NBA

Perfect Fits for NBA Draft Prospects: Part 2

LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 01: USC Trojans forward Onyeka Okongwu (21) looks on during a college basketball game between the Colorado Buffaloes and the USC Trojans on February 1, 2020 at Galen Center in Los Angeles, CA.
Brian Rothmuller/Getty Images)

Every prospect in the draft has a team that would most effectively utilize their skill set and maximize their potential. Whether that player ends up in such a situation is up to draft position and team needs. Here are perfect fits for 4 NBA Draft Prospects.

For part one, click the link here.

All stats courtesy of sports-reference.com/cbb/

Devin Vassell, SG, Florida State to the New Orleans Pelicans

TALLAHASSEE, FL - JANUARY 15: Devin Vassell (24) guard Florida State University (FSU) Seminoles signals his score to the bench during the game against the University of Virginia Cavaliers, Wednesday, January 15, 2020, in the Donald Tucker Civic Center in Tallahassee, Florida.
David Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Pelicans are on the brink of being one of the NBA’s most talented teams, built around former Duke phenom Zion Williamson. The last piece to their puzzle is Vassell. A shooting guard originally from Suwanee, GA, Vassell is considered by many to be the best on-ball defender in the draft. At 6’7, Vassell possesses a 6’10 wingspan that proves very disruptive when combined with his defensive IQ and elite athleticism.

He reads plays with astonishing speed, allowing him to be in position to make a play on the ball almost every possession. Vassell also has proven he can shoot the three ball, shooting 41.5% from behind the arc this past year. While the sample size is only 3.5 attempts per game, he has proven he can make them on high volume. His most notable shooting performances were versus Virginia Tech, where he shot 7-7 and against Chattanooga where he went 3-5.

Adding a player like Vassell to the Pelicans’ current roster would do them wonders. The Pelicans have a Vassell-like player in former Villanova standout Josh Hart. However, Hart is best served as a rotational player off the bench. Vassell’s skill set projects to be one of a starting-caliber player in the NBA. The Pelicans also will inevitably see a decline in guard Jrue Holiday, who is currently the Pelican’s best on-ball defender. 

Should the Pelicans select Vassell, he would still be three or four years away from taking over for Holiday in the starting 5. Giving Vassell time to learn behind an elite defender like Holiday would be invaluable. With Vassell’s length, the Pelicans may be able to play him at small forward to maintain a backcourt of Lonzo Ball and Hart. Vassell’s shooting, defensive IQ and versatility would be a perfect fit for the Pelicans in their hunt to compete amongst the elite teams in the West. 

Kira Lewis, PG, Alabama, to the Miami Heat

HOMEWOOD, AL - DECEMBER 18: Alabama Crimson Tide guard Kira Lewis Jr. (2) during the Chick-fil-A Birmingham Classic between the Samford Bulldogs and the Alabama Crimson Tide on December 18, 2019 at Legacy Arena in Birmingham, Alabama
Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Heat have quietly built a talented team in South Beach and appear ready to take the league by storm. Emerging stars Duncan Robinson, Bam Adebayo, and Kendrick Nunn have broken out as fantastic, complementary pieces alongside Jimmy Butler. When identifying a weakness in the roster, the point guard spot would be at the top of the list. Currently, Goran Dragic is the team’s only true point guard, and he has only started one game this season. More often than not, the ball-handling responsibilities are left to Nunn or Butler. Adding a player like Lewis to the Heat’s current roster could add a whole new dimension to their team.

Lewis has drawn comparisons to former Kentucky guard De’Aaron Fox and it’s not difficult to see why. Lewis plays with aggression and speed when attacking the rim. His 36% shooting percentage from 3 appears concerning until Lewis’s game film is reviewed. The Alabama players that Lewis played with didn’t allow for the proper spacing a player like Lewis needs. Teams stuck to him tightly in the pick and roll and when he attacked the rim. Second, just based on watching his shot, he has the right framework to be a productive shooter. His release is quick, with a fluid motion from gather to release. Lewis would significantly benefit from having elite shooters like Robinson, Nunn, and Tyler Herro surrounding him on the floor.

