Chuma Okeke was having arguably the best game of his career against the UNC Tar Heels in the NCAA Tournament before it was cut short by a torn ACL. That injury has put Okeke’s draft stock into flux. He’s being mocked everywhere from late first round to the middle of the second round. Where he goes will ultimately be determined by teams’ concerns about his recovery from injury. When healthy, there’s no question Okeke is a very talented player.
Weight: 230 pounds
Strengths: Physical tools, outside shooting ability, defensive potential
Okeke has decent height and reach for a power forward, and that’s complemented by his tremendous athleticism. He finishes above the rim with ease and is very adept at attacking the basket in a straight line.
He converted 39% of his 229 3-point attempts across two seasons at Auburn. He has a quick, smooth stroke and is always ready to fire off the catch. He should have no problem expanding his range to the NBA line rather quickly. His outside shooting ability opens up his dribble drive game; he can attack close outs and finish above the rim.
Okeke averaged 2.2 steals and 1.5 blocks per 36 minutes. He hounds ball handlers on the perimeter and gets into passing lanes. He’s a versatile defender that can protect the rim as a help side defender and should be able to guard most players on the perimeter when he’s locked in.
Question marks: Recovery from injury, shot creation, rebounding, defensive discipline
The biggest red flag attached to Okeke right now is his injury. He tore his ACL in late March, so he won’t be available for any workouts, summer league, or offseason work. There’s a chance he won’t be able to play at all next season. Torn ACLs for players his age usually don’t pose long term problems, but teams might hesitate to invest draft capital in a player that won’t provide any return for an extended period of time.
Offensively, Okeke will probably be limited to a spot up shooter and straight line driver in the NBA. He doesn’t have an advanced repertoire of moves to create looks for himself. He doesn’t change directions with the ball and his post game is very rudimentary. His lack of dynamism with the ball can be seen in his poor free throw rate- he attempted fewer than three free throws per 36 minutes.
Okeke averaged just 6.8 rebounds per game last season, and his 13.7% rebound rate is a little on the low end for a power forward. Perhaps more concerning, his rebounding issues are more on the defensive side, which could indicate a lack of fundamentals and physicality.
He needs to iron out some issues with discipline on the defensive end. He tends to reach when guarding on the perimeter, which is going to get him into trouble against NBA ball handlers. He also tends to leave his off ball assignment to hunt for steals, too often compromising his team’s defense. It should be an easy fix, but it’s something that needs to be addressed.
Chuma Okeke would be a pick for the future of the Charlotte Hornets. He likely wouldn’t see the court until around the time of the All Star Break, and that might be hard to stomach for a team that needs to improve right away. But once he’s recovered, Okeke could fit in seamlessly as a Marvin Williams-like 3-and-D power forward.