While most of the attention on the Lakers this draft season stem from them holding the #2 overall pick, the team also holds the #32 selection in the upcoming draft. With that, we will be having a series of posts on potential options for that selection. This installment looks at Louisville big man Chinanu Onuaku.
Center, 6’10, 245 lbs. Sophomore, Louisville, 19 years old
24.6 minutes, 9.9 points, 62.0 field goal percentage, 58.9 free throw percentage, 1.6 assists, 8.5 rebounds, 0.8 steals, 2.0 blocks.
Big Board Rankings:
Draft Express – 38, CBS – 33, Sports Illustrated – 43, ESPN (Chad Ford) – 35
At 6’10 and 245 pounds, Chinanu Onuaku makes for an interesting draft prospect for the Lakers. As mentioned in my first draft profile on Stephen Zimmerman, the Lakers could be looking for some depth at the center position. At 6’10”, Onuaku may not be the tallest center, but he’s got a long wingspan (7’3) for his size, a developing frame (245 pounds), and has solid strength for a 19-year-old.
Thanks to his long wingspan and strength, Onuaku was able to block two shots per game in just 24.6 minutes a night, good for third in the ACC. Altogether, he was able to post the second-best defensive rating in the entire NCAA at 84.9. His interior defense is what most people are looking at when talking about his strengths.
Meanwhile, Onuaku is a pretty good pick-n-roll player on offense. He’s got solid hands and can finish around the rim pretty well. If he’s not finishing around the rim, then he’s trying to grab offensive rebounds. The sophomore grabbed 13.7 percent of all offensive rebounds adding up to about 2.7 offensive rebounds per game which placed him fourth in the ACC and ninth in total offensive rebounds.
On the offensive side of the ball, Onuaku doesn’t have much of an offensive game outside of the paint. Although he shot 62 percent from the floor, he only attempted seven shots a game. As you can see from the shot chart, Onuaku hardly took any shots outside of a few feet. His free throw percentage jumping up from 46 percent to 58 percent gives a glimmer of hope, but then again Onuaku started shooting his free throws granny style.
The turnovers for Onuaku also stood out. In his second season at Louisville, he averaged a little over two turnovers per game and had a turnover percentage of almost 21 percent. A big man who turns the ball over on a fifth of his touches isn’t ideal.
On the defensive side, Onuaku has his struggles, as well. Despite his two blocks per game, he had a very high foul rate, fouling almost five times per 40 minutes. This comes with Onuaku’s maturity level. There are times where he gets frustrated and too emotional. Because of that, he starts to slack off on defense, not move as well and reach a lot more.
Where he fits in with the Lakers:
Onuaku seems to be a popular pick by Lakers fans at 32 overall. He’s only 19 and can certainly grow into a solid defender, but he worries me on the offensive side of the ball. He should be okay in pick-n-roll, but there’s really not much else he can contribute. He’s shown some potential as a passer, which would really work with Luke Walton, but then he also turns it over a lot. If the Lakers are going to want even a little bit of spacing, it’s going to be hard to pair Onuaku with Julius Randle or Larry Nance on the court. However, he and Nance could be pretty fun on defense.
Onuaku is only 19 and doesn’t turn 20 until after the next season starts, so he does have room to grow. If he can keep his emotions in check, finish around the rim, and play interior defense like he projects to, he could be a good second round find for the Lakers. He probably won’t get more than a few minutes a game, so the Lakers would have to be patient with him.