The 16th overall pick is the point in the draft where the obvious basketball talent starts to become scarce and at that point, front offices are unsure of what a player could develop into. In the past five years, there have been few big names to come from the 16th overall slot. Exceptions have been Jusuf Nurkić (2014) and Terry Rozier (2015). Orlando’s Nikola Vučević was also selected at number 16 in the 2011 draft.
This year Orlando was presented with the 16th overall pick in the NBA Draft and selected Chuma Okeke from Auburn University. Okeke is a 6’8” forward who played for two seasons under Bruce Pearl, averaging 9.9 points per game during his tenure there.
It is surprising to see the Orlando Magic take a gamble with a player others might already label as prone to injury. These opinions starting forming after Okeke tore his ACL in the NCAA Tournament in March and will most likely not play for a majority of the 2019-20 season. But this was a good move by the Magic, because if Okeke was not injured, he was predicted in various mock drafts to be a lottery pick. In my opinion, the concern about a player suffering an ACL injury and being changed is a thing of the past. ACL injuries are no longer a career ending injury as they once were due to modern medicine and rehabilitation. Kyle Lowry and Baron Davis both tore their ACLs prior to making it to the NBA, and there are several notable young players who have recovered- including Zach LaVine, Jabari Parker, and most recently Kristaps Porzingis.
Okeke was a great player at Auburn who made his presence known on defense. Watching the film, one can see how fluid his movements are to be able to stay square between the opposing player and the hoop. Okeke has very good basketball IQ which lets him read a defender and predict their next movement. This is evident when you look at the stats, Okeke averaged 1.8 steals per game and 1.2 stblockseals per game over 38 games last season. In fact, Okeke gathered a total of 69 steals last season, which earned him the title of having the third most steals in Auburn history for a single season. Orlando fans can look forward to rostering a superb defender to their team.
On the offensive side of the ball, there are some aspects of Okeke’s game that he must polish to be considered an offensive threat in the NBA. Okeke is a decent shooter behind the arc at 38.7% last season, though some scouts suggest he needs to take more to be a constant threat. In a league where every position must be able to shoot the ball, it is important that Okeke build his confidence while spreading the floor. Orlando has found a player whose specialty is not shooting, but is able to do it at times with an above average chance of success.
I see Okeke as a player that will have a high floor but a low ceiling. In my opinion he will develop into a solid role player, but will not be impactful enough to be an all-star. In the future he may make some all-defensive 2nd and 3rd teams, but I believe that is the most he will achieve accolades wise. What the Magic really need is a dual-threat point guard. The Magic already have technically two good forwards in Aaron Gordon and Nikola Vučević. Last season in the playoffs the Magic were outplayed and I believe a consistent shooter would have helped their situation. I am aware that the Magic have traded for Markelle Fultz, but I don’t think that he will get the job done and that the Orlando Magic should have drafted his replacement.
Orlando is not an attractive place for free agents and because of that, there are only two ways that stars end up on the roster- trades or through the draft. The Orlando front office must maximize their draft picks to keep the team competitive. While Chuma Okeke is a good player, he is not a good fit for the Orlando Magic as an organization.