2019 NBA draft profile: Despite ACL injury, Sixers should strongly consider Auburn's Chuma Okeke


Position: Forward 

Height: 6-foot-8

Weight: 230 pounds 

School: Auburn

Chuma Okeke was having one of the best nights of his college career on March 29, with 20 points and 11 rebounds as Auburn held a 14-point second-half lead on North Carolina in the Sweet 16. Then, after making a cut to the left block and pump faking on Cameron Johnson, his left knee buckled. The sophomore, who averaged 12 points and 6.8 rebounds last season, tore his ACL. As he watched the rest of their run to the Final Four from the sidelines, Okeke’s teammates aimed to “Do it for Chuma,” an indication of their respect and admiration for him.


He checks off both the “3” and the “D” boxes, and that’s not all he can do. Okeke shot 38.9 percent from three-point territory at Auburn and is comfortable both spotting up and in the pick-and-pop. He has decent touch around the rim and is a capable post scorer as well, which should aid his ability to play as a power forward in certain lineups in the NBA. Defensively, Okeke has a terrific combination of length and anticipation, and a knack for creating an impact. He was in the top-10 in the SEC in both steal percentage and block percentage. The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor thinks Okeke has “shades of” Robert Covington, which is a reasonable comparison given Okeke's skills as a three-point shooter and stellar off-ball defender. His offensive rebounding, cutting and passing are all positives as well. 


Okeke, like Covington doesn’t have much of a mid-range game and isn’t great at driving to the rim or finding his own shot. In the conventional sense, he’s not an exceptional NBA athlete — Okeke is likely not going to sprint past many players or wow you with too many high-flying dunks. One of the primary concerns about Okeke is, of course, the ACL injury and the uncertainty about when he might be able to return to the court.


Once he’s healthy, Okeke seems like he would be a near-perfect fit for the Sixers as someone who will positively contribute in a variety of areas, primarily as a shooter and defender. There’s risk in drafting a player recovering from a serious injury, yes, but the risk of Okeke not panning out on the court appears low. You don’t have to hold out hope that he’ll develop promising but raw skills or turn athleticism into production the way you do with many prospects. It would make sense for the Sixers to consider him with the 24th pick, and it would be difficult to pass on him if he’s available at No. 33.

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