Charlotte Hornets Draft: Isaac Okoro is one of the best athletes in the draft

AUBURN, AL - JANUARY 25: Isaac Okoro #23 of the Auburn Tigers drives to the basket during the second half of the game against the Iowa State Cyclones at Auburn Arena on January 25, 2020 in Auburn, Alabama. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)
AUBURN, AL - JANUARY 25: Isaac Okoro #23 of the Auburn Tigers drives to the basket during the second half of the game against the Iowa State Cyclones at Auburn Arena on January 25, 2020 in Auburn, Alabama. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images) /

Picking up an athletic, defensive-minded forward in the NBA Draft didn’t sit well for Charlotte Hornets fans back in 2012. Can this time be different?

The Charlotte Hornets have plenty of time until the NBA Draft takes place in mid-October. Between now and then, the team will weigh out all possible candidates they think can help make the team into a playoff contender once again.

One of those players expected to be taken in the early first round is Isaac Okoro, out of Auburn. The 6’6″, 220-pound forward played very well throughout his freshman year on an Auburn squad that lost just six games all year while playing in the tough SEC.

Had the NCAA Tournament taken place, the Tigers were expected to make some noise in the tournament as many had them possibly being a Final Four caliber team. Okoro was a big reason for that, as the first-year forward played nearly 32 minutes a night while scoring 13 points and nabbing over 4 rebounds under Bruce Pearl.

Few players in the draft are as athletically gifted as Isaac Okoro, but questions about his offensive potential are on the minds of every GM, including the Charlotte Hornets’ Mitch Kupchak.

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As talented as Okoro, is, however, concerns about his shooting ability are at the forefront of his scouting report. Mainly a guy known for finishing at the rim, Okoro’s shot from mid-range all the way to the perimeter needs a lot of work.

He shot less than 29% from deep while attempting almost three shots from distance per game. His 60% from inside the arc is misleading, of course, as most of his damage was dealt within 12 or so feet to the basket.

His mechanics can lead to defenders causing disruption on his shot. He’s not a lost cause on that end, by any stretch, so finding the right coach who can tweak his mechanics and perhaps get him to switch to a quicker release would help him immensely.

What he can do offensively, though, is attack the basket and while he’s not the biggest guy at his position, he’s more than powerful enough to battle through contact at the rim. He’s definitely a slasher and is good off of quick screens.

Should he develop his shot, he’d also be a nice catch-and-shoot option either out of transition or in situations where another guard or forward can draw a double team near the basket. As of now, his iso game needs work, as well, as his dribbling is not the best, and should he get doubled trying to make his own shot, turnovers could pile up.

He’s an adequate passer, but you wouldn’t look for him to run your offense. A point-forward he is not, but he’ll make the good outlet pass or find a guy coming off a screen every now and then. Rebounding wise, he’s good for his size and racked up the second-most boards for the Tigers last season.

Outside of that, offensively, he can do a little bit of everything and plays unselfishly, which you like to see from a forward. He’ll be good at most things, but never truly great at any one facet of the game, at least for now.

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Defensively is where he seems to be the most interesting and with his skill set on offense and potential to be a nice disrupter on defense, he seems akin to Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, the long-time Hornet who was taken with the second-overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft.

MKG was a common piece for the Hornets in his eight years in Charlotte, but he was considered a disappointment by many for his awkward shooting and the inability to change that shot into one that could be more reliable.

As a result, MKG was an outright afterthought in the offense and was relegated to simply being a glue guy, at best. For years, he was the team’s best defender but wasn’t much else outside of that.

Okoro appears to be in that mold already. With a nice 6’9″ wingspan for his size and the ability to guard multiple positions, your only real concern is if he can adapt to the offense of the modern NBA.

The Hornets need more than just a glue guy and while defense is a nice asset, another MKG is a possibility to avoid. If he can be developed properly, his athleticism and high-motor can be boons to any team in the lottery and improved shooting will only increase his stock.

Charlotte does have its fair share of forwards, however, and Okoro may not be suited for the two spot just yet. Given time and the right coaching, he could be exactly what they need at shooting guard. Time will tell if we see the young man in Charlotte Hornets uniform.

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