2020 Draft Pick Tournament Finals: #8 Tyrese Haliburton vs #6 Onyeka Okongwu

Round four and rounds no more

This is it! The Finals, the end of a journey we started about a month ago. For details on how these prospects were selected and seeded, see the master tournament post.

The Semifinals Results

Haliburton ended up edging Wiseman in an absurdly close contest, coming down to a single Twitter vote.

Tyrese Haliburton just seems like the most Warriors player in the draft, with his high character, shooting, defensive effort and smart playmaking, and his weakness of poor shot creation seems less urgent in Kerr’s motion O and with Steph Curry passing to you. This season revealed that without Steph and Klay Thompson, the Warriors were the worst shooting team in the league, so Dub Nation is pining for players who can hit an open shot.

James Wiseman is the most famous mystery big now, with essentially no college track record. His physical dimensions (7’ 1”, 7’ 6” wingspan, 240 lbs) and mobility have people comparing him to David Robinson. He flashes some skills with a jumper and post game, but it’s raw enough that multiple scouts are begging him on offense to embrace the JaVale McGee life of being a rim-running dunk machine and not a Pau Gasol finesse life, at least early.

The voters judged Okongwu and Vassell as both likely to contribute right away, but if you have to choose, go with the big defender.

Onyeka Okongwu is a defensive dynamo and an athletic big finisher. His offensive shot creation game is raw, but he seems easy to slot into the Kerrball we’re familiar with, in the JaVale McGee slot. If he can pass off the short roll reasonably, then he’s going to fit right in on offense. Then on D, he’ll give Kerr the option of guarding PNR with smart drop defense and switching when needed. The Warriors Five Year Run was founded on defense, and the team could use some plus defenders.

Lots of people are salivating over Devin Vassell joining GSW, since he looks like an NBA-ready 3-and-D wing. In particular, he brings ready catch-and-shoot skills, which would fit in well in a classic Kerrball scheme which already is based on the elite off-ball movement of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. Vassell also lacks shot creation, but he’s 6’ 7” with a 6’ 10” wingspan and a smart defender on-ball and rotating to help.

And so, we have the finals: #8 Tyrese Haliburton vs #6 Onyeka Okongwu.

Which of These Two Prospects Would You Rather The Warriors Draft?

We’ll present scouting reports, and you can vote at the end of this post.

8. Tyrese Haliburton

Wizzy’s Comps: (per 40 similarity > 70) None. (>50) Lonzo Ball, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Monte Morris, Raymond Felton, Shane Larkin, Luther Head, Desmond Bane, Trey Burke

Wizzy’s Comps: (advanced similarity > 70) None. (>50) Lonzo Ball, Shane Larkin

NBADraftRoom Comp: better MCW, Dejounte

(Graphic from Sports-Reference.com)

Gary Parrish, CBS

Haliburton, like Toppin, is a good example of a mostly unheralded high school prospect who became a statistical monster in college… before suffering an injury in early February that ended his college career

Jeremy Woo, SI

There’s still some dissonance in how scouts value the things he brings to the table. His unselfishness and ability to facilitate winning play is a big draw for some. Other scouts remain hung up on his shooting mechanics and don’t see a full-time lead ball-handler. He’s a much better team defender than he is on an island, for better or worse.

John Hollinger, The Athletic

As a scoring threat in the halfcourt, however, he has work to do. He’s long and quick but doesn’t have crazy burst and needs time and space to uncork his outside shot. At the basket, he shies away from contact with his thin frame and doesn’t draw fouls.

He’s more spectacular in transition, where his speed and court vision can combine for some breathtaking sequences. He’s also a money shooter.

All the background on Haliburton is rock solid as well. He may never be a big scorer, but as a long-term plus at the guard position, he looks like one of the few close-to-sure things in this draft.

Kevin O’Connor, The Ringer

SHADES OF: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Sam Cassell

Always in control. Creative playmaker with extraordinary vision and ambidextrous handles. Good spot-up shooter with deep NBA range, despite his odd form. A coach’s dream: He does all the little things on the court.

Lack of athleticism and burst limits his upside as a primary shot creator. Generally avoids contact at the rim. Made progress off the dribble as a sophomore, but still didn’t shoot well, and his stiff form raises concern. Man-to-man defense: He stands in too much of an upright stance.

