Isaac Okoro is a special player. And what’s special about Okoro can basically be summed up like this, he’s an exceptionally good decision maker who also makes decisions insanely quick AND he’s an elite athlete in every regard.
Much will be made of the upside of players like Anthony Edwards, Cole Anthony, LaMelo Ball, and even… the upside(?) of James Wiseman. And yet, Okoro’s upside might be higher than all of them. Okoro doesn’t fall under the camp often associated with high-levels of upside. He’s not a shot creator, some crazy pull-up threat, some great pick-and-roll player, or in Wiseman’s case a post-up threat. Okoro is an elite athlete, who has elite defensive instincts, elite basketball-IQ, elite defensive and offensive awareness, someone who’s made exponential strides in his perimeter skills just since his senior year of high-school, elite finisher, a high high level passer, and given his shot is by no means broken, he has high offensive-upside. Isaac Okoro is still 18, he wont turn 19 until January 26th.
Isaac Okoro hasn’t lost a competitive game of basketball since the summer of 2018. Isaac Okoro is a winning basketball player in every definable sense of the words.
Offense: Finishing/Drawing Fouls
Despite shooting 20.8% from 3, and 66% from the line, Okoro still has a 61 TS%.
Simply due to the fact Okoro is able to beat people to spots, and he’s absurdly strong and balanced, he draws a lot of fouls. Isaac Okoro currently has a 43.9 FTr. That’s really good, it’s higher than Anthony Edwards who has a 41.9 FTr.
Isaac Okoro’s feel on offense is elite. He understand’s the game, he see’s the passing lanes, and he reads & reacts to the game quickly with impressive consistency.
Okoro’s numbers this year are not great, but given his recent improvment in dribbling and the fact that he has decent fundamentals, there is hope. He’s 18, he’s a basketball genius and in the right hands there’s reason to think he can become a competent shooter in the NBA.
Okoro is not a defensive prospect, he is the defensive prospect. He is an elite athlete, who has elite awareness + elite instincts, and he’s quite mobile for a small truck.
Part of being a good on-ball defender is being strong & balanced. You can see it here has Okoro defends a big in the post:
And the other part of having an impact as an on-ball defender is mobility. Okoro has both the quickness,as well as enough flexibility with screens to guard POA:
So how does this all work. When I wrote about Tyrese Maxey, it was easy to imagine how he might fit a role as a partial creator. Players such as Kyle Lowry, Bradley Beal, Or even Victor Oladipo provide both on and off-ball value. But, Okoro is a more tricky fit.
Okoro on defense is an easy fit. In the NBA, you are basically who you can guard on defense. And Okoro can guard most 4s all the way down to most 2s. That’s just actually guarding, I’m pretty sure Okoro can contain 1-5. Between his speed, lateral quickness, instincts, and strength.
On offense, it depends. If Okoro can shoot then you could use him as a spot-up threat. But the real value, and even if he doesn’t shoot, is a PnR/short-roll threat. And the closest comparison is Ben Simmons. Ben like Okoro doesn’t provide the necessary rim protection to play the 5 on defense. However, if you can pair Okoro with a stretch 5 like Brook Lopez or Jaren Jackson Jr., then in return you’re going to get elite level value. A wing-stopper who has elite decision making, passing, vision AND finishing around the rim is a high-impact player. You could win a ring with that as a starter.
This role is harder to see cause given their roster construction Ben hasn’t been able to do this, but he can operate as an athletic wing in PnR:
Like Ben, Okoro is an excellent passer and trustworthy decision maker. This is a zone, but you can see the short-roll skills:
Another point worth mentioning, is players who can attack the paint and finish or pass regardless of shooting, are very valuable. Ben Simmons does this despite the spacing, but a better example is Draymond who consistently attacks his man standing in the lane and beats them by his passing and IQ. Okoro maybe isn’t quite the passer Draymond or Ben are but I think he can definitely do this, and he’s a much better finisher than Draymond. These exceptions are available to players who are as smart and think as quickly as Okoro, Ben, and Draymond. IQ, feel, quick decision making, quick problem solving, are going to enable Okoro to be an elite defender and also be a serviceable player on offense.
All that to say, I think shooting or no shooting, he’s a very good starter in the league with the right personnel. The shooting could come along, no one should be out on Okoro’s shooting potential. But, it’s not necessary to unleashing Okoro unto the NBA. Okoro is one of the best players, if not the best player, in the draft, and don’t let his shooting scare you away.