In advance of the 2020 NBA Draft, Peachtree Hoops is evaluating prospects with a look at what the Atlanta Hawks might be considering from now until the selection process occurs. Dozens of prospects will be profiled in this space and, in this breakdown, we take a look at Auburn’s Isaac Okoro.
Issac Okoro is one of, if not the most often linked name to the Atlanta Hawks at the No. 6 pick. Okoro, Tyrese Haliburton, Devin Vassell, and of late, Patrick Williams seem to dominate the conversation when it comes to who the Hawks would select in the event they do hold on to the their lottery pick later this evening.
Okoro would likely be the pick for me if he’s available for a few reasons. In this draft, it’s not a secret by now that the narrative is that maybe the top end talent isn’t there. However, in Okoro’s case, I do think he can be elite at what he does in the NBA. He could be an elite defender, and an elite role player offensively, even if the shot never comes all the way around to be being average or above. There’s certainly a possibility that Okoro figures out how to shoot it, but we can project him as a highly effective player without that, and that’s important because the shot does need a lot work.
His physicality, speed and strength however will not be traits that can be learned by his classmates, nor are his basketball instincts. His tendency to be in the right place or make the right play for his team is immeasurable. His effort is always there, and he’s a heady player. That combined with his physical tools is what leaves him near the top of draft boards, despite him not having a flashy offensive game. There is however still plenty to be inspired about with Okoro offensively, which we will dive into here.
A quick look over Okoro’s offensive profile is telling. Despite his overall three-point shooting numbers not being exceptional (28.6 percent on 2.5 attempts per game at Auburn), he actually shot it at a decent clip on spot ups. Looking over the profile, you won’t find a glaring weakness, but overall he does struggle from three-point, and doesn’t have the most fluid form. Aside from that, the 19-year old is pretty close to a complete offensive player.
Okoro’s usage profile alone is an image of his versatility. About half of his usage was tied up in spot-up or transition, but the remaining 52 percent was widely varied, with less than 9 percent usage in any other one area. He has shown flashes of pick-and-roll passing brilliance, and his off-ball nuance and feel turn him into more than a shaky floor-spacer. He’s a great cutter and offensive rebounder, his physicality is a lot to deal with for players at his position. Think of Jimmy Butler and Andre Iguodala, how they are just bigger, faster, stronger than most 6’6 guys, that’s Okoro. He’s a linebacker in a 6’6 frame (projecting a prospect to reach the status of Butler or Iguodala is not the goal here, just comparing traits).
In terms of what he could unlock for offense that features Trae Young, there could be plenty of options. He will be able to guard some 4s, so you would have the ability to get pretty quick offensively with either Clint Capela or John Collins as the 5. He could initiate some pick-and-roll stuff, helping Young move off-ball a little more where he is one of the best catch-and-shoot players in the league. He’s going to cut, screen and offensive rebound opposing wings to death, and generally just make your team harder to play against, no matter where he is on the court.
In terms of finishing, he’s pretty smooth. A high level athlete, he’s able to maintain body control and finish with soft touch as well as physicality. He averaged nearly nine free throws per 100 possessions at Auburn and with his strength, if he’s getting appropriate touches, he should grind his way to the line a few times a night at the next level as well.
Overall offensive overview
- High IQ, makes great decisions/reads when passing/cutting
- Shooting is biggest (only) weakness
- Elite strength/speed combo on the wing, nightmare matchup on the O-glass for guards
- Secondary creation potential
- Solid finishing/foul-drawing ability
Okoro profiles as a lead wing defender, someone who can handle the lead option for the bulk of the game. He should be able to comfortably guard 1-3, and will be able to match up with a good number of 4s in the modern game. Reported 6’8.5 wingspan leaves some optimism he can matchup with 4s, but even if he struggles in rim protection he’ll do enough on the perimeter to be a difference maker.
The freshman didn’t post crazy stock (steal + block) numbers, just 0.9 per game in each category, but his activity level is still off the charts defensively. He’s extremely quick, plays with the same high IQ he possesses offensively within the team scheme.
Okoro was somehow an underwhelming defensive rebounder despite being a monster on the offensive glass, averaging just 2.5 defensive rebounds (1.9 on offense) in over 31 minutes per game. 20 percent of Okoro’s offensive usage was in transition, so Auburn’s uptempo pace led to him leaking out more than some wings. There really shouldn’t be any reason Okoro couldn’t tick up his defensive rebounding a bit at the next level.
Overall defensive overview
- Plus wing defender, positional versatility 1-3
- Can slide over to defend at the point of attack if needed (important for Hawks)
- High IQ team defender
- Lock down in limited isolation sample at Auburn (13 points allowed in 29 possessions)
Fit With Hawks
Overall, the fit with Atlanta is great. He could tap into his creation to help shooters like Young and Kevin Huerter get going off the ball. He could cut when he’s off the ball himself and use his strength and touch to finish. Defensively, he’s another point-of-attack option to keep Young off the ball, and has the versatility to go over to the wing as well. He and Reddish could be a nightmarish wing tandem for opposing offenses to deal with.
If there is a concern with Okoro, it’s the potential spacing concern. The Hawks are already counting on a pair of young wings to improve from three, so if someone prefers a prospect with more shooting equity, like a Vassell or Haliburton (weird release aside), I do understand that. If you’re extremely skeptical of Okoro’s jumper, then you’re probably more comfortable with another prospect.
Okoro has been one of the prime targets for the Hawks since Auburn was still playing, and him ending up there would be received well by the fan base as he is a local product out of McEachern High School.