He will need to add some muscle mass to compete on the defensive end at the next level. At 6’3 165 pounds, Lewis’s defensive potential is low. However, the Heat can have an abundance of elite defensive players surrounding him on the floor at any time who can compensate defensively until he puts on more strength. The Heat’s first rounder will likely fall in the mid to late 20s given their anticipated playoff run. With Lewis projected to be a mid to late first rounder, the Heat should consider him with their first rounder.

Onyeka Okongwu, C, USC, to the Charlotte Hornets

LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 01: USC Trojans forward Onyeka Okongwu (21) looks on during a college basketball game between the Colorado Buffaloes and the USC Trojans on February 1, 2020 at Galen Center in Los Angeles, CA.
Brian Rothmuller/Getty Images)

For the past few years, it is fair to say that the Hornets have not been a model franchise. They have only made the playoffs once since they became the Hornets and have only made the playoffs three times since the 2004-05 season. Michael Jordan has made some errant decisions during his time as general manager. However, with a selection of Okongwu in the upcoming draft, Jordan could begin to turn the franchise around.

Okongwu has been a highly-touted prospect from a young age. He was one of the under-appreciated players on the legendary Chino Hills team, which featured the Ball brothers: Lonzo, LiAngelo, and LaMelo. Okongwu was the defensive anchor for that team and went on to play the same role for the Trojans. He ranked 9th in the country in blocks per game and ranked 10th in the country in defensive box plus-minus. Although he stands 6’9 (considered undersized for a center), his 7 foot 1 inch wingspan is effective when blocking shots. 

Okongwu also works hard on the offensive boards and can be an effective lob threat as the roll man. He is still very young and has some holes in his game, which will need time to develop. However, that shouldn’t be a problem for the Hornets, who are already a long way from competing. The Hornets lack a true defensive anchor in the middle. The center spot has been primarily occupied by Cody Zeller, a former top 5 pick himself, and Bismack Biyombo. Both are competent but have reached their ceiling. Okongwu can give the Hornets a developmental piece to build around alongside Malik Monk, P.J Washington, and emerging star Devonte Graham. The Hornets project to have a top 5 pick in the upcoming draft. While Okongwu has a chance to go before they select, there’s a good chance he is still available.

Daniel Oturu, C, Minnesota to the Boston Celtics 

PISCATAWAY, NJ - JANUARY 19: Minnesota Golden Gophers center Daniel Oturu (25) during the college basketball game between the Rutgers Scarlet Knights and the Minnesota Golden Gophers on January 19, 2020 at the Louis Brown Athletic Center in Piscataway, NJ.
Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Celtics appear to be one piece away from a trip to the NBA Finals. The one position group that lacks a true star or standout player is at the center spot. Currently, the Celtics use a rotation of Enes Kanter, Daniel Theis, and Robert Williams, none of which are elite big men. Oturu has drawn comparisons to Kanter due to his lack of defensive presence and awareness. However, he is still young and can improve in that regard. He can also add another dimension to the Celtics game that could put them over the top.

Oturu stands 6’9 and is listed at 240 pounds with a 7’3 wingspan. After an average freshman year, returning to Minnesota proved to be the right decision. Oturu averaged a double-double, with 20.1 points per game and 11.3 rebounds per game. Although undersized, he plays big with powerful moves in the post and an explosive first step for someone his size. Oturu is in a similar situation to the previously mentioned Kira Lewis where numbers don’t tell the whole story. Oturu shot 36.5% from 3 this season on only 1.7 attempts per game. The stats are not promising, but watching Oturu should inspire confidence in developing a jump shot down the road. 

Unlike a lot of centers, Oturu’s shot has a fluid motion with no hitch and an above average release. If opposing centers choose to sink off of him, he can easily knock down a three from the outside. His defensive positioning and awareness need some work, which is why he draws comparisons to Kanter. However, he has the frame and shown that when he is in the right position, he’s capable of making a play on the ball, as he finished first in blocks in the Big 10 this past season.

In Boston, Oturu wouldn’t have to be the focal point of the offense, which is a good thing. Both Oturu and the Celtics could help each other. Oturu can still be a powerful force inside but can also stretch the floor. This could give Tatum and Brown more room to operate in the open court. Oturu can pull opposing bigs out to the arc, allowing the Celtics’ guards to finish easier inside. This is a luxury they don’t have now with Kanter and Theis in the middle. Otruru’s late first to early second-round projection should put him in the range of the Celtics first-round pick as well. 

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