The 3-and-D wingman has become the NBA’s prized role player archetype. Today’s wings, if not stars, must provide net positive value on the defensive end of the court and, at the very least, net neutral value on the offensive side. Those are the requirements to remain in the league longer than the length of one’s rookie contract (if they survive that long). If management can picture trusting a prospect on the floor in the seventh game of the NBA Finals, there’s a chance of sticking. The danger is becoming Andre Roberson–almost completely unplayable on offense and living off of defense, hoping injuries don’t zap that asset. The goal is to not be the wing that has to be subbed in for defense and subbed out for offense down the stretch of games. For Isaac Okoro, the defensive aptitude is as good as advertised. However, the value he provides on the offensive end of the basketball court is so lacking that he lives in that danger zone.
- Adept playmaker off the dribble; attacks close-outs and kicks to the open man
- Capable passer from numerous angles and spots; can create looks for others off the dribble and from the post
- Doesn’t settle for jumpers, gets downhill and forces contact when he senses an advantage to do so
- Adept at finishing through contact
- Elusive off-ball cutter when the offensive action involves him
- Makes high energy defensive plays; tips the ball away from handler in open court, creates transition opportunities for his teammates
- Developed defensive anticipation; rotates over in help in time and takes away the look from the recipient of the pass
- Keeps his hips in front of the ball-handler, difficult for opposition to turn the corner on him
- Recovers to ball-handler quickly when going under screens
- Consistently guarding opposition’s primary offensive option
- Despite being 6’6″ with a 6’8.5″ wingspan, has the frame to credibly defend matchups across multiple positions
- Shies away from jump shots entirely
- Sometimes leaves himself vulnerable to getting stripped off the dribble from the weak-side helper
- Tends to watch off-ball when he’s not directly involve in the offensive action
- Sometimes stands upright in defensive stance
What Excites Me
With the right pieces around him to neutralize his lack of offensive game, Isaac Okoro could be a fine two-way player at the next level. If his defensive prowess translates and even improves, he can become an All-NBA defender on the perimeter. If he can score away from the rim with some consistency, Okoro can viably carve a reputation as one of the game’s best two-way players.
What Concerns Me
Right now, a lot of his value banks on his ability to keep his lower body healthy and maintain his conditioning. Assuming those two factors hold, he’s still a candidate for the sub-in, sub-out end-of-game rotation because of his lack of offensive game. If the health or conditioning do not hold, his defensive aptitude will diminish, and he may not have a place in the NBA.
Let’s start with the offense, shall we? As concerning as his scoring game is for a 6’6″ wing, he’s a dynamic passer who has a feel for his teammates regardless of the context of the play. He is particularly adept at passing out of downhill plays.
Isaac Okoro Is Aggressive In Attacking Close-Outs
Even with his 28.6% conversion rate posing minimal threat to defenses, they still close out a bit wildly from time to time. If they’re not closing out on open looks, defenders are still overplaying him on the perimeter. When one of those two scenarios happens, Okoro reads the angle of attack well, and gets to spots that allow him to draw help and kick to shooters.
There is really no reason for Justin Minaya to be playing up on a non-shooter this much. But, Okoro senses that he can get to the middle of the floor with an aggressive drive to the right. When South Carolina can’t cut him off above the free throw line, it forces a help defender to lose track of his man. Okoro is betting on that decision, and kicks to J’von McCormick for the open triple in the corner.
This is a similar play, but created from a slightly different angle. Off of the catch, Okoro attacks the overplay to the right and forces Tyrese Maxey to slide over to cut off the lane. Okoro reads the decision to a tee, kicking to his shooter on the wing. A reckless close-out invites the four-point opportunity for Auburn.
Isaac Okoro Is A Skilled Passer Away From The Drive, Too
Bruce Pearl showed a proclivity to rotate Okoro down to the low post on offense from time to time. The goal was to utilize his passing game when defenses attempted to trap him against the baseline. The attention that Okoro received would leave shooters open, and the looks would open up for Auburn.
South Carolina is betting that they can swarm Okoro before he has time to complete this pass. But, he is aptitude and efficiency as a passer makes this bet a bad one. He observes the baseline angle from which the help defender is rotating over, and reads that he has Devan Cambridge completely alone in the weak-side corner. As long as the pass is on target, it’s an easy bucket.
