Sophomore forward Chuma Okeke is recovering from injury but has decided to declare for the 2019 NBA Draft. How does he project into the NBA, and how does he fit with the Philadelphia 76ers?
Chuma Okeke Fun Fact: In an interview with Auburn back in February 2018, Chuma Okeke was asked to name his favorite food. His response? A Philly cheesesteak.
On May 13th, Chuma Okeke signed with an agent with the intent of keeping his name in the NBA Draft. After tearing his ACL during the Sweet 16 against North Carolina, Okeke underwent surgery to repair the torn ligament the following week. He won’t be able to work out for teams during the NBA Combine, but opted to declare early for the NBA Draft.
Chuma’s real name is Chukwuma, which comes from his dad who is from Nigeria. “Chuma,” which translates to “God Knows,” was a 4-star small forward recruit according to Rivals and ESPN. Before committing to the Tigers, he received offers from Clemson, Florida State, and Georgia.
As a freshman, Chuma averaged 7.5 points, 5.8 rebounds, 1.1 assists, and 0.7 blocks in 21.6 minutes per game. He played in all 34 games off the bench and led the team in bench minutes. Chuma was a solid rebounder as a freshman, finishing with four double digit rebounding games. He knocked down multiple 3s in 12 games, including 8 against the SEC. Most importantly, he was an Academic Top Tiger.
Chuma became a household name during his sophomore year at Auburn as a bonafide stat stuffer. In 38 games, Chuma averaged 12 points, 6.8 boards, 1.9 assists, 1.2 blocks, and 1.8 steals per game. During the Sweet Sixteen in a rout of UNC and with 8:08 remaining in the second half, Chuma Okeke tore his ACL on a drive underneath the rim. Prior to the injury, Chuma had one of his best games of his career, already with 20 points, 11 boards, 2 steals, and a block. As a basketball junkie, it was extremely difficult to watch as numerous teammates could be seen in tears.
A devastating injury…
Auburn lost by 1 point to Virginia in the NCAA Final Four. Chuma ended his sophomore season with multiple awards, most notably All-SEC Tournament 1st Team and NCAA Tournament All-Region. Similar to his freshman year, Chuma got the job done on the glass. He ranked 1st in the SEC in offensive rebounds (106) and 11th in the SEC in rebounds per game. Here is PFO’s Ultimate Highlight Reel of Chuma Okeke this past season.
Where can we expect Chuma Okeke to go in the 2019 NBA Draft?
Sporting News 22
The Ringer 23
The Athletic 40
Chuma Okeke’s Strengths
Floor Spacer: Chuma is a solid shooter from the perimeter. Chuma made 89 of 229 three point attempts at Auburn, good for nearly 39 percent (3.7 attempts per game). He’s been a very consistent shooter at Auburn, shooting essentially 39% from three as a freshman and sophomore. Lastly, he finished 8th in the SEC in true shooting percentage (59.7%).
Efficiency: Offensively, Chuma is a versatile scorer. In addition to 3 point shooting, Chuma can score in the low post. He shot 58% on post-ups in the paint. He can score off the dribble, beat defenders off the dribble, attack off face ups, and finish around the rim. He’s also a very efficient offensive player. Chuma was 6th in the SEC in player efficiency (24.5) and offensive rating (121.2). He was 8th in the SEC in offensive win shares (3.3) and 5th in offensive box plus/minus (6.7).
IQ & Passing: Chuma’s efficiency rating doesn’t solely reside with his shooting and rebounding. He’s shown that he can be a very capable passer at Auburn. Chuma Okeke averaged 1.9 assists per game and a very solid 12.5 assist percentage. Okeke showed on numerous occasions that he is strong at keeping the ball moving within the Auburn offense.
Defense: If you’re a fan of Robert Covington, then this might be your guy to keep an eye on. Chuma is excellent at interrupting passing lanes and challenging shots at the rim. He finished 2nd in the SEC in steals (69, nice) and steal percentage (3.6%). He was 13th in the SEC in blocks (46) and 10th in block percentage (5.5%). Chuma finished 4th in the SEC in defensive rating (95.2) and 2nd in defensive box plus/minus (6.7). Along with his great wingspan and basketball IQ, Chuma Okeke is one of the more interesting 3 & D prospects in the draft.
Chuma Okeke’s Weaknesses
Not a Bucket Getter: Chuma is efficient on offense, but he’s not a guy you can count on to create on offense. Scoring off the dribble should be one of the main areas Chuma looks to improve upon when he returns from injury.
Lack of Position: Standing at 6’8″, what position will he play in the NBA? He’s a bit undersized as a 4 but not necessarily quick enough to defend SFs.
Injury & Age: Chuma’s injury in the Sweet Sixteen was devastating on many levels. Whether or not his explosiveness returns after a torn ACL is the main reason why his stock is currently a late first or early second round pick. He’s also not a high ceiling pick as he will turn 21 in August. The earliest he is expected to return is January 2020.
As it was reported by Jonathan Givony that Okeke would hire an agent, there is a chance that Chuma has been given a promise by a team in the first round. Even though he’s hired an agent, the new NCAA rules would allow Okeke to return to school if he chooses to do so. That deadline for that decision is May 29th.
Despite the injury concerns, there is a lot to like about Chuma Okeke. In my opinion, finding the next great 3 & D wing is one of the more difficult positions to find in the NBA. You can find guards that can shoot or bigs that can run. But wings that can defend multiple positions and space the floor is the future of the NBA.
Chuma is currently projected as a late first or early second round pick. With the 24th, 33rd, and 34th pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, it appears that Chuma is a player that could be on the Sixers’ radar. Okeke is an athletic combo forward that puts it all on the court. He’s an unselfish player that should thrive in any offense where the ball is constantly flowing.
How does Chuma Okeke fit with the Philadelphia 76ers?
Very strong. Chuma Okeke seems like a very real possibility with the 33rd or 34th pick in the second round. As a franchise, the Sixers have not been afraid to shelf their draft picks for a season of learning and growth (Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, Nerlens Noel, Markelle Fultz, Zhaire Smith, etc). Obviously the Sixers are currently in a very different place than they were in the past.
The Sixers have some current unknowns at the wing position. Tobias Harris and Mike Scott are unrestricted free agents. James Ennis has a player option in 2019. Jonathon Simmons has just a $1 million guarantee. The need is there. Are the Sixers willing to select a player that will most likely not play during the 2019/20 season?
For me, it’s a no-brainer. Chuma is very good in an offense that features lots of off-ball motion, something the Sixers are obviously known for. He’s a good-to-great shooter, which makes him a solid fit next to Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. As we stand right now, Chuma Okeke is a very good prospect that should be on every Sixers fans radar.
How do you feel about Chuma Okeke on the Sixers? Let us know by leaving a comment below or reaching out on Twitter!