Friday, February 21, 2020

Chalifoux's NBA prospects to watch for from No. 18 Colorado's 70-66 win over USC

Mandatory Credit- Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

By: Adam Chalifoux
Twitter: @FantasticMrFoux

The No. 18 Colorado Buffaloes once again defended their home court with a stellar second-half to hold of the USC Trojans, 70-66. Meanwhile, Arizona State was able to upset the Oregon Ducks, putting Colorado in the first place in the Pac-12. 

It was not a pretty first half for the Buffaloes. In fact, early on it was ugly. Colorado turned the ball over 11 times to four assists in the first half. The Trojans held a 29-26 lead going into the break as they looked to avenge their loss in Los Angeles earlier in the season. 

While the Buffaloes prevailed, both teams featured potential NBA talent. In fact, the best NBA prospect was on the Trojans. Let's take a look at the four most interesting NBA prospects from Thursday night's game.

1) Onyeka Okongwu- USC 

If the Univerity of Southern California's science department developed a way to clone Onyeka Okongwu, they would likely have won the game. Unfortunately for the Trojans, there was only one of him and he alone was not enough to stop the balanced Buffaloes. The 6-foot-9, 245-pound freshmen used his NBA body to dominate inside for 21 points to lead all scorers on an efficient 10-of-13 from the field.

Okongwu also showed prowess on the defensive end, demonstrating a high IQ and athleticism to jump passing lanes and anticipate the offenses next move to finish with four steals. Many experts project Okongwu as a top-10 pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. 

2) Tyler Bey- Colorado

Tyler Bey has been the best defensive player on Colorado's defense which ranks 14th in the country according to Kenpom's defensive efficiency rating. Bey has the feet to guard inside and outside making him a terrific pick-and-roll defender due to his ability to guard guards and forwards effectively. 

Bey's 9.3 rebounds per game leads the conference. Bey stays in his stance and is one of the best in the country at jumping passing lanes and playing off-ball defense.

Bey tied with USC's Nick Rakocevic for a game-high 11 rebounds. The 6-foot-7, 218-pound forward could beef up a bit and improve his jumper to reach his full NBA potential but as junior, he has been crucial to the Buffaloes success on the offensive side of the floor as well. 

Bey's instincts for the ball, timing, and motor make him a tremendous and relentless rebounder. Many mock drafts show Bey being taken in the mid to late first round. In today's league, Bey could potentially develop into a valuable asset with a team that likes to run in a small-ball league.

3) McKinley Wright- Colorado

The biggest thing going against McKinley Wright is his height. Apart from that, the 6-foot junior has just about everything else a coach could want in a point guard. Despite usually being one of the smaller players on the floor, Wright is a tremendous rebounder averaging 5.3 per game. 

Wright is a stabilizing force on both ends of the floor whether that shows up when he is running the offense or correcting defensive breakdowns. Wright struggled with turnovers in the first half but finished with seven assists and 15 points.

Wright seems to always be ready to step up in big moments. Despite the young playmaker not yet garnering a ton of hype as a professional prospect yet, a strong showing in March and perhaps staying for his senior season could bring more awareness to the Buffaloes floor general.

4) Isaiah Mobley- USC

Isaiah Mobley was the only player to represent California in 2019's McDonalds All-American Game last season. His younger brother, Evan Mobley is the number one high school player in the nation and committed to the Trojans next season. 

Mobley's size and athleticism make him an interesting prospect. While he only averages 6.9 points and 5.5 rebounds per game, Mobley has the potential to develop into a very reliable player. The easy comparison is former Trojan, Taj Gibson.