The Trail Blazers’ 2019-20 season is firmly in the rearview mirror and 2020 NBA Draft is now on the horizon. As of now, the draft is scheduled for November 18. Unlike last year, the Blazers enter the process with two picks at their disposal. Portland currently owns the No. 16 pick in the first round and the No. 46 pick in the second round.
Today’s profile looks at talented wing defender Isaac Okoro. According to current projections, the 19 year old from Auburn is slotted to be picked in the middle of the lottery.
- Height: 6’6”
- Weight: 225
- Wingspan: 6’8.5”
- Shoots: Right
- Position: G/F
- Age: 19
- Projected draft range: 5-10
- PTS: 12.9 | Per 40: 16.3
- AST: 2.0 | Per 40: 2.6
- REB: 4.4 | Per 40: 5.6
- STL: 0.9 | Per 40: 1.2
- FG%: 51.4
- 3P%: 28.6
- FT%: 67.2
Okoro’s NBA upside is bolstered by his defensive acumen. In on-ball situations, Okoro works to push his opponent out of their comfort zone and into problem areas. Buoyed by his ability to force turnovers and steer offenses into trouble with elite positioning, Okoro looks the part of a defender ready to make the immediate leap to the next level. In team defense settings, the 19-year-old wing is locked in and rarely loses his man during off-ball movements. He rotates effectively and has the versatility to switch on to multiple assignments.
Offensively, Okoro’s best traits are on display inside the arc. With the ball, he moves downhill decisively and plays through contact effectively. Once at the rim, Okoro has shown that he can finish above or below the rim with either hand. When he isn’t looking for his own shot, Okoro fits the profile of a secondary facilitator. He is not a ball stopper and routinely makes the right play once he receives the ball.
A quick glance at Okoro’s shooting splits reveals the obvious deficiency in his game. Due to his less-than-ideal shot mechanics, he posted subpar numbers from beyond the arc. Without the ability to garner attention on the perimeter, Okoro endured stretches of play where he disappeared from the action. At the free throw line, Okoro connected on a pedestrian 67.2 percent of his attempts, a figure that doesn’t generate hope that his shot will blossom once he is in the NBA.
Inside the arc, Okoro’s contact-seeking style lays the foundation for issues against NBA defenders. At the next level, the physical toll of that playing style could have an adverse impact on his night-to-night output.
Okoro’s freshman season got off to a fast start with six consecutive double-digit performances. Fueled by a perfect 15-0 start to the year, the Tigers rocketed up the standings and rankings. Okoro’s best offensive performance came in early January against Vanderbilt. He recorded 23 points in 32 minutes in the Tigers’ 83-79 victory.
At the conclusion of the SEC schedule, Okoro earned a place on the Second Team All-SEC squad, SEC All-Defensive Team and the SEC All-Freshman Team.
Thanks to his defensive skills, Okoro has an undeniable floor at the next level. Once you factor in his NBA-ready frame, it is feasible to slot him in as a player that can cover difficult assignments early in his career. Unlike other defense-first players that have recently entered the league, Okoro’s proficiency off the ball should reduce the criticism that most rookies receive from coaches. Due to his lack of offense, Okoro has the potential to stay on the board longer than expected. At 19 years old, Okoro’s upside and elite-level defensive skills should mitigate the shooting concerns that surround his NBA profile.
Even with Gary Trent Jr. poised to make a full-time impact in the Blazers’ lineup next season, coach Terry Stotts faces serious questions on the defensive end. On the perimeter, Portland too often relies on under-equipped personnel in an effort to slow down opposing stars. Inserting Okoro into the mix would give the Blazers a perimeter player capable of picking up cumbersome defensive duties from day one. There will be a learning curve, but Okoro has the body and experience to undertake those tasks.
Okoro’s prospective fit with the Blazers ends at his defensive ability. Portland has endured years of inefficient shooting next to Damian Lillard. Selecting Okoro would not break from that often-painful history.
Looking at current projections, two things would have to happen for the Auburn standout to land in Portland’s range. First, Okoro would have to slide out of the mid lottery to the late lottery. If that doesn’t occur, the Blazers would have to find a way to move up in order to secure Okoro’s services.
Have a draft-related question? Send your draft mailbag questions to Steve Dewald at BEdgeSteve@gmail dot com.