After Auburn’s 27-point loss at Kentucky the last week of February, no one would blame the person that thought the Tigers were a tier below the cream of the SEC’s crop. This loss put a chip on Bruce Pearl’s team’s shoulders.
In particular, sophomore forward Chuma Okeke worked to prove himself over the next few weeks. As Auburn ripped off a 7-game winning streak, Okeke tallied double figures in 5 of those contests. That included a 22-point eruption against the top-10 Tennessee Volunteers in an 84-80 victory.
The next time the Tigers met the Volunteers, Okeke notched an 18-point, 13-board double-double to help win the SEC Tournament title.
The 6-foot-8, 230-pounder has moonlighted at center, averaging 11.8 points and 6.8 rebounds while out of position. He’s versatile slasher with a wide frame, while also presenting 3-point touch (37.9 percent) and defensive acumen (1.2 block and 1.8 steals per contest).
It’s this all-encompassing production that has seen him crawl up NBA Draft boards this season. As the 5th-seeded Tigers face No. 4 Kansas for a chance at the Sweet 16, Okeke has a chance to climb higher.
He’s starting to appear on a handful of mock drafts, with some projecting second-round selections. Let’s take a look at these prognostications:
Chuma Okeke NBA Draft Projections & Mock Draft
First, the negative. Our own Jon Adams left Okeke off his most recent NBA Mock Draft.
To the positive, Bryan Kalbrosky of Hoops Hype also features him at No. 37 overall on his aggregate mock draft.
NBA Draft Net sends Okeke to the Brooklyn Nets with the No. 27 pick. He’s listed as a small/power forward hybrid, and would pair well with the recently-acquired Jarrett Allen.
NBA Scouting Live projects him as a second-rounder in its scouting report.
Chuma Okeke is an athletic, combination forward that has a variety of skills that could prove to be useful to a team at the next level. He can shoot and score the basketball, and he can also finish plays above the rim. Right now, he may be a second round prospect for the upcoming draft.
Chuma Okeke NBA Draft Big Board Rankings
On Aran Smith’s NBA Draft Net’s list of 100 players, Okeke has climbed a single spot since his last update. He looks like a first-rounder at No. 28 overall.
ESPN’s Draft Board has him as the No. 9 power forward and No. 32 player overall.
In an SB Nation article speculating who the Nets would take, Okeke’s name was brought up.
The Nets could also be been looking at Chuma Okeke, who some think would be ideal for the Nuggets pick later in the Draft. He’s a 6’8” forward from Auburn who had 17 and five in that game.
That game referred in the quote refers to Auburn’s 93-88 victory over Ja Morant and Murray State back in the fall. While Okeke acquitted himself well then, he’s had a problem performing against the nation’s best.
Outside of the breakouts versus Tennessee, he scored just 6 points against Zion Williamson and Duke back in November. In 3 games versus Kentucky (P.J. Washington) and LSU (Naz Reid), he averaged just 12 points a game.
That’s okay output, but if Okeke wants to earn a big paycheck this summer with an NBA franchise, he needs to continue his recent form against high-profile teams like the Jayhawks. Since he’s frequently plays out of position at the 5, he may benefit from working out at the NBA Scouting Combine at his natural role as a battering ram of a 4.
Scouts will be watching in force tonight, as Okeke will go head-to-head with Kansas’ Dedric Lawson, another NBA Draft hopeful.