Former USC center Onyeka Okongwu was drafted by the Atlanta Hawks with the No. 6 overall pick in the 2020 NBA draft Wednesday night.
Okongwu stands at 6-foot-9 and was referred to as the “Best big in the draft” by NBA Draft Analyst Mike Schmitz during the draft show. During his tenure at USC, Okongwu averaged 16.2 points on 61.6% shooting from the field and 8.6 rebounds to go with his 2.7 blocks per game.
When asked by Schmitz months ago what he can bring to an NBA team, Okongwu replied, “Defense, honestly. I’m defensive-minded, I love defense over offense … Playing hard is a skillset.”
Over the last few years, the game has changed drastically with bigger players stepping out and shooting 3-point shots. However, these last playoffs showed a traditional big man is still a hot commodity. There were no answers for All-Star players like Bam Adebayo, Anthony Davis and Nikola Jokic because of their physical presence, strength, skill around the rim and defensive impact.
Okongwu has drawn comparisons to the Miami Heat’s Adebayo due to his body type and athleticism. The former Chino Hills High alumnus will have to further develop his game by improving his ball-handling and extending his range if he wants to be in that same class as Adebayo.
Hawks rising star and point guard Trae Young is ready to get to work and form that connection with Okongwu.
Okongwu should fit right in with the young up-and-coming Atlanta roster. With shooters like Young, Cam Reddish and Kevin Huerter, a high-energy, mobile big man is a great addition to help the team fight for playoff contention in the Eastern Conference.
However, Okongwu needs to emphasize that defense-first mindset to establish himself among talented teammates — young power forward John Collins, who has a similar style of play, and veteran center Clint Capela.
Okongwu has the style of play that will complement the roster in Atlanta and the skillset to make an immediate impact on both ends of the court.