Assessing Onyeka Okongwu, Isaiah Mobley, and C.J. Elleby

January 3rd, 2020

by Alan Lu

I decided to take the time to watch USC’s 6-9 freshman big man, Onyeka Okongwu square off against C.J. Elleby and Washington State in a Pac-12, college basketball game that took place on January 2nd. Okongwu had a tremendous showing as he was dominant from the get go, while Elleby floundered by having an atrocious shooting night. Washington State managed to keep the game close as USC struggled with turnovers, but USC had strong post play and they played well down the stretch, as the Trojans managed to hold off the Cougars to get the win. Here are my thoughts on how Okongwu and the others fared on this day, as well as how their games may fit the NBA.

USC's 6-9 freshman big man, Onyeka Okongwu had a tremendous game to lift his team to a victory over Washington State. (Photo: Field Level Media/The Chronicle Herald.)
USC’s sensational 6-9 freshman big man, Onyeka Okongwu had a tremendous game to lift his team to a victory over Washington State. (Photo: Field Level Media/The Chronicle Herald.)

Onyeka Okongwu played really well, as he excelled on both ends of the floor to help get USC the victory. He showed off tremendous scoring skills, and he also rebounded and defended well when he was on the court. He did struggle with some turnovers, but he was able to score 27 points and collect 12 rebounds in his team’s win over Washington State.

Okongwu did an excellent job of scoring in the post. He has very good hands, foot-speed, strength, and shooting touch to score on the block. He can use ball fakes and spin moves to get past his man, and he has a very quick first step to the hoop. Plus, he would often score on thunderous dunks, and on quick step-through moves to score on layups. Plus, he excelled at scoring on quick high post drives, and he also showed a knack for scoring on hustle plays. He also did a great job of catching balls, as he also would make tough catches that would enable him to easily score around the basket, and he also scored on a scintillating, alley-oop dunk early on in this contest. He also attempted to take an open mid-range shot, but he ended up missing on that occasion.

However, he also was quite turnover prone on offense. For the positives, Okongwu is a fairly good passer for a player his size, and he would throw crisp outlet passes to his teammates. However, he also tended would sometimes play a bit too recklessly on offense, as he was called for a couple of offensive fouls, as he charged into an opponent once in transition, and was called for a push off when posting up another time. He also can struggle to protect the basketball, and he also threw a hasty, up for grabs pass that was dropped out of bounds another time. Late in this game, he was called for basket interference, as he had touched the basketball that was in the cylinder on a play where his teammate appeared to have scored in the post, as that ended up taking that basket off the scoreboard.

Okongwu also did a very good job of rebounding the basketball. He would frequently leap up to get boards on both ends of the floor, and he was quite active at crashing the glass. He also managed to score on a couple of put backs, including one where he scored on a powerful tip slam to provide second chance points for his team.

He also played fairly good defense. Okongwu did a terrific job of blocking shots, as he would rotate to swat shots viciously to help his team protect the paint. He can do so when defending in the post as well as off of drives, and he also would make good rotations on drives to help force misses. Sometimes though, he wouldn’t contest jumpers or communicate to his teammates who to guard when defending screens, which would lead his team to allow opponents to score on jump shots. Other times, he may not always get back to the roll man when hedging out on screens, and he can be undisciplined defensively, which can lead him to commit fouls and allow scores when defending in one on one situations.

In general, Onyeka Okongwu had a tremendous game to help lift his team to a victory over Washington State. He played terrific basketball on both ends of the floor, as he was automatic as a scorer in the post, scored often on quick drives to the basket, and he also excelled as a rebounder and interior defender. Right now, he looks to be a lock to go in the lottery, and he could be a solid pick for a team in the top 10 of the 2020 draft, as he could project to end up being a solid starter in the NBA.

USC’s freshman big man, Isaiah Mobley played fairly well off the bench, as he provided solid inside scoring and defensive skills in his team’s win over Washington State. He excelled at scoring in the post, as he would frequently catch entry passes, and then go up strong to score around the basket, and he also scored on an emphatic dunk once. He also managed to draw free throws on a put back after grabbing an offensive rebound. He may need to improve his face-up game however, as he missed on an off-balanced layup in traffic after driving in from the high post, and he also missed on a step back three after hoisting up a long-range shot from beyond the arc.

