Auburn's Isaac Okoro is getting plenty of attention in the latest 2020 NBA mock drafts, even showing up as a lottery pick in recent projections done by ESPN and CBS.
Both sites have the freshman forward getting selected inside the top five of the opening round, going to the Minnesota Timberwolves with the No. 4 pick in CBS' mock draft and No. 3 to the Atlanta Hawks in ESPN's projection.
CBS projects that three of the top five selections will be freshmen from the Southeastern Conference, with Georgia's Anthony Edwards going No. 2 to the Cleveland Cavaliers and Kentucky's Tyrese Maxey going No. 5 to the Atlanta Hawks along with Okoro. ESPN did not place Maxey inside the top 10, but has Edwards as the No. 1 pick to the Golden State Warriors.
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Okoro led the Tigers to a 25-6 record and No. 2 seed in the SEC Tournament, averaging 12.8 points and 4.4 rebounds in a freshman season that was cut short due to COVID-19. The 6-foot-6, 225-pound forward started 28 games in the shortened season and was named to the All-SEC Freshman team, the league's all-defensive team and earned All-SEC Second Team honors. He missed just three games with a hamstring injury.
The former 4-star from Powder Springs, Georgia was, at times, Auburn's go-to scorer on the offensive end showing the ability to drive at will, get to the basket and finish in traffic. And on the defensive side of the ball, he blossomed into the team's best defender, often matching up with the opposing team's leading scorer.
"He's a versatile, smart defender with great instincts and feel," CBS' Kyle Boone wrote of Okoro. "He can impact winning without needing to contribute much offensively."
And although Okoro is making himself eligible for the draft, he won't hire an agent as he tests the draft waters, so that he is able to maintain his eligibility if he does choose to return to Auburn. Currently the deadline for that decision is set for May 29, though that is liable to change given the uncertain status of the NBA calendar.
“I think specific to Isaac Okoro one of the great joys of coaching him this year and recruiting him, is he just wanted to go to a place he can get better and have the opportunity to be put in a position to be successful and try to compete for championships," Pearl said earlier in March. "He’s lost six basketball games in two years. He didn’t lose at McEachern High School and he was 25-6 in his first year at Auburn. So we talked about the NBA during the recruiting process."
Okoro has the opportunity to be one of Auburn's highest selections ever in an NBA Draft, if not the highest depending on a couple of team's draft-day decisions.
Former players Chris Morris and Chuck Person hold the top spot, both being selected fourth in 1988 and 1986 respectively. The only other top-five selection was Charles Barkley, who went fifth to the Philadelphia 76ers in 1984.
The 2020 NBA Draft is, as of now, scheduled for June 25.
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