June 1, 2018, 3:34 pm
Welcome back Hoop Ballers to our International Spotlight weekly feature where we will be taking a deeper look into a couple of point guards with lots of upside in this year’s International rookie class.
This is a second part of a series of installments where I break down the top prospects with in-depth scouting reports and early statistical projections.
(Pau-Lacq-Orthez, LNB Pro A France) 6’3” 180lb. G
Okobo is an explosive, left-handed combo guard with great size and length for the position who can play within a system and could develop into a potential starter in the NBA. He has been lighting it up in France for the past few months playing for one of the best teams in one of the top-5 European leagues. His performance last week, where he scored 44 points in a game against AS Monaco, put him on the radar for good and teams might have to reach in the middle of the first round in order to get him.
He had a great statistical season this year playing approximately 26 minutes per game and 36 games overall while averaging 13.8 points, 4.7 assists and 2.7 rebounds on 48.9 percent shooting from the field and 41.8 behind the arc. He looks ready to make the jump to the NBA as he is someone who can spread the floor and run the pick-and-roll effectively. His shooting numbers were consistent this year and he is slowly learning how to be effective on both sides of the floor while developing the instincts that will allow him to play off-ball as well.
A Score-First Point Guard
Okobo is a very quick guard with a tight handle and a fluid athlete who plays above the rim regularly. He is athletic with a nice frame and good length, he’s got great quickness, a solid feel for the game and above average scoring instincts. He changes speed smoothly in the open floor, is already a prolific pick-and-roll player who can find the open man and has proven he is able to score against bigger and more experienced opponents. Playing in a league typically dominated by Americans, he was the only French player in Pro A who led his team in scoring.
His shot-making ability is his biggest strength as he is able to attack rotating defenses and either hit shots off the dribble or drive and kick to his teammates. His quickness combined with his pull-up ability makes him a tough cover in the pick-and-roll while he can hit the long jumper and use a quick first step to punish aggressive closeouts and big men who switch onto him.
Learning the Position
Okobo participated and starred in the FIBA U20 European Championship in Greece last year, leading France to a bronze medal and he is now a member of the senior French national team. A late bloomer who can score with multiple ways, he is still learning how to play the point guard position after spending the early part of his career being an off-ball guard.
As a result, he makes too many head-scratching passes and doesn’t always trust the system even though his vision is very promising and he usually knows where his teammates are no matter where he stands on the floor. Fortunately, he is already extremely familiar with the pick-and-roll and he can get to the rim and finish at a high rate with a smooth touch.
Turnovers and Defensive Potential
Okobo has developed some bad habits in his career as he committed an absurd 2.8 turnovers in 26 minutes of action this year and he will have to learn how to be more careful with the ball once he makes the transition to the NBA.
He is by no means a perfect off-ball defender but he is rarely caught sleeping, while his length and speed help him to cover ground quickly and prevent opposing players from being left open. There is no need to worry though as he has everything he needs to succeed in the NBA level on the defensive end from a physical standpoint: a good muscular body, decent size at 6’3” and an impressive 6’8” wingspan that helps him disrupt the passing lanes.
The French LNB Pro A league has been a consistent source of NBA talent the last 10 years and we have enough data to compare him with similar players who came to the NBA at the same age and with the same level of experience.
Look at his projected stats per-40 minutes, which translate very well compared to Evan Fournier and Nicolas Batum — players who came to the NBA after successfully dominating at the European level.
Okobo has spent much of the draft process flying under the radar but an exceptionally strong finish to an impressive overall season with Pau-Lacq-Orthez has led to an increase in the buzz surrounding him. He tested the draft waters last year, completing multiple workouts with a few teams before ultimately withdrawing, and with his draft stock at an all-time high I expect him to be gone by the end of the first round. He is already in the US and here you can look at some footage form an impressive workout he had in Las Vegas yesterday with a few other prospects (he is the lefty with the red and blue shirts on).
