Next up in our NBA Draft Profile series on InsideTheACC is one of the most skilled big men in this year’s draft in Louisville center Chinanu Onuaku. What kind of impact can Onuaku make on the next level if his offensive game develops?
- Class: Sophomore
- Age: 19
- Height: 6’10”
- Weight: 245 lbs.
- Wingspan: 7’3″
- 24.6 minutes per game
- 9.9 points per game
- 8.5 rebounds per game
- 2.0 blocks per game
- 62% shooting overall from the floor
- 58.9% free throw shooting
Louisville sophomore center Chinanu Onuaku is one of the premier big men in the 2016 Draft Class.
Onuaku has a fantastic motor, leading to many second chance points and rebounds on the offensive glass. In 24.6 minutes per game, Onuaku averaged 9.9 points and 8.5 rebounds per game, producing extra possessions and key points for Louisville in times when they needed it most last season. The Cardinals relied on Damion Lee and Trey Lewis to get them going on the perimeter, but Chinanu Onuaku was one of the keys to their whole offense, starting the ball movement from inside out to get Lee and Lewis open looks.
At 6’10”, 245 lbs. with an extremely impressive 7’3″ wingspan, Onuaku is a load to handle in the paint. Aside from simply the sheer size that he possesses in his frame, Onuaku has proven to have a soft touch around the basket when at his best, with decent footwork for an offensive game that is as raw as his is at this stage of his development. Defensively, Onuaku proved himself as one of the best interior defenders in the Atlantic Coast Conference. His wingspan that has already been alluded to, forced opposing players to take many contested shots in the lane, as Onuaku made it extremely difficult for the player that he was defending to get open looks at the basket. Onuaku averaged a robust 2.0 blocks per game, but altered far more shots than he actually blocked, as his presence in the paint clearly bothered offensive players across the ACC.
Some areas of improvement for Onuaku as he moves forward to the NBA will be a continued development of his low post game. He has shown glimpses of what his potential can be as an offensive player when at his best at Louisville, but Onuaku still often relies too much on his size and strength to overpower his defender, which will not be as easy for him to do when he hits the professional game. His footwork and agility are two places for Onuaku to begin his improvement to realize his full offensive potential, as the skill of any NBA big man starts from the ground up. With improved footwork and agility around the basket, Onuaku will develop the post moves necessary to excel offensively in the NBA, instead of being a one-trick pony with a defensive game that is already NBA-ready.
The future is bright for Chinanu Onuaku. I believe his athleticism and ability to defend alone are worthy of a first round pick, but it is the promise that he has shown at times offensively that has many professional scouts excited about what he can eventually become when he recognizes his potential. I like Onuaku to be taken late in the first round in Thursday night’s draft, with an opportunity to immediately help a playoff contender heading into next season. While he will likely start as a rotational player off the bench, I believe that Onuaku has enough offensive upside to potentially become an impact starter in the NBA for years to come.
NBA Draft Projection: Late First Round Pick