It’s a new year, but the CBB Today 2019 NBA Draft Sleeper Series continues. This edition focuses on Stanford Cardinal combo-forward KZ Okpala, who is a bit raw, but has shown flashes of what he could be so far this season.
The 6-foot-8. 195-pound sophomore has been playing considerably better and more comfortably than he did in his first season on campus. He’s improved in most of the major offensive statistical categories, becoming a better defender in the process as well.
Should he continue to show his potential and upside throughout the season, he should then start to get some serious looks from NBA teams come this June.
Here are his stats so far this season:
- 16.8 PPG, 1.9 APG, 6.7 RPG
- 47.8 FG%, 48.5 3P%, 76.7 FT%
- 109.6 ORtg, 99.0 DRtg
Okpala does a lot of nice things on offense that easily translate to the next level. He can handle the ball well enough to take his defender off the dribble, finishes fairly well at the rim and is a great spot up 3-point shooter.
Furthermore, he’s a good-to-great scorer off the dribble, something highly valued at the next level. Couple that with his finishing ability and shooting (so far this season), you get a high upside prospect who could make a team picking him in the second round very happy.
While the shooting percentages for Okpala seem pretty great, they can be a bit misleading, as he is only taking a shade under three 3-pointers a game. It’s certainly worth noting, while he is hitting them, he is getting some easy looks.
He doesn’t generally create his own shot on the perimeter., instead receiving a lot of spot up looks, which are naturally a higher percentage shot than one that requires a dribble. Yet, spot up shooting has its own value in the NBA, so it’s not too much of a red flag going forward, unless resting his draft stock solely on his creation abilities.
Defensively, Okpala should translate fairly well to the NBA. He is a smooth athlete who has a good motor; both traits that are unteachable.
An obvious trait worth pointing to, he has a great wingspan, a natural defensive positive. KZ Okpala is in the 7-foot-2 range so he can bother shooters, get in passing lanes and be generally disruptive on defense. He should be able to guard two or three positions at the next level. In turn, that should gain him some favor in the eyes of NBA Draft scouts.
The Stanford Cardinal talent will have to cut down on turnovers and become a better shooter at all three levels on the court, but that can be easily remedied with time and practice. He can be a bit wild on offense and that’s to be expected with how inconsistent his team has been playing. He’ll also have to be a bit better on the boards, but that should not be an issue considering his motor.
As it is with any prospect this early, things can change between now and the NBA Draft, but keeping an eye on KZ Okpala certainly seems smart.
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