Onyeka Okongwu on court

Why the Washington Wizards should roll the dice on Onyeka Okongwu

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The Washington Wizards will enter the 2020 NBA Draft armed with the 9th selection. It’s not a glamorous pick, but it’s not like there is a large gap between the Top 5 and the lottery prospects this year.

Obviously, the headline of the Wizards’ offseason will be centered on Bradley Beal. The return of John Wall could entice him to shake off the itch to demand a trade, but it will boil down to how the Wizards front office will build a supporting cast around their two backcourt stars.

More reinforcements in their guard depth will help, but it will be in the frontcourt that the Wizards have to do most of their revamping. Despite the uncertainty surrounding unrestricted free agent Davis Bertans, their forward depth is in good hands with the vast improvement of Rui Hachimura and Troy Brown Jr.

However, it’s in the center position that things become shaky in Washington. Thomas Bryant is a good young player who could fit into the long-term plans of the team. Still, a high-impact center who has the potential to be dominant on both ends of the floor is still lacking for the Wizards.

That’s where Onyeka Okongwu enters the picture. I listed down a couple of reasons why the 6-foot-9 USC product can help the Wizards’ chances of competing for a playoff spot in the East next season.


Packs elite versatility on defense

Okongwu may come in undersized in the center position, but is that really a problem nowadays? He is an explosive athlete who has enough lateral quickness to guard almost every position. When guarding smaller players, his arms stay up and he does a good job of not fouling. Moreover, Okongwu takes pride in protecting the rim. That’s an asset that this Wizards squad direly needs right now.

The 19-year old combo big man just sometimes gets caught on pump fakes when defending in the paint, but I would go on to say that he has the highest defensive upside among all big men in this draft class.

Doesn’t need the ball to be effective

With Beal growing into a fine playmaker and Wall coming back to man the point guard role, the usage rate between these two stars will be staggering. They need a supporting cast to complement Beal and Wall, players who don’t require the ball on their hands to be effective on offense.

While it’s true that Okongwu still lacks finesse in his offensive skill set, the intangibles and the energy that he will bring to the table are exactly what the Wizards ordered. Okongwu sets solid, fundamental screens and battles for the offensive board almost every time. He has shown flashes of putting the ball on the floor, although that is something that may take a couple more years to really develop.

On top of all these, Okongwu already has a good touch from the mid-range. He may have to work on having a quicker release point, he already has a great arc on his jumper. He has that soft touch on his semi-hooks, but his spins off a face-to-the-basket post-move are already getting a bit predictable.


Okongwu will not wow the Wizards with his scoring, but he packs the two-way tools to be a high-impact player on both offense and defense.

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