Charlotte Hornets Early NBA Draft: Onyeka Okongwu is a defensive option

USC Trojans Onyeka Okongwu. (Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
USC Trojans Onyeka Okongwu. (Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /

As the Charlotte Hornets continue to struggle with their paint defense, there may be an effective rim protector available for them in this year’s draft.

While the Charlotte Hornets continue to struggle as of late, the team could be looking at potentially having a top-5 pick in this year’s draft. It’s been a while since the Hornets had a high lottery pick, but luckily for them, there is a lot of lottery talent in the 2020 draft class.

The center position seems to be a definite need heading into the offseason this year. The team has struggled in the frontcourt, as they have allowed 51.6 points per game in the paint; this ranks them as the 26th team in the league.

The Charlotte Hornets have also failed to be a team that can rebound consistently this season. Through 45 games, the Hornets have averaged 31.7 defensive rebounds per game, ranking them 30th in the league.

Luckily for the Hornets, Onyeka Okongwu should be available by the time the Hornets draft this year. This freshman has impressed many at USC, and he has established himself as a respected lottery pick.

About Onyeka Okongwu

Height: 6’9”

Weight: 245 pounds

Wingspan: N/A

2019-20 stats: (17 games): 16.9  points, 8.7 rebounds, 3.0 blocks, 62% FG, 28.8 minutes


  • Makes up for his height with his strength and athletism
  • Could potentially grow more in size
  • Has a good shooting form that can translate well into the NBA
  • Excellent shot-blocker and defender
  • Great at running the floor
  • Finishes well at the rim


  • Not known to be a perimeter shooter
  • Free throw shooting could use work
  • Needs to improve ball-handling.

At first, I did not know a bunch about Okongwu, but he’s quickly established himself as a top center in this year’s draft. As a freshman, he’s proved to scouts that he can score and consistently play defense in the paint.

As of now, Okongwu is expected to grow a couple more inches, making him an ideal professional center with his size. While he is currently only one inch taller than Bismack Biyombo, Okongwu has proved that he can be strong in the paint,

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Okongwu is an intense player that plays with a lot of effort on both sides of the court. This kind of intensity and effort is exactly what the Charlotte Hornets have lacked on defense this season.

In his first college game this season, Okongwu finished with eight blocks against Florida A&M. With this play, Okongwu proved early this college season how much of a defensive anchor he is.

While he does not possess much of an outside game, he makes up for it with his offensive game in the paint. Both of the Hornets’ centers currently do not get most of their points on their own, as they are usually assisted on with the pick-and-roll game.

The Hornets have rarely used Willy Hernangomez this season, and Biyombo is playing in the final year of his contract. For Charlotte, drafting a center seems like the best option moving forward.

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As the season progresses, I expect Okongwu to continue to rise in the rankings for this year’s draft. He has a lot of potential, and he should be a serious prospect on Charlotte’s draft board.