Detroit Pistons: The final case for drafting Onyeka Okongwu

Onyeka Okongwu #21 of the USC Trojans gets past Quinton Rose #1 of the Temple Owls (Photo by John McCoy/Getty Images)
Onyeka Okongwu #21 of the USC Trojans gets past Quinton Rose #1 of the Temple Owls (Photo by John McCoy/Getty Images) /

The NBA Draft is coming up on Wednesday. It is time to take a final look at the top prospects, and how they would fit with the Detroit Pistons. We will now look at whether there is a case to be made for drafting USC center Onyeka Okongwu.

It used to be almost a rule that a team could not win an NBA title without a dominant big guy. From Bill Russell to Wilt Chamberlain to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to Bill Laimbeer of the Detroit Pistons to Tim Duncan post players were key to championship teams throughout most of NBA history.

In the world of the current NBA, where three-point shooting ability is prized above all else, the center position is seen as not as crucial as it used to be.

Now, in this year’s NBA finals, both teams, the Lakers (Anthony Davis) and the Miami Heat (Bam Adebayo) each had high quality big men play an important role. Post players may not be crucial anymore, but it does not hurt.

That means 6-foot-10, 245-pound athletic freak Onyeka Okongwu presents a conundrum for those teams like Detroit drafting in the top 10.

He has the potential to be a really good small-ball center or power forward. However, does a team want to spend a top 10 pick on a post player,  thus ignoring promising wings and guards. Those are positions that seem to be of more important in the modern game.

Most mock drafts have Okongwu going between sixth and ninth. Considering the Pistons hold the No. 7 overall selection, Okongwu is definitely someone Detroit will be looking at closely.

light. Related Story. Detroit Pistons 2020 Draft Profile: USC’s Onyeka Okongwu

Here are arguments for, and against, whether the Detroit Pistons should take Okongwu:

The case for the Pistons drafting Onyeka Okongwu

Okongwu is an amazing athlete for someone his size. In the pick-and-roll heavy NBA, he can jump out and guard, pretty much any player on the floor.

He is also a major rim-protector. In his only season at USC, he averaged 2.7 blocks a game. He played his high school ball at Chino Hills, along with LaMelo Ball, and averaged five blocks playing a national schedule.

Using his athletic ability, he makes up for his lack of size as a center by being able to leap over people for rebounds. He averaged 8.6 boards for the Trojans.

Offensively, he averaged 16.2 points a game. Most of his scoring came from down low, boasting a 61.6% shooting percentage. Although being guarded by players as big, if not bigger, he was able to use his quickness to get past them. He also hits the offensive glass hard.

Okongwu will just turn 20 in December, so there is plenty of upside to his game.

Considering the Pistons really do not have much going forward at center, and even less if Christian Wood does not re-sign, there is certainly an immediate spot for someone of Okongwu’s skills in Detroit’s lineup.

WIth Andre Drummond having been traded in February, the Pistons could have their new franchise center if they take Okongwu.

The case for the Pistons passing on Onyeka Okongwu

If the Pistons are looking for a ‘3-and-D’ frontcourt player, Okongwu is not that player.

He only shot 25% on three-point attempts in college. He was pretty good in making free throws (72%), which could be an indication his shooting touch is not too bad.

Okongwu could be a real ‘tweener’ in the NBA. He is not the size of  a true center but he does not have the outside game of most NBA power forwards.

If you put Okongwu at the ‘4’, he will be lured out of the middle by outside shooters, making his shot blocking ability muted. If he plays center, big centers like Joel Embiid or Marc Gasol could physically overwhelm him.

A smallish post-up player was helpful when Adrian Dantley helped lead the Pistons to the championship in the ’80s. Nowadays, not so helpful.

Okongwu is a luxury for a team that needs help at all the positions that are considered important in the current NBA.


If the Pistons were full of ballhandlers, shooters and creators off the dribble, Okongwu would be the cherry on top to complete a team. But Detroit is not brimming with talent at any position.

Next. The Detroit Pistons were present for LaMelo Ball’s workout. dark

It really depends on how general manager Troy Weaver feels about the other players available when Detroit’s name is called at the draft.

If there is a wing or guard Weaver is high on, Okongwu probably will go unselected. But if the Pistons are not happy with what they have to choose from, a good defensive-oriented big man like Okongwu would be a nice consolation prize.