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2020 NBA Draft Profiles: Daniel Oturu

Can the young big man become a Gorgui Dieng replacement?

NCAA Basketball: Big Ten Tournament-Northwestern vs Minnesota Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports

Daniel Oturu, Center, University of Minnesota

  • 6’10” (7’2” wingspan), 240 lbs., 20 years old, from Woodbury, Minnesota
  • 2019-2020 season: 31 games played, 33.9 minutes per game, 20.1 points per game, 11.3 rebounds, 2.5 blocks, 56.3% field goal percentage (36.5% from three), 70.7% free throw shooter
  • ACCOLADES: 2019-2020 2nd Team All-Big Ten, 2019-2020 Big Ten All-Defense, 2019-2020 Wooden Award Late Season list
  • ADVANCED STAT STRENGTHS (per Tankathon): PER (30.7), projected NBA three point percentage (33.1%), 11.1 box plus/minus
  • ADVANCED STAT AREAS TO GROW: assist to turnover ratio (.39), free throw attempt rate (.428), defensive box plus/minus (3.4)
  • CURRENT BIG BOARD RANKINGS: 37th (Tankathon), 44th (Ringer), 41st (CBS Sports), 36th (ESPN)

The Memphis Grizzlies are set in the front court...for now.

Jonas Valanciunas is one of the better values in the NBA when comparing contract worth and structure to overall production. The exploits of him, Brandon Clarke, and Jaren Jackson Jr. have been discussed here, there, and everywhere over the course of this “extended” NBA season - Memphis is very strong for the next couple of seasons in terms of having productive bigs. Add on the facts that Gorgui Dieng is under contract through next season and players like Kyle Andersons can play the traditional “power forward” position as well, and you can pretty easily argue that front court players aren’t a huge need for Memphis.

So why talk about drafting another center - especially one like Jonas Valanciunas?

Because Gorgui Dieng’s best value to the Grizzlies may be as a tradable asset/contract, and if he is gone that depth is all of a sudden tested.

Jaren and Brandon cannot play the traditional “center” spot for extended periods at this stage of their young NBA careers. Players like Anderson and Jontay Porter - remember him? - are either unknown commodities or incapable of holding up their end of the bargain when it comes to paint defense. While “positionless” basketball still rules, and traditional bigs like Valanciunas have arguably never been less valuable, the need for large bodies to protect the paint and absorb contact/minutes is still present. You just don’t want to spend a ton of money on that spot, if possible.

2nd round picks are often lauded for their potential value. So a big like Daniel Oturu, as opposed to the over $17 million owed Dieng next season, may be a better reflection of cap management. Oh, and Oturu can play. That helps.

What he does well

NCAA Basketball: Maryland at Minnesota David Berding-USA TODAY Sports

This won’t sound as if it makes a ton of sense, since his defensive box plus/minus numbers aren’t terrific, but in a traditional sense he is an above average rim protector. His size and frame allow for him to be a force in the paint, altering shot attempts and forcing opponents to game plan for him as an enforcer in the lane. Offensively he has shown the ability to hit the three, and also has a decent back-to-the-basket low post game. He can handle the ball better than a majority of players with his size, and on the perimeter he sets really strong screens. He theoretically makes the most sense with a team that wants to emphasize the pick and roll - know anyone like that?

Add on the fact he was a very good rebounder in college, and you can do a lot worse at #40 overall than acquire a bench big of the future - and perhaps the here and now depending on plans for Dieng.

Where he can improve

NCAA Basketball: Maryland at Minnesota David Berding-USA TODAY Sports

Unfortunately for Daniel, the old school low post big is currently going the way of the dino around much of the NBA. While Jonas Valanciunas, Nikola Vucevic, and others do still utilize this style of scoring, it is fathomable that a 10th man like Oturu would not get the ball in that manner for games at a time. That limits his effectiveness. He also is far too slow to react to opposing defenses and turns the ball over way too much as a result - he must understand that a double team or a perimeter player attacking him on the way through a clear out will come, and what to do to respond.

Overall, he needs to improve his NBA readiness. From finishing plays and runs of time on the floor more aggressively to becoming more comfortable as a pick and pop threat on the perimeter, he will need time to grow in to a role.

The fit

NCAA Basketball: Indiana at Minnesota David Berding-USA TODAY Sports

Oturu makes sense as a pick for the Grizzlies at #40 overall on multiple levels. Want to keep Dieng through the end of his contract? That would allow Oturu to have what would essentially amount to an NBA redshirt year to better his game and body to be more productive the following season, when he would likely replace Gorgui in the rotation. Want to take the opportunity to trade Dieng and a couple assets for a wing scorer? Oturu’s rebounding and defense are good enough that for 12 or so minutes a night he should be able to hold his own.

He is intriguing because of his age and the potential his frame and athleticism carry. But he may not be ready to be what Memphis would need immediately.

The Verdict

Since you’re probably not getting that volume scorer that can supplant Dillon Brooks as a starter at #40 overall, drafting best available is a must. It’s probable that Oturu could be in that mix - but because the strength of his game is not one that makes as much sense for the Grizzlies beyond the Valanciunas exception, a perimeter player (especially a point guard) may be chosen ahead of Daniel if Memphis picks at #40.

Oturu will be on the board at #40, but the Memphis Grizzlies will pass on him.

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