Boston Celtics Draft Prospect No. 1) Zeke Nnaji, C
First up on the docket, we have Arizona’s freshman center Zeke Nnaji. Throughout his one and done season with the Wildcats, the Minnesota native provided unbelievable intensity and fluid offensive production as the team’s starting five.
Through 32 games, Nnaji found himself averaging a solid 16.1 points, 8.6 rebounds, and just shy of a block per game on 57 percent shooting from the floor. Though best served down low in the paint on offense, he did manage to showcase solid range throughout the 2019-20 campaign, as he wouldn’t hesitate to stroke a foul line or 15-foot jumper with his picturesque form.
Should he put some time in working on his 3-point shooting (shot 29 percent from deep), it is very realistic to believe he could become a consistent floor-spacing big at the next level — something the Boston Celtics could certainly use off the pine (rank 27th in second unit 3-point percentage).
Earning accolades such as First-Team All-Pac-12, All-Freshman team All-Pac-12, and Pac-12 Freshman of the Year, it’s evident that the 6-11 Zeke Nnaji’s game managed to stand out among the rest of his collegiate peers as well as his fellow freshman Arizona teammates (two of which project to be first-round selections in this upcoming draft). In turn, his production turned him into one of the best bigs in his respective conference as well as an intriguing young prospect heading into the NBA Draft.
NBA Comparison: Ersan Ilyasova
Comparing Zeke Nnaji’s game to a current NBA player was a hard task to accomplish. In all honesty, there is no one player currently in the league who he resembles completely.
However, Ersan Ilyasova, for the most part, is a solid comparison in our eyes.
Though he may not have the electrifying intensity and athleticism the 19-year-old possesses, Ilyasova is a capable shooting big who can bang down low, fight for second possessions and always seems to position himself in the right place to be found by his teammates for a quick bucket.
Throughout his 12-year NBA career, the Turkish big has averaged 10.3 points, 5.8 boards, and just shy of half a block per game on 44 percent shooting from the field and 37 percent shooting from deep.
Currently finding himself filling a 16.8 minutes per night role on the title favorite Milwaukee Bucks, Ilyasova is entrusted with coming off the bench and providing efficient offense and second-chance opportunities.
While he’s most certainly not a “game-changer”, having someone like Ilyasova off the pine is truly a plus for a team in contention.
With some work on his long-range game, Zeke Nnaji could provide a very similar role to Ilyasova.