Isaac Okoro has been one of the most intriguing freshman players this season. His combination of defensive ability, athleticism, and offensive potential has scouts eager to see what he’s going to do each game. Okoro is a 6’6” wing for the Auburn Tigers who is known as one of the best defensive players in the country this season; this combined with what he can be on the offensive end will lead him to a late lottery/mid-first round selection in the 2020 NBA Draft.
Draft Projection: Late Lottery/Mid-First Round
NBA Measurement Comparison: Evan Turner, Troy Brown Jr.
Stats: 13.0 pts, 4.4 rebs, 2.1 asts, 1.0 stls, 0.9 blks, 51.9% FG (21 games)
Okoro’s biggest strength is his defense. He’s an active defender who has the full package of plus length, footwork, and instincts. He’s usually tasked with guarding the opposing team’s best guard or wing and makes it difficult for them on a game by game basis. Okoro has nearly a 6’9” wingspan that gives problems to smaller guards and the ability to contest shots and rebound effectively for his position.
Per Synergy, Okoro only gives up 0.748 PPP which ranks him in the 70th-percentile in college basketball. More specifically, when trapped on isolation island he’s at his best, only giving up 0.36 PPP, making the opposing team’s best offensive player work for whatever shot they’re looking for. He flies around the court, really making his presence felt and that’s what will get him on an NBA floor early in his career.
Offensively, has shown some nice flashes of ability but has plenty of room to grow. He can display his athleticism by using his quick first step to get past defenders on the way to the rim. Naturally, he’s been scoring better when driving with his dominant hand but he’s still nearly as effective with his off hand. It’s at the basket where he does most of his damage with 6.7 two-point field goal attempts per game showing off very nice touch on tough finishes around the basket. He also excels in transition and his combination of speed and explosion athlete make his fastbreaks enjoyable to watch.
Okoro’s main areas of improvement come on the offensive end. Being a 6’6 wing in the NBA requires you to be an offensive threat. While his driving ability may be up to speed, his shooting will need to continue to come along going into the final stretch of the season and into the pre-draft process.
He’s currently shooting 28.3% on 2 attempts per game so it’s clear he knows it’s not his strong suit but he should take those shots when they are given to him. He’s only converting on 0.643 PPP in catch and shoot situations which should be an area of focus for him to have an extensive career as a 3-and-D wing in today’s NBA. A positive from this is that his shooting form has looked improved and more fluid as the season has gone on, and he’s having more games of hitting at least one three-pointer making the defense at least respect him when he’s on the perimeter.
He should also improve his decision-making with the ball at times since he currently has a 1:1 assist-to-turnover ratio. Since he relies more on his driving ability, there will be instances of him being out of control and losing the ball. Gaining confidence in his shot will lead him to make smarter reads on when he should drive or shoot when he catches the ball on the perimeter.
Okoro’s ceiling is truly dependent on how much the team that drafts him decides to invest his development. Improvement with his shooting and on-the-ball abilities could make him one of the most complete players from this draft class in the future. As a prospect, he resembles the situation of Zhaire Smith two years ago. A high-level athlete with strong defensive ability and room for growth on the offensive end. Okoro already has the foundation to be an impact player in the NBA but it’ll be interesting to see how he builds on it to expand his value as a pro.