NBA Draft 2020: Predictions for Isaac Okoro, Top Defensive Prospects

Maurice Bobb@@ReeseReportFeatured ColumnistNovember 4, 2020

NBA Draft 2020: Predictions for Isaac Okoro, Top Defensive Prospects

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    Michael Woods/Associated Press

    Building rosters in the NBA is like a game of chess.

    Teams use the draft to try and find players who know how to score the ball and they also try to find players that know how to stop players from scoring the ball.

    Talent overrules all, but those are the basic tenets of what front offices are looking for.

    In this class, there are a number of prospects that can fill up the stat sheet. Players like Anthony Edwards, Obi Toppin and even LaMelo Ball are future offensive stars in the league.

    There aren't any generational players available this year like Zion Williamson, but on the defensive side of the ball, there is some serious talent.

    Here, we'll take a look at the best defensive prospects at each position.

Isaac Okoro (Auburn, G/F, Freshman)

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    Thomas Graning/Associated Press

    With the way the three-point shot has revolutionized the NBA, everything happens on the perimeter.

    Most of the leagues best players are guards, pulling up from three and taking it to the rack with impunity off the pick-and-roll.

    That's why top perimeter defenders are coveted by most teams.

    Enter Auburn's Isaac Okoro.

    With a premier combination of size, speed, athleticism and grit, Okoro is the kind of defender that can defend multiple positions on the floor.

    No one can truly stop a LeBron James, James Harden or Kawhi Leonard, but a player like Okoro has the ability to neutralize them as much as any player can.

    "Obviously, Isaac is a guy who affects winning immediately because of his ability to defend and his maturity, both mentally and physically," Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl told Mark Murphy of 247 Sports. "Isaac can cover one (point guard) through five (center).

    "Isaac is just made for the way the game is being played right now. He has put himself in great position."

    Okoro needs to work on his outside shot, but he has all of the other intangibles that makes a coach keep him on the floor, especially in close games.

    The former SEC All-Defensive Team selection is currently projected to go in the lottery, which is true testament to how teams are valuing his defensive ability.

Devin Vassell (Florida State, G/F, Sophomore)

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    Gerry Broome/Associated Press

    Devn Vassell may be the best 3-and-D player in this draft.

    Not only can he defend multiple positions with his 7-foot wingspan, he can knock down jumpers when he's open.

    Last season as a sophomore at Florida State, the 6-foot-7 wing shot an impressive 41.5 percent from behind the arc and averaged 12.7 points per game.

    That's a remarkable improvement from when he first arrived in Tallahassee. 

    At Peachtree Ridge High School, Vassell only shot 21 percent from deep, but once he joined the Seminoles, he was a gym rat, worked on his shot and nearly doubled his accuracy.

    "What does that tell you about Devin Vassell?" Florida State assistant coach Charlton Young told SNY's Ian Begley.  "You judge people on consistent behavior -- not on what they say but what they do.” Young says. “What that action tells you about Devin Vassell is that anything y'all tell him he can't do right now, eventually he’s going to work on it and he’s going to be doing it."

    Some teams were thrown off by a video circulating of Vassell that reportedly showed that he'd changed his shooting form, but Young shot those rumors down.

    "He has not changed his shot at all,' Young said. "Because he’s shooting from so far back, he’s sling-shotting it from over his head. Because it’s way deep. It was a (mess around) half-court shot. He always had kind of a high release but he hasn’t changed his shot. He doesn’t bring it back that far. He has not changed his shot at all."

    Outside of his shot, Vassell is very athletic, has a great first step and has above-average ballhandling ability.

    He'll be able to help a team right away, which is why most mock boards have him in the Top 15.

Onyeka Okongwu (USC, PF, Freshman)

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    When a player averages almost three blocks (2.7) per game in college as a freshman, people take notice.

    But Onyeka Okongwu isn't just a ball hawk under the basket.

    He can switch, get up on and stay with smaller players on the perimeter and that's the kind of skill teams look for in a big man.

    Another one of Okongwu's strengths is his ability to play help team defense. He closes gaps and stops players that have gotten by his teammates.

    He's physical, strong and has a innate knock for positioning.

    He's a bit undersized at 6-foot-9 and 235 pounds, but his 7-foot-5 wingspan levels the playing field and none of his shortcomings should get in the way of him excelling on the defensive end in the pros.

    On the offensive side of the ball, Okongwu sets great screens, has great feet, is a great rim-runner and is a better passer than he's given credit for.

    In his lone season at USC, Okongwu averaged 16.2 points and 8.6 rebounds to go along with his blocks and gained a fan in head coach Andy Enfield.

    "It's not just because he's a great player," Enfield told Shotgun Spratling of 247 Sports. "It has just as much to do because of his work ethic, his personality, the way he approaches the game and the way he approaches his teammates. All the NBA scouts have seen that throughout the season at our practices, at our games."

    Okongwu is projected to go in the Top 10, with teams like the Washington Wizards and Boston Celtics interested.

James Wiseman (Memphis, C, Freshman)

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    Karen Pulfer Focht/Associated Press

    It wasn't too long ago that James Wiseman was the consensus No. 1 overall pick in this year's draft.

    But then he had an abysmal season at Memphis that was marred by controversy.

    None of that will prevent him from going in the lottery, but it definitely affected his chances at coming off the board first.

    Still, he's one of the most intriguing prospects in this class and has the chance to put it all together and be a multiple All Star.

    And that's just based on his offensive skills: versatile, strong ability to finish at the basket and rim-running.

    Then there's his defensive acumen.

    He only played in three games for the Tigers, but averaged 3.0 blocks per game to go along with 19.7 points and 10.7 rebounds per contest.

    He's very athletic, agile and has excellent hands.

    His blocks numbers are obvious, but he also has a penchant for changing shots, protecting the rim and helping out on the weak side.

    One often overlooked part of defense is his ability to snag defensive rebounds and start the fast break with a great outlet pass.

    That's another area where Wiseman excels.

    "I think Wiseman is the guy that can be the No. 1 player from this class if all goes well for him," one scout told Kyle Boone of CBS Sports. "There's one player right now that I see as a true, solidified NBA talent that can be a legitimate top guy and starter in the league, and it's him."

    Wiseman still has an opportunity to go No. 1, but if he doesn't he won't fall out of the Top 5.

Saddiq Bey (Villanova, SF/PF, Sophomore)

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    Saddiq Bey is another strong 3-and-D player in this draft class.

    He can really stroke it from deep, connecting on a whopping 45.1 percent of his three-point shots.

    With averages of 16.1 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game, Bey is a very versatile player that has numerous pluses in his scouting report.

    He can shoot, he can run the pick-and-roll and take it to the basket.

    More than that, though, he can really defend.

    At 6-foot-8, 218 pounds, he has the size, quickness and length to defend multiple positions, especially on the perimter.

    He's intense and tough, too, which are intangibles he'll need facing volume scoring guards like Russell Westbrook or Damian Lillard.

    "Bey’s stock has been on the rise because, in a draft with so many question marks, he is remarkably consistent," one scout told Connor Letourneau of the San Francisco Chronicle. "I don’t think he’ll ever be an All-Star, but he should be a good NBA player for more than a decade. That’s great value late in the lottery."

    Bey is projected to go very late in the lottery, but there are numerous teams that could use his skillset.


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