Knicks Draft: Is Onyeka Okongwu the answer for New York?

Onyeka Okongwu, 2020 NBA Draft prospect (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)
Onyeka Okongwu, 2020 NBA Draft prospect (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images) /
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Oct 11, 2020; Lake Buena Vista, Florida, USA; Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis (3) holds the Finals trophy after game six of the 2020 NBA Finals at AdventHealth Arena. The Los Angeles Lakers won 106-93 to win the series. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

A New Era for Big Men

We just witnessed the changing of the guard in the NBA during the Finals. While LeBron has received most of the coverage, the reality is that he is not the best player in the NBA anymore, or for that fact, on his own team.

That title belongs to Anthony Davis, the true modern-day big man. All the teams considered contenders, with the exception of the Miami Heat, are in need of a big man that can cover Davis. Even the Heat, who have Bam Adebayo, needed someone else to help cover Davis for stretches of the Finals games. So you best believe that the Warriors, Celtics, Nuggets and Clippers will be looking to add an athletic big man for the 2020-21 campaign.

Don’t be fooled, the Warriors will include the 2nd overall pick in the draft in a trade package for Mitchell Robinson since that would greatly increase their chances of getting past the Lakers.

But the question would remain is it worth the risk?

While Wiseman is taller and is perceived to have a higher ceiling, Okongwu is the surer bet. After playing a full season of college basketball, most experts believe he can come in to contribute in the NBA right away.

ESPN draft expert Mike Schmitz said Okongwu is “one of the best 19-year-old pick-and-roll defenders” that he has ever evaluated and identifies his defensive versatility as the quality that gives him “an incredibly high floor” and a clear role early. That is why most experts have him rated right there with the top players in the draft. The only issue with Okongwu is the position he plays.

The center position has been marginalized in the NBA due to the Money Ball / Analytics movement. Unless you’re a center who can shoot threes, it is hard to be viewed as a potential franchise player.

The modern NBA center is now viewed in a similar fashion to the NFL running back—a position that went from being the face of the sport to one now viewed as one of the least valuable. However, in basketball, one player has a greater impact on the game than in football. In basketball it is hard to find great two-way players, so devaluing them because of position is a big mistake.