It took 57 picks but the first Missouri Tiger is off the board … but it is not Phil Pressey.
With the 27th pick in the second round the Phoenix Suns selected Alex Oriakhi. His selection comes as a surprise as many experts did not list him as a top 60 prospect in the draft.
Still, Oriakhi has a skill set that should play in the NBA off the bench.
A transfer from Connecticut, where he won a National Championship in 2011, Oriakhi offers a physical presence inside and strong rebounding skills. Last season he averaged 11.2 points and 8.4 rebounds in only 25.8 minutes per game. He saw his field goal percentage increase significantly and improved his free throw percentage leap from 56.9% to 74.6%.
Terez Paylor of the Kansas City Star suggests NBA teams have been impressed with the development of Oriakhi’s 15-foot jump shot.
Oriakhi maintains it is his ability to hit the 15-footer — something he did not show at all last season — that has surprised NBA scouts the last three months.
“People didn’t think I could really shoot the ball until they saw I wasn’t missing,” Oriakhi said of his workouts. “People don’t believe me, but it’s always been something I’ve worked on.”
So why didn’t he show that more at Missouri, where his points primarily came on free throws, putbacks and low-post moves?
“I’m a guy that does what the team asks me to do,” said Oriakhi, who posted the highest field-goal and free-throw percentages (63.9 and 74.6, respectively) of his career last season. “Coach never asked me to shoot 15-footers. It wasn’t really in the offense. I knew I could always shoot it. And I knew I would get a chance to show it, so that’s what I’ve done.”
He joins fifth overall pick Alex Len in an effort to rebuild a poor interior line for the Suns. Given how weak the Suns roster is there is a good chance Oriakhi can make the team as a rotational player.
Kansas City is now well represented in Phoenix as Oriakhi will join former Kansas Jayhawks Markieff Morris and Marcus Morris as well as former Kansas State Wildcats star Michael Beasley.