Kyle Mann, The Ringer

Tyrese Haliburton is one of the best examples. The league should be praying that he's kept away from the Warriors. I’m praying for the opposite. The Iowa State guard would be an incredible fit within Golden State’s scheme because of the added jolt and intelligence he could bring to their healing offense, whether he's the primary initiator or not. In some ways he seems like Shaun Livingston reincarnated.

Kyle Boone, CBS


Rob Dauster, NBC Sports

He was the best player on the floor for Team USA at the U-19 World Championships over the summer. 

I’m high on Haliburton because, after seeing the way that elite passers like Luka Doncic, Ja Morant and Trae Young have thrived early in their NBA career, I’m willing to take the risk on a 6-foot-5 point guard that can make those passes in a year where the opportunity of rolling the dice at the top is relatively low.

NBA.com, Making his point: The rapid rise of Tyrese Haliburton:

“A lot of it’s in the DNA,” Prohm says, before listing Haliburton’s inherent qualifications to play the point: “Unselfish. In his heart, Tyrese is a giver. Feel for the game. Ability to make people better. Charismatic. Personable … He’ll be the governor of Wisconsin [Haliburton’s home state] when it’s over. He can own any room.”

“You talk to a lot of NBA people, and they’ll tell you there’s a lot more to the really great players than performing on game night,” Robinson says. “There’s a tremendous amount of preparation that goes into it. That won’t set back Tyrese. He’ll be able to hit the ground running when it comes to preparation. He’s like a sponge. He soaks up information, and he’s not intimidated by guys being older or having more experience.”

Prohm says Haliburton will be “blessed wherever he ends up,” but he’s got a spot in mind. “He’d be great [for the Warriors]. He’s a ball mover, and he can play the 1, 2 or 3 at the next level. And he’s all about winning, all about doing the right things, a lot of the things I’ve read about what the Warriors do as a team.”

Ethan Strauss, “A breakdown of Tyrese Haliburton”:

I didn’t maintain that view, however. As I dug deeper into the Haliburton experience, I came away seeing more possibilities than limitations, more positive than negative. Because, while Haliburton isn’t a top pick-and-roll guard, he happens to be an absolutely brilliant passer.

Despite his flaws, Haliburton could fit perfectly on this particular team. Defense is half the game and Haliburton has high-level defensive abilities. The Warriors are light on wing depth and desperately in need of plus defenders. Not only can Haliburton take pressure off of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson on that end, but he can find novel ways to get them the ball.

Ethan Strauss and Evan Zamir, The Athletic:

Evan: I think some people will see shades of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (“Shades of Shai” is either a great podcast title or new line of sunglasses), but the important differentiator there is Shai’s driving ability. That is what makes him a special player with potential superstar upside. Regardless, if you buy into Haliburton’s defense and off-ball skills, which I do, you’re looking at a potentially uber role player with legit All-Star upside as the second- or third-best player on a contender.

Sam Vecenie, The Athletic:

Anyone who read what Tyrese Haliburton wrote for his social media feed after the George Floyd killing saw an intelligent, thoughtful person. Teams that have done their background research have come away thinking similarly. Particularly, they point to his maturity and emotional intelligence. Sources have said that Haliburton will be able to adjust to just about any situation he’s put in early in his career, and will find success. Consistently, he’s come up as being one of the most impressive human beings in this class. This played a role in his move up to No. 5 on my board. More than that, though, the more tape I watch on Haliburton, the more I see pretty substantial upside if he’s able to fill out his frame with 20-25 more pounds throughout his career. I feel confident he’s going to be effective quickly in the NBA because of his diversity of skill-set as a potential secondary ballhandler. But there is some upside for more.

How Iowa State’s Tyrese Haliburton Has Emerged a Top NBA Prospect (video) 

Sam Vecenie, The Athletic

If the team looks in the backcourt, I do think the buzz surrounding the Warriors and Haliburton makes some sense. Kerr would love his high-level basketball IQ. He brings a lot of the same qualities Shaun Livingston did to the table, he’s just a bit more explosive and a bit more modern in his approach to the game.

Halibuton’s weakness… is shot creation for himself. In almost any scenario, Halibuton works. Such is the value of his diverse set of skills. 

6. Onyeka Okongwu

Wizzy’s Comps: (per 40 similarity > 70) Stromile Swift, Anthony Davis, Isaiah Stewart, Rasheed Wallace, Derrick Favors, Bam Adebayo, Darrell Arthur, Brandan Wright, Chris Taft

Wizzy’s Comps: (advanced similarity > 70) Anthony Davis, Kenneth Faried, John Collins, Isaiah Stewart, Richaun Holmes

NBADraftRoom Comp: Bam, Tristan Thompson+

(Graphic from Sports-Reference.com)

Gary Parrish, CBS

Okongwu mostly operated off of the national radar this season because he played for an unranked team on the West Coast. But he was fantastic — averaging 16.2 points and 8.6 rebounds while shooting 61.6% from the field. He's the main reason USC won 16 of its first 20 games and would've been in the NCAA Tournament. 

