2020 NBA Draft: Cavs pick Isaac Okoro with No. 5 pick
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John Reed-USA TODAY Sports
With their only pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, the Cavs have picked Auburn’s Isaac Okoro at No. 5 overall.
Okoro, a 19-year-old 6’6” wing with 6’9” wingspan projects as a high-end, versatile defender. All of the stuff the Cavs need on defense — smart rotations, versatility, etc. — are what Okoro provides. He should thrive in a team setting too and help cover for some of his defense needs.
The concern is his shot — he’s not considered a good shooter and some scouts worry about mechanics. It’s not clear either what he offers off the dribble either. But the Cavs think, per sources, that they can help him improve his shot and develop him into a good offensive player.
What Okoro’s role will be should be interesting to watch too. Will he start from day and bump Cedi Osman to the bench or will be brought along more slowly?
He also certainly won’t be wearing No. 23, his college number, because of a certain kid from Akron.With their only pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, the Cavs have picked Auburn’s Isaac Okoro at No. 5 overall. https://twitter.com/cavs/status/1329237128539222017 Okoro, a 19-year-old 6’6" wing with 6’9"…
With Isaac Okoro, Cleveland Cavaliers Made The ‘Perfect Pick’ In The 2020 NBA Draft
Auburn’s Isaac Okoro (23) celebrates after Auburn defeated Arkansas 79-76 in overtime in an NCAA . [+] college basketball game Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2020, in Fayetteville, Ark. (AP Photo/Michael Woods)
When it came time for the Cavaliers to make their selection with the fifth overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, it felt a little chaotic. Obi Toppin and Deni Avdija, two players strongly linked to the Cavaliers, were available and either seemed like they were going to be the pick. But when the dust finally settled, Cleveland was able to the player they wanted all along: Auburn forward Isaac Okoro. The feeling appears to have been mutual. Okoro, who was one of a handful of players that interviewed and worked out for Cleveland, shared with the media that he always had a feeling he was going to be a Cavalier after meeting with the organization.
“I feel like I had a great workout and great interview with them,” said Okoro. “They also took me out to dinner and we had a great conversation. So, I had a feeling throughout that day that I had a good sense they were going to pick me.”
The fit between Okoro and the Cavaliers is seamless. He addresses an immediate need on Cleveland’s roster in terms of wing depth and will likely be penciled in as a Day 1 starter ahead of both Kevin Porter Jr. and Cedi Osman. This is no slight to either Porter or Osman either, mind you. It’s just what Okoro brings to the table also further addresses what the Cavaliers need.
Okoro’s biggest calling card is his defensive ability. In his lone season with Auburn, Okoro averaged 2.0 steals and 0.9 blocks in 31.5 minutes per game. Okoro also only allowed 101.3 points per 100 possessions on the floor. He had to also carry the responsibility of guarding opponent’s best players – including former Kentucky guard Tyrese Maxey, who went twenty-first-overall to the Philadelphia 76ers. In their two matchups last season, Okoro held Maxey to an average shooting percentage of 37.0%. Maxey connected on 42.7% of his shots for the Wildcats and is known for his scoring ability. So, clearly, Okoro’s defensive pedigree ruffled Maxey’s feathers.
“I feel I am the best defensive player in this class,” Okoro said. “I’m able to switch off 1-4 and still hold my ground. I’m looking forward to guarding the best players on every team.”
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“He’s the best defensive guard I think I’ve ever coached,” said Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl. “He can guard 1-5. I’ve never had a player be able to do that. Big, strong, physical and wants to defend. He wants the opponent’s best player. And offensively, he’s just very productive.”
Despite what Pearl said, Okoro isn’t as refined offensively as he is defensively. But, there is still plenty of potential. He’s a great finisher who delivers through contact, draws fouls and possesses a soft touch with either hand. Okoro is also a smart decision-maker who can move the ball, run some pick-and-roll and doesn’t force bad shots as well. Finally, he showcased a good handle with either hand on crossovers, spins and hesitations so much so that he could have untapped, long-term upside as a shot creator. The problem in Okoro’s game lies in his shooting mechanics – which appeared stiff and clunky. But, according to league sources, Cleveland believes they can refine his mechanics and turn him into a reliable perimeter threat. The Cavaliers might have an easier time working on this as Okoro shared with the media that his shooting is one thing he’s worked tirelessly on since beginning the pre-draft process.
That desire to hone his craft, and his work ethic as a whole, is also what makes Okoro so endearing to not just the Cavaliers, but the NBA as a whole.
“We had Isaac rated very highly on our draft board heading into Wednesday night and rated him as a top prospect,” said one NBA executive who requested anonymity. “But, we also knew it was our turn to pick he would likely be unavailable. Honestly, Cleveland made the perfect pick for themselves as an organization. Of course, what Isaac brings into the fold defensively is remarkable and will help that team in so many ways. But, what will help them, even more, is that Isaac will help them set a culture, and identity, going forward for years to come.”
That belief in Okoro’s ability to impact the Cavaliers doesn’t seem too farfetched. Other than his defensive acumen, Okoro has built a reputation of also being one of the hardest-working players in this year’s draft class. Joining Cleveland guard and personal friend Collin Sexton, a player the Cavaliers view as their cultural leader, the organization can build their cultural foundation centered around Okoro and Sexton both. One that’s focused on accountability, honing their craft and getting Cleveland back to the playoffs – something that Okoro said is his goal for next season.
“I feel like my role for this year is to help the Cavaliers get back to the playoffs,” said Okoro. “I feel like I could be great playing alongside Kevin Love and Andre Drummond.”
It’s a fairly lofty goal on Okoro’s part but having that confidence in himself, and his teammates are key in what has made him so successful. Cleveland probably won’t make the playoffs in his rookie season, but, in time it certainly seems possible with him now in the fold. The addition of Okoro is another draft home run for the Cavaliers and the future looks bright as the 2020-21 season is only a few weeks away.Isaac Okoro’s fit on the Cavaliers is seamless. He addresses an immediate need on Cleveland’s roster in terms of wing depth and will likely be penciled in as a Day 1 starter. ]]>