Though he didn’t grab many rebounds when he was on the court, he was able to collect several defensive boards in this game. Mobley also played good defense, as he made good rotations to help his team get stops in the paint. He managed to rotate to the post block a shot ferociously out of bounds, and he also stepped up to successfully challenge a shot off of a drive to force a miss.

In summary, Isaiah Mobley had a solid showing in his team’s win over Washington State, as he is a mobile, skilled big man that can score in the post and block shots. He will need to improve his ability to knock down jumpers and rebounding ability, but he is an intriguing prospect that could end up being a solid role player in the NBA if he can continue to hone his overall game.

Washington State’s sophomore swingman, C.J. Elleby had a trainwreck of a basketball game, and he had an atrocious shooting night in his team’s loss to USC. For the positives, he is a solid athlete that can make some riveting, highlight reel-worthy plays, and he also rebounded the ball very well, but Elleby also shot just 3 for 22 from the field, as he scored just 9 points on 22 shots in this game.

Elleby really struggled to make jumpers throughout this contest. He frequently would chuck up bad, ill-advised shots, as he would take rushed threes from too far out, as well as off-balanced, mid-range jumpers that would lead to misses. He did make a quick three-point shot midway through this contest, but Elleby ended up missing far too many shots in this match.

He did manage to run the floor to score on a high-flying, two-handed dunk on the break to showcase his solid athletic gifts, and Elleby also managed to draw free throws on a put back after leaping up to get an offensive rebound another time. However, he tended to miss wildly on tip-ins after getting offensive boards, as he would not take those shots under control.

Elleby also flashed the ability to score off the dribble, and he drove aggressively to his left once to score on an acrobatic reverse layup off the glass, while getting an extra free throw. Elleby possesses a decent ability to draw fouls when he takes the ball to the rim, but he would tend to miss too often on wild, contested leaners in traffic, and he also missed on an awkward fadeaway jumper after using a spin move on a separate play.

He also displayed average at best playmaking skills in this game. Elleby is a fairly good ball handler that can kick balls out to open shooters to set up scores for his teammates. However, he can tend to try to do too much on offense, as he would sometimes lose the basketball when handling it, and he had a ball poked away once when taking it to the rim that led him to commit a turnover. That, combined with his propensity to take really bad shots on offense made it tough for Washington State to try to overcome their insurmountable deficit in this game against USC.

Elleby did a very good job of rebounding the basketball. He is an athletic, high-motor player that would chase downs balls and swoop in to get boards to help his team collect boards on both ends of the floor. Ellleby also has a keen nose for the basketball that allows him to collect many rebounds when he is on the court. Plus, he very nearly was able to get an offensive rebound off of his own miss from all the way across court after missing a corner three, but he was unable to corral it or save the ball from going out of bounds.

He also played fairly good defense. Elleby was able to get his hands on an entry pass to help his team get a steal, and he also poked a ball away to nearly collect another. He also managed to successfully draw a charge when defending on a drive due to good positioning, and he will contest shots when guarding opponents off the dribble to force misses. However, he also was called for committing a foul in transition, and there was another play where he got beat off the dribble, which caused his team to allow a score.

Overall, C.J. Elleby did not play very well, but he does show promise as a prospect for the next level. He is a very athletic swingman that rebounds the ball well, and if he can learn better shot selection, he could at best profile into a 3 and D type of role akin to P.J. Tucker in the NBA. Right now, he may be a borderline second round candidate, as he will need to regain his jump shot back, but he could develop into being an effective role player at the next level if he can shoot as well as he did in his freshman season.

USC’s 6-11 senior center, Nick Rakocevic played well early on, as he backed his man down to score on a layup from the post, and he also rotated to block a shot in the post, but then he ended up in some early foul trouble.

He struggled to score in the post in this game, as he tended to miss quite often from the block, and he also had a nifty score stemming from an up and under move taken away from him after his teammate was called for basket interference. Rakocevic also had trouble in trying to knock down jumpers, as he did not shoot the ball very well in this game.

He did display adequate playmaking skills. Rakocevic threw a sharp entry pass to notch an assist, but he was called for a charging foul when looking to score in transition on a separate occurrence.

