San Antonio Spurs 2020 Draft Watch: Daniel Oturu flying up draft boards

Minnesota Golden Gophers center Daniel Oturu. (Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Minnesota Golden Gophers center Daniel Oturu. (Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /

As we look forward to the 2020 NBA Draft there is one player who has flown up draft boards lately. How would University of Minnesota center Daniel Oturu fit in with the San Antonio Spurs?

The college basketball season is in full swing and University of Minnesota center Daniel Oturu is one of the players making a strong impression so far. The Minnesota native has been a double-double machine for his home state Golden Gophers and has flown up draft boards as a result. It would be a huge mistake for the San Antonio Spurs not to have an eye on him.

The Golden Gophers have long been a middle of the pack program and don’t have too many established alumni in the NBA. That could change this year as Oturu continues to grab draft scouts’ attention and makes a name for himself as a lottery prospect.

Oturu was impressive as a freshman but he’s taken a leap in his sophomore season and has become one of the most dominant players in the country. He’s averaging 19 points, 12 rebounds, and 3 blocks per game on nearly 62 percent shooting from the field. San Antonio Spurs fans will be very familiar with the last major conference player to post those kinds of numbers. It was Tim Duncan back in 1996-97.

We’ve seen plenty of players dominate college ball and fail to maintain that level of production in the NBA but it doesn’t look like that will be the case with Oturu. He’s spent a lot of time working in the paint this year but has a game that should translate well to the current NBA style of play.

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It’s hard to carve out a role as a big man in the NBA if you can’t stretch the floor these days. If a player isn’t a dominant rim protector like Jakob Poeltl they’ll have a difficult time receiving playing time if they can’t shoot the ball. Spacing is key to a team’s success, just look at how LaMarcus Aldridge‘s newfound love for the long ball has opened up the Spurs offense.

Oturu dominates down low but has shown off a smooth shooting stroke this year and has proven that he can knock down college three’s. He’s only hitting on 33 percent of his long-distance attempts right now but he’s got a clean stroke and should be able to improve his accuracy as he continues to develop. Free throw percentage is a solid indicator of future shooting ability, Oturu’s accuracy from the charity stripe (73%) reinforces the idea that he will be able to stretch the floor at the next level.

He’s getting it done on the defensive end as well. At 6’10 Oturu isn’t the tallest player in this year’s draft but he uses his 7’3 wingspan to send back opponents shots with the best of them. He’s in the top ten in the country in blocks per game and shown a good instinct for timing his blocks. He’s able to alter opponents shots without fouling too which is a great trait for a big man.

Oturu also used his length to dominate the boards this year. He’s a rebounding machine pulling down 12.3 per rebounds per game, the fourth highest mark in the country. He’s bringing down 8.2 defensive rebounds per game but it’s his 4.1 offensive rebounds per game that is impressive.

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Throughout the year he’s consistently done a great job of boxing out his man and creating second-chance opportunities for the Gophers. His 29 point, 18 rebound performance against Purdue earlier this month was one of his best games of the season and was a great example of how dominant he can be in the paint when he gets going.

With an aging frontcourt and uncertain future options, the San Antonio Spurs should have their eye on Oturu come June. His ability to stretch the floor would let him play with both Aldridge and Poelt and he has the strength, size, and rim protection ability to make an intriguing pairing with Luka Samanic down the road.

He’s one of the best pick and roll players in the country and is equally comfortable popping out and knocking down a jumper or rolling to the rim. Both Derrick White and Dejounte Murray have shown an ability to skillfully work as ball handlers in pick and roll sets, adding Oturu as a dance partner with shooters like Lonnie Walker surrounding the action would make for a dangerous and exciting offense.

He’s only a sophomore so there’s no guarantee that Oturu actually declares for the draft this year. But with the way, he’s been playing it looks like he will be a surefire lottery pick in this year’s draft. A strong rest of the season, conference tournament, and March Madness run could help him drive his stock up and out of the Spurs reach.

As of right now, the San Antonio Spurs are bound for the lottery. But with how they’ve been playing they could very easily fight their way back into the playoffs. If he keeps playing at a high-level Oturu will probably be off the board when the Spurs are on the clock but players have slid right into the Spurs laps before and it could happen again.

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He’s been one of the most dominant players in the country over the course of the season and his draft stock has taken off as a result. If the San Antonio Spurs didn’t have Daniel Oturu on their radar before they certainly should now.