Before the 2019 NBA Draft arrives, Peachtree Hoops will break down more than 70 available prospects with an eye toward what the Atlanta Hawks may look to do in late June.
This edition breaks down Yale forward Miye Oni.
The Ivy League isn’t usually a breeding ground for NBA players. At the moment, only former Atlanta Hawks point guard Jeremy Lin represents the Ivy as an active player and, while there are a few notable exceptions (Bill Bradley, Geoff Petrie, etc.), it isn’t as if the Ivy League is remembered for producing standouts in the professional ranks. In fact, no player from the Ivy League has been drafted since 1995 (Jerome Allen by the Timberwolves) and, well, that is a long time ago. In 2019, however, Yale forward Miye Oni will try to break the cycle and, in my view, he is easily one of the best 60 prospects available.
At 6’6 with a 6’11 wingspan, Oni has the physical tools that every NBA team would want in a modern wing. He isn’t an off-the-charts athlete but Oni can certainly hold his own physically and, combined with additional strength that should arrive as professional training occurs, Oni’s complete package of traits is highly intriguing.
From a production standpoint, Oni averaged 17.1 points and 6.3 rebounds per game on the way to Ivy League Player of the Year honors and that’s just the beginning. He converted 37.1 percent of his three-point attempts (on 5.2 shots per game) and, as a passer, Oni exhibited encouraging flashes, with a 20.9 assist rate in an off-ball role.
Shooting, as often with players of Oni’s size, could be a swing skill but, in this case, there is plenty of reason to believe that it can and will be a strength. Oni’s shooting stroke is projectable and, considering the reasonable consistency in which he converted long-range attempts as a junior, the push to the NBA three-point line seems plausible.
Elsewhere on offense, Oni is something of a jack-of-all-trades, with versatility to score with the ball in his hands and also create for others. His passing acumen will be useful, albeit in a secondary role, in the NBA and Oni is adept at filling in gaps using his impressive basketball acumen.
On the defensive end, there is a ton of potential with Oni, using his length, athleticism and awareness to form an impressive projection. As noted above, additional strength would help to unlock some of his considerable defensive upside, but Oni also must become more consistent. On the right evening, Oni looks the part as a two-way monster. On the wrong evening, he can appear disinterested and passive defensively, even with the caveat that he was (very) rarely an overall weakness on that end of the floor.
In the NBA, Oni projects to be able to defend multiple positions and do so effectively. It isn’t overly likely that he is a game-changing defender (despite solid block and steal rates in college) but, in concert with his offensive skill set, Oni has a path to hold up as a two-way player and theory would entice anyone about his draft projection.
In looking ahead to late June, Oni is widely projected as a second-round selection and that makes sense on many levels. First, there is natural skepticism about the level of competition (skepticism that increased after a shaky showing in the NCAA Tournament) and Oni was completely off the radar as a high school prospect before making his mark in the Ivy League. Beyond that, Oni will turn 22 years old in August and, while that isn’t ancient, it isn’t a plus that he will enter the NBA as an older prospect.
That combination leads to most projecting the former Yale standout as a choice in the 40’s or 50’s and that seems to be the right placement for Oni. With that said, a more optimistic evaluation for Oni could place him in the range for the Hawks in the early-to-mid 40’s. Considering all of the versatility he could project, Atlanta would be wise to give him serious attention in the coming days, and that could begin in mid-May at the NBA Draft Combine, where Oni is one of 66 invitees.