Projection: Mid-to-late first round
(Fraport Skyliners Bundesliga, German Pro B) 6’9″ 203lb. G
The German prospect is one of the most intriguing International players of this draft class but he is more of a stash option with great upside down the road. Among the youngest players projected to be drafted, he doesn’t turn 19 until late November and he has been heavily scouted the last few years as, from a developmental stance, he resembles Giannis Antetokounmpo in a lot of ways, playing mostly in a lower division league and dominating against semi-professional basketball players.
Even though his playmaking ability and defensive versatility are hard to argue against, he is still very raw and he hasn’t proven himself at the highest level of competition. His stats from this year really tell the whole story as he showed a lot of promise with the junior team but struggled in the majors against senior teams loaded with veterans.
Bonga stands at 6’10” in shoes with a good wingspan (measured 7’0” at the 2017 Basketball Without Borders camp) and his size at the point guard position is what instantly stands out with him. A late-bloomer physically, he might have an inch or maybe even more left while his underdeveloped frame has significant potential. He has reportedly added approximately 20 pounds in the last six months and I can only imagine the improvement he could have by working with the personnel of an NBA franchise.
He excels in one-on-one defense against similarly sized players, as he is able to stay in front of them and use his strength and length to contain dribble penetration and contest shots when getting passed by.
A Good Basketball Mind
The German guard is super agile for his size but he is also an extremely gifted passer at such a young age, especially in transition, where the floor is open. He uses his height to read defenses and drive to the rim and even though he is not very explosive, he compensates by showing impressive footwork and excellent body coordination. He still struggles to finish around the basket due to below-average strength but he has consistently showed the ability to get to the free throw line where he shot a stunning 90 percent this year (99-of-110 collectively in all leagues).
Possessing an outstanding feel for the game and great basketball instincts to go along with fluidity, intangibles and defensive potential, he might be the steal of this year’s draft class. His court vision and passing ability are advanced for a young player as he can handle the ball well with both hands. He shows a variety of creative dribbles including an inside out dribble, crossover and a lethal hesitation but turnovers are alarming and he will have to learn how to be a better distributor.
Room for Development
Bonga has the potential of a multi-positional defender due to his size and mobility and he already guarded four different positions in the German league thanks to his quick feet and hands that get him a lot of steals and blocks. Coming from a soccer family, his scoring and finishing ability need a lot of work while he has to prove that he can excel against tougher competition at higher levels.
His jump shot is slow and needs a lot of refinement as he is not a good perimeter shooter, making approximately 30 percent of his shots for the season though he has shown a knack to knock the corner shot.
Bonga disappears when playing away from the ball and it’s crucial that he works on his shot because the lack of spacing will restrict his ability to be employed as a secondary shot creator.
Next Season Outlook
Bonga has an interesting foundational skillset thanks to his playmaking ability, positional size, defensive flashes, and potential jump shot and he is a great stash candidate thanks to his youth, size, and all-around flashes. His lack of strength is not surprising and he is not the most explosive athlete, but he is a player with a ton of high-level role player potential and I expect him to either remain in Europe for another year or spend time in the G-League, depending on where he gets drafted.
Projection: Early-to-mid second round
An Update on the EuroCamp
The NBA announced this week the list of 40 players who are expected to attend the NBA Global Camp 2018 from June 2-5 at La Ghirada Sports Center in Treviso, Italy. Top Draft-eligible prospects from outside the US, including Dzanan Musa, will be attending the event while the camp will feature team interview sessions, five-on-five games, shooting drills, and strength and agility testing in front of representatives from all 30 NBA teams, all under the direction of NBA personnel.
The camp will take place just days before the early entry withdrawal deadline (June 11th) and a few weeks before the NBA Draft and it is expected to influence the draft stock of many prospects, including some of which we previewed the last few weeks here.
Thank you for reading this article and please make sure you check us back again next week and throughout the offseason as more player breakdowns are coming up. Stay up to date on all the breaking news and rumors posted on our website and on our Twitter account @HoopBallFantasy.
Stats are courtesy of NBA.com, RealGm.com, Basketball-Reference.com and Thestepien.com and are accurate as of June 1st.