Plus, Rakocevic also rebounded the ball well, as he especially excelled at crashing the defensive glass. However, he also tended to commit over the back fouls when going for rebounds, as that ended up getting him into some foul trouble against Washington State.

He also played decent defense. In addition to being able to rotate to block a shot in the post, Rakocevic also contested a corner three as well as a shot off of a drive to help his team force misses. However, there was another play where he got beat off the dribble when defending a high post drive to allow a score, as he can struggle to guard quicker players on occasion.

Overall, Rakocevic did not have his best game, but he rebounded the ball well, and he also showed some low post scoring and defensive skills when he was on the floor. Right now, he may be a borderline second round candidate for the upcoming draft, and he will need to show that he can guard upper echelon players on a consistent basis, but he is a skilled big man that could compete for a roster spot in the NBA next season.

Other Notes:

USC’s senior guard, Jonah Mathews had his ups and downs in his team’s win over Washington State.  He struggled to make shots from the field, but he excelled at drawing free throws when driving to the hoop to help him put up points on offense. He had trouble knocking down jumpers or scoring on runners consistently, but Mathews showed a knack for drawing fouls to get to the free throw line. He also was able to find a cutter to notch an assist, but he also committed a charging foul another time. Overall, Matthews is a fairly athletic, skilled combo guard that can score the basketball in a variety of ways, though he may not always make shots consistently. Still, he is a intriguing prospect that may have the skills to end up on an NBA summer league roster in 2020.

Washington State’s 6-6 senior forward, Tony Miller played very well in his team’s loss to USC. He excelled at scoring and grabbing rebounds in the paint, and he also managed to break up a lob pass to help his team get a steal. Miller showed a knack for scoring on tip-ins off of offensive rebounds, and he also excelled at scoring on hustle plays. Plus, he also was able to score on a quick drive from the high post. However, he would sometimes play too recklessly, which would lead him to commit turnovers and fouls. Overall, Miller played very energetically and he helped provide a boost off the bench to help his team in this game, as he managed to score 15 points while collecting 11 rebounds against USC. Right now, he will still need to improve his jump shot and show that he can guard players out on the perimeter, but he is a high-motor player that may have the skills to end up on an NBA summer league roster in 2020.

Washington’s 6-3 junior guard, Isaac Bonton took a lot of shots in his team’s loss to USC, and he didn’t make them efficiently, but he did show versatile scoring skills when he would make them. Bonton can make quick threes off the catch and dribble, though he also would hoist up quick, rushed shots from way out that would lead to misses.

However, he struggled to score off the dribble consistently, and though he would sometimes make a quick layup or score on a pull-up, mid-range jumper, he would tend to miss on wild runners and shots off the dribble, as Bonton had a propensity to take really tough shots on offense. He didn’t look to pass often, but Bonton did make a nice dump off pass off of a drive to find a teammate around the hoop to set up a score for him.

Overall, Isaac Bonton is an athletic, score-first combo guard that can put up points in a hurry, but he also can throw up a barrage of misses just as fast. He will need to work on his shot selection as well as to get others involved on offense on a more consistent basis. Right now, he may be a borderline second round candidate for the upcoming draft, but he could end up being a microwave type of scorer in the NBA if things break his way.

Washington State’s freshman swingman, D.J. Rodman was able to make a spot-up three off the catch to make things interesting for his team in the second half, and he also crashed the offensive glass to help his team get some rebounds. However, he struggled to score off the dribble or off of mid-range jumpers, and he also missed a couple of put backs late in this game. He also got lost on a cut, which prompted to have to commit a foul midway through this contest. Still, Rodman is an intriguing prospect that shows promise as a prospect for the NBA. Not only is he the son of Hall of Famer, former rebounding titan, and 5-time NBA champion Dennis Rodman, but D.J. Rodman also may possess a variety of skills that could help him at the next level. D.J. Rodman possesses a fairly good first step to the hoop, he is a good rebounder for a player his size, and he also can shoot the basketball. He will need to play more, but he could be a prospect to keep an eye on in the future.

USC’s 6-6 sophomore swingman, Elijah Weaver excelled at scoring on quick drives to the basket, he also pulled up to make a mid-range jumper, and he also scored on a quick cut to the basket. He excelled at making shots efficiently for USC, and Weaver played well in his team’s win over Washington State.

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