Jeremy Woo, SI

Okongwu has been a divisive name in league circles, but his value at this point is pretty firmly entrenched somewhere between here [#9] and the mid first-round. Some struggle to see the upside while others place a high premium on his floor. Okongwu is a highly impactful player within seven feet of the rim, runs the floor well, and will be able to hang defensively and anchor smaller lineups without needing his number called.

John Hollinger, The Athletic

Okongwu was awesome as a freshman and the only reason I don’t have him higher is that today’s game doesn’t value bigs as much. He still might be undervalued here [#4]. Relative to his position he’s arguably the best player in this draft, and in particular would seem to be an outstanding fit with the Golden State Warriors.

Since 2011-12, five major conference NCAA freshman have had a PER north of 30 and shot better than 70 percent from the line, an important indicator that they had enough skill to be something besides a ‘90s beast-ball 5 in the pros.

The first four were Anthony Davis, Cody Zeller, Karl-Anthony Towns and Deandre Ayton. Three of them were the first pick in the draft and the other one was picked [fourth] and has had a very solid pro career.

Okongwu is the fifth.

Kevin O’Connor, The Ringer

SHADES OF: Bam Adebayo, young Antonio McDyess, Taj Gibson

Excellent finisher with soft hands that catch tough passes, a pillowy touch around the rim, and the quick-leaping ability to score with power.

Good post scorer. Handles the ball like a wing. He makes slick passes, loves to throw outlets, and passes well out of the post. Does the little things: He hustles, screens well, rebounds all over the floor, and makes clutch plays.

Excellent pick-and-roll defender. He’s mobile and versatile, able to drop, switch, or hedge.

Inconsistent shooting mechanics from the field and the line. He’s slightly undersized for a center at 6-foot-9 with a 7-foot-1 wingspan. He also needs to get significantly stronger to contain elite post-up bigs like Joel Embiid.

Kyle Boone, CBS


Rob Dauster, NBC Sports

He’s athletic enough that being a switchable five seems like his floor. Worst-case scenario, Okongwu turns into an off-the-bench big that provides energy, rebounding and defense. If the jumper — and, especially, the passing — comes along, he can be much more than that.

Ethan Strauss and Evan Zamir, The Athletic:

Evan: Okongwu has been so dominant this year (at or near the top of my freshman stats rankings all season) and that was without the benefit of playing with a high-end point guard or much spacing around him. I just feel like he’s going to be a super solid center on both ends with some shooting potential. (He has great touch around the rim and on his hooks and shot 72 percent at the line.) 

Ethan Strauss:

He’s also a confusing mix of qualities. The more I look, the trickier Okongwu is to completely figure out. Is he a throwback post-up center? Or is he a rim runner who guards positions 1 through 5? Is he a future 3-point threat, as his form and free-throw percentage might indicate?

In talks I’ve had with bored, quarantined NBA coaches who’ve done the scouting, questions of conditioning are raised. In their view, Okongwu tends to go all out until he burns out, like a marathoner who starts a race sprinting.

All in all, I just don’t think Okongwu’s productivity can be dismissed as something that’s only possible within the college game. Yes, he’s a post-up killer in a world that increasingly doesn’t need post-ups, but he gets his baskets quickly enough to keep a 24-second shot clock at bay. Also, he runs a beautiful pick-and-roll and shows promise as a shooter. Teams will rank him lower than James Wiseman because Wiseman has an obvious role as a center with archetypal size. Okongwu is something different, something a bit harder to project, but I’m buying the possibility. 

Sam Vecenie, The Athletic

He’s an absolutely terrific defender at the center position who would fit really well within an aggressive defensive scheme. His rim protection is extremely high level despite his relative lack of size for the center position due to his vertical pop. He’s a smart player offensively who generally would make sense within Steve Kerr’s offense. He can rim run, and he’s unselfish with some ability to short roll into the midrange, or to play in the dunker spot while Green pairs in screen and rolls with Curry. Okongwu was also extremely productive this year, averaging over 16 points, eight rebounds and three blocks while shooting over 60 percent from the field.

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