Report: Onyeka Okongwu Being 'Heavily' Considered by Hornets in 2020 NBA Draft

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistNovember 3, 2020

Southern California forward Onyeka Okongwu in an NCAA college basketball game against Colorado Saturday, Feb. 1, 2020 in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)
Kyusung Gong/Associated Press

The Charlotte Hornets have the No. 3 overall pick in the 2020 NBA draft, and they might be zeroing in on USC forward Onyeka Okongwu.

The Ringer's Kevin O'Connor reported the Hornets "are likely targeting a big man and are heavily considering Okongwu."

Okongwu averaged 16.2 points, 8.6 rebounds and 2.7 blocks in his lone season with the Trojans. Bleacher Report's Jonathan Wasserman ranked him as the third-best player in his most recent big board:

"Everyone buys his floor as a finisher and rim protector. The debate is about his upside as a 6'9", non-shooting center.

"But I'm too high on Okongwu's footwork for shot-creation and touch inside the arc. He should be more than just a dunker with his ability to shake in the post and soft touch with both hands.

"He'll also anchor the paint defensively while maintaining switchability and recovery speed in pick-and-roll coverage. He's a can't-lose option with the potential to impact games at both ends."

The overarching problem for the Hornets at the moment is they appear to have little in the way of foundational pieces for their rebuild.

Terry Rozier turns 27 in March, and he fits better as a complementary piece rather than a lead guard. First-round draft picks Malik Monk, Miles Bridges and P.J. Washington haven't fully panned out yet. Devonte' Graham had a breakout 2019-20 season and should be a part of the backcourt going forward; however, he's not a Kemba Walker-like talent who can be a franchise cornerstone.

The one benefit for the Hornets is that leaves them with a lot of flexibility in the first round. They can focus on value rather than drafting for need.

Okongwu would suit both aims.

Cody Zeller is entering the final year of his contract, while Willy Hernangomez and Bismack Biyombo are free agents. Assuming Charlotte makes an effort to re-sign Hernangomez, the team would still have a void at center since Zeller is a prime trade candidate on an expiring deal.

Okongwu could come in and be the long-term solution at the 5.


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