of important decisions, and who they select in the 2020 Draft will be a vital part of rebuilding the franchise.
Isaac Okoro | Auburn | Freshman | Forward |
Weight: 225 lbs
2020 Stats (28 GP)
Per Game: 12.9 PPG/4.4 RPG/2.0 APG/0.9 SPG/0.9 BPG
Per 36: 14.7 PPG/5.1 RPG/2.3 APG/1.0 SPG/1.1 BPG
Shooting Splits: .514 FG%/.290 3P%/.672 FT%
Much like the last prospect I reviewed, Isaac Okoro is one of the most well-rounded players in the 2020 Draft Class, and his ability to fit a variety of roles makes him invaluable in today’s relatively positionless NBA. Despite some concerns surrounding his inability to shoot the basketball, the freshman oozes talent and has the work ethic to improve.
Isaac Okoro is one of the most intriguing talents in the 2020 Draft Class and I made a short Twitter breakdown on the Auburn forward.
The versatile wing reminds me of Andre Iguodala and this young prospect could be huge for a team in need of a switchable defender. pic.twitter.com/SKJKwM0smK
— Noah Magaro-George (@N_Magaro) March 19, 2020
As far as scoring goes, Okoro runs with purpose in transition, is an elite finisher with either hand, an exceptional cutter, and an adequate post-up threat when given the size advantage. His rebounding is adequate, his ball-handling is above average for a forward, and he has shown flashes that suggest there is still room for him to grow as an initiator.
Okoro can get to his spots off the dribble, though his shaky shot limits his ability to knock down pull-up or step-back jumpers. He usually refrains from stringing together combination dribble moves, but he is more than capable of breaking out crossovers, hesitations, spins, and euro-steps on his way to the bucket.
The six-foot-five wing is at his best when he attacks the rim with a full head of steam, and his strength, athleticism, and quick first step allow him to muscle through contact or draw a foul. While Auburn sparingly used Okoro as a primary option, that shouldn’t give teams a reason to hesitate as he doesn’t project as a high-volume guy at the next level.
One area of intrigue when it comes to Okoro is his proficiency as a pick-and-roll passer, albeit in a rather limited sample size. His basketball IQ shines when provided the opportunity to run the offense, and he rarely forces the issue or operates outside of his designated role. Ultimately, unlocking his offensive ceiling will depend on whether or not he can develop a reliable jump-shot.
Gregg Popovich has long coached with a defense-first approach, which is why it’s been shocking to see San Antonio wallow in mediocrity on that end for the past couple of seasons. Dejounte Murray, Derrick White, Lonnie Walker IV, Jakob Poeltl, and Keldon Johnson, are versatile defenders in their own right, and Okoro would only increase the Spurs point stopping prowess.
He is an intelligent and active team defender who routinely makes the correct rotation or switch in zone defense or off a screen. And his timing, footwork, and solid hands have resulted in nearly a steal and block per game this season. His defensive instincts and sturdy frame should hold up in the NBA, though his so-so length will probably limit his capacity to remain an impactful rim protector.
In regards to isolation defense, the 19-year-old forward possesses the speed and fluidity to keep up with guards and the physicality and base to match up with threes and smaller fours. Quicker guards may be able to blow by Okoro, but his knack for taking intelligent angles and cutting off ball=handlers grants him the necessary time to recover.
Although he is susceptible to occasionally over=helping and over=committing on closeouts, his positional versatility and high motor make him a precious defensive asset. He could reach All-Defense status if an organization can maximize his defensive potential, and for that reason alone, Okoro is well worth the risk for anyone drafting in the lottery.
Player Comparison: Andre Iguodala
Lottery prospects are often compared to stars during the draft process, and almost every season, fans find themselves disappointed when said prospects fail to live up to expectations. Isaac Okoro has been likened to Kawhi Leonard by a few sources, but the high-intensity forward has more in common with Andre Iguodala.
By the way, Auburn SF Isaac Okoro’s top player comparison on KenPom now is… a freshman Kawhi Leonard.
— Justin Ferguson (@JFergusonAU) March 8, 2020
While the potential and physical profile are in place for Okoro to develop into a similar player, living up to the standards Iguodala has set during his 16-year career won’t be easy. The former Arizona Wildcat is an NBA All-Star, two-time All-Defensive Team member, three-time champion, and a Finals MVP Award winner.
In his prime, Iggy was an exceptional slasher, imposing defender, and a surprisingly effective distributor. Should Okoro continue refining his outside jumper upon his arrival in the league, we could witness the rise of yet another do-it-all glue guy that every contender hopes to uncover.
Though Okoro is projected to be selected somewhere in the mid-to-late lottery, his stock could undoubtedly rise or fall by the conclusion of the NBA Draft Combine. He may not be the piece that pushes the Spurs back into contention, but the Auburn product would be a fine addition to San Antonio’s collection of young talent.
Here are some previous players who have been reviewed here at PtR if you wish to catch up during these sport-less times.
Deni Avdija | Maccabi Tel Aviv | Forward
Obi Toppin | Dayton | Forward
Josh Green | Arizona | Wing
Aaron Henry | Michigan State | Wing
Potential 2020 NBA Draft targets for the Spurs: Isaac Okoro
Potential 2020 NBA Draft targets for the Spurs: Isaac Okoro