…mock draft predicts no first-round selections for Nigerians
James Nnaji, 17, could be the only Nigerian or player of Nigerian descent to be selected in the 2023 NBA draft billed to hold on Thursday, June 22 at the Barclays Center in New York.
This would be the joint lowest draft class involving Nigerian-born players or players of Nigerian descent in the NBA Draft equaling in recent time 2022’s draft class which saw only Ochai Agbaji drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers.
According to a mock draft conducted by Yahoo Sports, for the first time in the last five years, no Nigerian or player of Nigerian descent will be picked in the first round as the country’s only prospect, Nnaji is expected to be selected at No. 34 by the Charlotte Hornets.
Standing at 7ft and weighing 200 pounds, Nnaji who currently plays for Barcelona in Spain is noted to be, “An excellent rim protector with his 7-7 wingspan and, like Lively, he could see early NBA minutes as a rim-runner. His frame is a little more filled out and he runs the floor well for a player his size. He’s proficient while taking other bigs off the dribble but doesn’t necessarily have an established pick-and-pop game.”
James Nnaji follows Okogie, Metu, Antetokounmpo footsteps
Four players of Nigerian descent were drafted in 2018 – Deandre Ayton (1), Josh Okogie (20), Chimezie Metu (49), and Kostas Antetokounmpo (60); three in 2019 – Chuma Okeke (16), KZ Okpala (32), Mike Oni (58).
The 2020 NBA draft class amounted to a record number of players of Nigerian origin selected in an NBA draft class. A total of nine players – Isaac Okoro (5), Onyeka Okongwu (6), Aaron Naismith (14), Precious Achiuwa (20), Zeke Nnaji (22), Udoka Azubuike (27), Desmond Bane (30), Daniel Oturu (33), and Jordan Nwora (45).
Three players of Nigerian origin were selected in the 2021 NBA Draft class – Usman Garuba (23), Ayo Dosunmu (38), and Charles Bassey (53) while only Ochai Agbaji (14) was drafted in 2022.