After selecting Chuma Okeke with the 16th overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, well aware of him having to sit out for an entire season to heal an injury, it seems like the Orlando Magic made the right decision. As the Magic went through their longest losing streak of the season, Head Coach Steve Clifford seemed to get more and more comfortable with playing Okeke, and the results have shown, with the team winning three of their last four games. Statistically, Okeke’s impact may not seem like a big deal, at 6.3 PPG, 3.5 RPG, and 1.0 APG, but has consistently made big plays in big-time moments. In Friday’s win against the Warriors, Okeke buried a pair of clutch 3-pointers down the stretch and had a key block on Stephen Curry late in the game. Hopefully, Friday’s game is a start for what’s to come for Okeke.
Okeke’s Defensive Impact
Even with the limited playing time Okeke has received this season, Friday’s game showed us a lot about what Okeke can do when he plays. In the win, Okeke had eleven points, five rebounds, and led the Magic in blocks with three. Of all players in the NBA who have been the closest defender to at least 100 shots this season, Okeke has the sixth-best defensive field goal percentage, per Second Spectrum. This showed on Friday, when Okeke contested eight Golden State shots, and one shot went through the hoop. Okeke’s foot speed on the perimeter has also been a pleasant surprise to watch. Few opponents have beat Okeke off the dribble. This makes him a really good pick-and-roll switch defender, something any team would love to have. Better yet, Okeke’s only averaging one foul per game, and 1.7 per 36 minutes, which is impressive for how inexperienced he is.
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