KZ Okpala Scouting Report

KZ Okpala
A first-team All-PAC-12 selection, KZ Okpala averaged 16.8 points and 5.7 rebounds per game this season. (Photo by Bob Drebin, Stanford Athletics)

Chikezie “KZ” Okpala is a long and athletic wing, with broad shoulders and room for future growth.  This season, he was the best player on a young Stanford team that struggled in a down year for the PAC 12.  His numbers improved significantly compared to his freshman season, and he was a first-team All-PAC-12 selection.  The sophomore averaged 16.8 points, 5.7 rebounds, 2.0 assists, and 1.0 steal per game, with shooting splits of .463/.368/.671. 

Okpala experienced a 10-inch growth spurt during high school, and while that typically works in a player’s favor, there is awkwardness to his game when the ball is in his hands.  As a shooter, his motion is slow and deliberate, and he tends to push the ball, shooting without much arc.  He is a reluctant shooter, who persistently drives into the paint.  In space, he displays a solid handle and the ability to regularly beat his man off the dribble, but he does tend to drive with his head down, limiting his vision.  In traffic, he frequently gets stuck, is loose with the ball, and takes a number of difficult shots. 

Okpala’s future may be as a stretch four at the next level, and he almost exclusively played on the perimeter at Stanford.  Spot-ups accounted for nearly a third of his possessions this season.  At the college level, he could comfortably take 3-point shots nearly anytime he desired due to his height advantage and because opponents were willing to give him those outside shots, too.  Instead, however, he would typically opt to take his man off the dribble, using a quick first step, crossover combinations, and spin moves.

Off the dribble, Okpala displays poor vision as a passer and is reluctant to pull up for jumpers; instead, he usually drives into the paint.  If he encounters a crowd, which he usually does, a lack of footwork, maneuverability, and a tight handle all greatly hinder his game.  He often fails to pass out, commits too many turnovers, and takes difficult one-hand jumpers and runners in these situations.  He also appears unable to use his vertical explosiveness in traffic, and is further handicapped by heavily relying on his right hand to finish. 

Offensively, Okpala is probably at his best in transition, where his long stride helps him get down the floor quickly.  In space, he looks very comfortable handling the ball, effectively using moves such as Eurosteps, and he can make some impressive finishes well above the rim.

On the defensive end, Okpala rated below average statistically this season, allowing .88 points per possession (PPP), which ranked at the 44th percentile.  A lack of awareness appears to be his biggest issue, and he struggles as a team defender (rotating, switching, and dealing with screens).  However, his combination of lateral movement and length is very impressive at times.  He shows the ability to stay in front of athletic wings and guards, and also displays great recovery speed, both of which bode well for him at the next level.

Despite playing basketball most of his life and having two years of experience at Stanford, Okpala is still a very raw talent.  In terms of pure athleticism and size, he is a very attractive prospect, but the game doesn’t appear to come naturally to him.  As of now, with the skills that he possesses, he would seemingly only have hope as a stretch four in the NBA, allowing him to drive against bigger players in conjunction with a painted area that it is naturally less crowded.  Of course, he would have to prove that he could consistently hit open threes, and make a pull-up jumper occasionally.  Though he has yet to do it on a consistent basis, his ability to play defense might be his strength, and if he becomes reliable on that end, he might have a solid career. 

Position:  SF Team/Class: Stanford (So.)
Birthday:  4/28/99 Nationality: United States
Height:  6-8 Weight: 210
Wingspan: 7-2 Vertical: 30.5 inches standing and 37 max
Shot Hand: Right Stats: Click here

Strengths:

  • Great combination of size, length, and athleticism
  • Comfortable handling in space, and able to finish on the break; ranked at the 73rd percentile for PPP in transition this season
  • Efficient as a pick-and-roll handler, ranking at the 79th percentile for PPP
  • Mechanics need work, but reliable on catch-and-shoot jumpers, ranking at the 82nd percentile
  • Capable with runners, ranking at the 57th percentile for PPP
  • Gets to the free-throw regularly (6.0 times per game)
  • Has the lateral quickness and length to be a solid all-around defender at the next level
  • Displays great ability to close out and recover defensively; ranked at the 73rd percentile for PPP allowed as a spot-defender this season

Weaknesses:

  • Has trouble scoring around the basket in the half-court, making just 48 percent of those shots this season
  • Poor when shooting off the bounce, making just 26 percent of his jumpers off the dribble
  • Persistently drives into a crowd, showing poor vision as a passer and a reluctance to pull up
  • Handle can be high and loose in traffic
  • Tends to drive left, but very rarely uses his left hand to finish
  • Doesn’t display reliable hands or move with energy off the ball; ranked at the 17th percentile for PPP on cuts to the basket
  • Not overly creative or accurate as a passer; had an assist-turnover ratio of 0.70 this season
  • Lacks great awareness and intensity on the defensive end
  • Doesn’t make a lot of plays on the defensive end, averaging just 1.8 steals and blocks combined per 40 minutes

Sources, Credits, and Acknowledgements:  Stats used in our scouting reports mainly come from Synergy Sports Technology and RealGM.com, and occasionally from Hoop-Math.com and Sports-Reference.com.  Other outside sources are noted with links to the source. 

About R. C. Harris 62 Articles
Richard has worked as a sports writer/editor/analyst since 1998. He is the former CEO of FantasyFootballExperts.com and a former member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA). He has contributed to various magazines, radio shows, and a number of other sites, including ESPN.com, SI.com, and USAToday.com. Follow on Twitter @HoopsProspects.