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KZ Okpala declares for the NBA Draft

The sophomore could go in the first round

NCAA Basketball: Washington State at Stanford Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

First-team All Pac-12 sophomore KZ Okpala has declared for the NBA Draft.

This move is not unexpected, as he is seen as a first round talent in most every mock draft. The rangy forward put together a strong 2018-19 campaign, averaging 16.9 points and 5.7 rebounds on 46/37/67 shooting splits. He was primarily known as a stopper his freshman year, but displayed a more varied offense arsenal this past season.

Projecting KZ at the next level is tricky. He’s a slasher, so he’ll benefit from NBA spacing and rules like the defensive three second. At Stanford he was often met by a crowd in the paint. His length is sure to entice teams as well, with hopes that they can make him a better defender.

However, his shooting raises some concerns. He shot 37% from deep on decent volume this year, but went just 9-39 (23%) over his final 13 games and has an awkward release. It’s also generally accepted that college free throw percentage is the best predictor of NBA three point success, and he shot only 67% from the line at Stanford. He has other question marks, too, such as his thin stature and inconsistent playmaking.

Okpala will no doubt be invited to the NBA combine, which takes place in Chicago from May 14-19. He’ll have the chance to attend workouts with individual teams as well, and be given feedback. Afterwards, he’ll be told what half of the first or second round he’s projected to be selected.

From there, he has until 2 PM PDT on June 10th to withdraw and return to Stanford. The rules changed this year, allowing players to hire agents without sacrificing college eligibility. Should he stay in the draft, he will hear his name called on June 20th in Brooklyn’s Barclays Center.

Okpala’s departure would be a big blow for Stanford, and the third starter leaving early in the last few years (Rosco Allen and Reid Travis left before their fifth years). The last Cardinal players to depart for the league before their junior seasons were the Lopez twins, a decade ago.