Isaac Okoro Changes Games With His Defensive Activity
In the game of basketball, the little things often make all the difference in the world. Isaac Okoro’s motor allows him to be a voracious defender. Often times subtle, he is right in the thick of defensive plays that result in stops for his team and even create transition opportunities for Auburn.
Here, Okoro kicks the speed up a notch and tips the ball away from Jalyn McCreary in transition. As if that effort wasn’t enough, he then springs up to secure the loose ball, turns around in transition, and fires ahead to Samir Doughty to ignite the break. This play does not happen without Okoro’s defensive motor.
What may not appear to be very much ultimately saves a blown assignment for Auburn. Jermaine Couisnard reads Wildens Leveque’s slip-screen perfectly, hitting his diving big with a short lob at the rim. This easy finish dissipates because Okoro rotates over in perfect time, and then defends while maintaining verticality. He then recovers to the corner kick-out and forces the rushed shot. Okoro’s heady help rotation saves this stop for Auburn.
Best Fits For Isaac Okoro
Teams that have already carved out offensive depth and are in need of shoring up their perimeter defense would be sensible candidates for Isaac Okoro. Alternatively, teams with reputations as developers would be ideal matches for the 19-year-old wing.
The Celtics are hoping to get off of Gordon Hayward’s contract and, if they do, will need to fill a hole on their bench. Okoro does not require shots to be effective, so he can fit next to Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Kemba Walker. He also is a sensible fit next to Walker, as the already-negative defender is likely to grow worse as he ages. Further, Walker battled leg injuries this season, so the wear and tear of carrying Charlotte and future playoff runs could show effects sooner rather than later. With Okoro on the floor, the Celtics can scheme a strong help rotation around Walker if he cannot affect offensive matchups. Additionally, the Celtics, under Danny Ainge and Brad Stevens, have become famous for growing raw prospects. Boston has three first round picks, and Okoro would make sense with any one of them.
San Antonio Spurs
Fundamentals, making the extra pass, and defending. It is the R.C. Buford/Gregg Popovich way. The Spurs organization built a 20-plus-year playoff streak on developing young, raw prospects into key contributors on championship teams.
All signs point to Isaac Okoro being off the board well before Toronto picks. But, apparently, I am lower than most on him. So, if he is available at 29, the Raptors have built championship culture on developing athletic wings with late first round picks. Okoro’s tough, high-IQ nature is an excellent fit to bolster an already-deep wing rotation up North.
Stats To Know
- Converted over 50% of his field goals in 18 of 28 games played as a freshman
- Recorded at least 2 steals in 10 of 28 games played
- Failed to eclipse double-digits in scoring 8 times as a freshman
Highest I’d take him: 14th pick
Lowest I think he’ll be available: 22nd pick
Ceiling: Andre Iguodala
Floor: Andre Roberson
You can find the rest of our draft evaluations below!
- Malachi Flynn, guard from San Diego State
- Payton Pritchard, guard from Oregon
- Jahmi’us Ramsey, guard from Texas Tech
- Myles Powell, guard from Seton Hall
- Jalen Smith, forward from Maryland
- Saddiq Bey, wing from Villanova
- Tre Jones, guard from Duke
- Aaron Nesmith, wing from Vanderbilt
- Desmond Bane, guard from TCU
- Kira Lewis, guard from Alabama
- Patrick Williams, wing from Florida State
- Ty-Shon Alexander, guard/wing from Creighton
- Jordan Nwora, wing from Louisville
- Cassius Stanley, guard from Duke
- Elijah Hughes, guard from Syracuse
- Nico Mannion, guard from Arizona
- Isaiah Joe, wing from Arkansas
- Immanuel Quickley, guard from Kentucky
- Anthony Edwards, guard from Georgia
- James Wiseman, center from Memphis
- Obi Toppin, forward from Dayton
- LaMelo Ball, guard from the Illawarra Hawks
- Killian Hayes, guard from France
- Grant Riller, guard from College of Charleston
- Cole Anthony, guard from UNC
- Tyrese Haliburton, guard/forward from Iowa State
- Deni Avdija, forward for Maccabi Tel Aviv
- Killian Tillie, forward from Gonzaga
- Precious Achiuwa, forward from Memphis
- Skylar Mays, guard from LSU
- Saben Lee, guard from Vanderbilt
- CJ Elleby, wing from Washington State
- Malik Fitts, wing from South Florida
- Devon Dotson, guard from Kansas
- Cassius Winston, guard from Michigan State
- Devin Vassell, wing from Florida State
- Onyeka Okongwu, center from USC