3 potential career outcomes for Onyeka Okongwu if he’s drafted by Cavs

USC big man Onyeka Okongwu (#21) celebrates a near-win. (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)
USC big man Onyeka Okongwu (#21) celebrates a near-win. (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images) /
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Onyeka Okongwu, Cleveland Cavaliers
USC big man Onyeka Okongwu shoots the ball. (Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images) /

Onyeka Okongwu would be a logical Cleveland Cavaliers 2020 draft pick.

The 2020 NBA Draft is set to take place on Nov. 18. And as of now, the Cleveland Cavaliers are going to be picking fifth.

There will be an abundance of interesting prospects available no matter where the Cavs end up drafting. And while Cleveland is reportedly going to use pick as “bait” for a potential trade, and maybe for an established player, Cleveland would seem to be in a nice position already to add a quality piece via the draft.

One of those potential draftees for the Cavaliers is University of Southern California center Onyeka Okongwu.

Okongwu played 28 games during his freshman season at USC, and in those games he averaged 16.2 points, 8.6 rebounds and 2.7 blocks in 30.6 minutes per outing. Okongwu is also only 19 years old with plenty of room to develop.

With his 6-foot-9 frame, athleticism as well as basketball skill, Okongwu would likely be an enticing prospect for the Cavaliers, no matter their draft position.

Now, if the Cavaliers end up drafting Okongwu, there is no telling how good he will be or what sort of role he would play in the organization.

Here, I’ll suggest three potential career outcomes for him if that happens.

The first is the best-case scenario, realistically, if Okongwu ends up being selected by the Cavaliers.

Cavs Okongwu potential career outcome #1: All-Star and offensive catalyst

With Onyeka Okongwu’s measurables, current skill set and age, his highest possible ceiling would have to be as a good overall offensive player for whatever team drafts him.

An NBA player comparison that has been made in regards to Okongwu is that of Miami Heat All-Star big man Bam Adebayo, as KJG’s Tyler Meitin demonstrated a few months back.

Adebayo played his college ball for head coach John Calipari at Kentucky and shares a slight resemblance to Okongwu physically. Adebayo, who stands at 6-foot-9 and is listed at 255 pounds, has experienced a breakout year this season with Miami.

Adebayo is experiencing career-highs in most statistical categories, but the most impressive facet of his game this season has been his passing. Adebayo averaged 5.1 assists per game during the 2019-20 regular season, which was the third-highest on his team behind Jimmy Butler and Goran Dragic.

Bam Adebayo is a talented player overall. But the passing ability from a player of his size is one of the more impressive marks on his resume.

Albeit similarly to Onyeka Okongwu, Adebayo’s passing was not showcased in college. Adebayo averaged 0.8 assists per game during his single college season.

While playing in the NBA, Adebayo was able to improve his passing impact significantly, and he’s flourished as a playmaking big. If the Cavaliers draft Okongwu, one would hope that he too would be able to improve upon the 1.1 assists per game that he averaged in college.

Considering Okongwu is considered a gifted passing big, though, there’s plenty of hope that if he were drafted by Cleveland, he could be used as an offensive facilitator. And that would be extremely interesting when mixed with the off-ball scoring of Collin Sexton, Kevin Porter Jr. and Dylan Windler, among others.

Okongwu has acknowledged the comparison of himself to Adebayo, as indicated in an interview with HoopsHype’s Bryan Kalbrosky, and that is encouraging. Because if Okongwu is able to follow a career trajectory similar to that of Bam’s, his potential would be incredibly high.

If Okongwu can showcase his passing abilities like that of Adebayo at the NBA level, with his athleticism and rim protecting skills, he would be a potential franchise offensive catalyst for whichever team drafts him.

That could take considerable pressure off of Darius Garland, for example, when projecting onward, too, seemingly in the case that Andre Drummond is not a long-term player for Cleveland at the 5.