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What do the Wizards see in Daniel Ochefu?

NBA: Washington Wizards-Media Day Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

This is the latest in our series of player evaluations for each Wizard from the 2016-17 season. In our most recent installment, we reviewed Marcin Gortat’s season.

Season in Review by Jake Whitacre

Umm ... nothing really happened.

Behind the Numbers by Kevin Broom

Daniel Ochefu’s rookie year tells us next to nothing about whether or not he can one day become a decent NBA player. He appeared in 19 games and played just 75 total minutes in the regular season. His lack of production in a small sample size – even in garbage time – coupled with the lack of playing time for a team starving for a backup big man suggests a guy overwhelmed by the NBA game. That doesn’t mean he’ll always be overwhelmed, though.

The key words above are “small sample size.” Most of Ochefu’s comps (as identified by my statistical doppelganger machine) from NBA history never amounted to much, but the list does include early-career seasons from Anthony Mason, Will Perdue and Greg Kite.

Coming out of Villanova, my stat-based draft evaluation tool, Ye Olde Draft Analyzer (YODA for short) suggested Ochefu was worth a second round pick. At the league minimum, he’s worth at least bringing back to training camp. Like all younger players, how good Ochefu becomes will depend on his willingness to work.

Final Thoughts by Jake Whitacre

So here’s where it gets interesting with Ochefu. He wasn’t a highly regarded draft prospect. He didn’t make much of an impact in Summer League. He was given almost no chance to make an impact during the regular season. There isn’t a lot of evidence out there to support the idea he’s an NBA-level player.

Yet, when you read between the lines with everything the Wizards have done with Ochefu’s development, it seems clear the Wizards think there’s a player worth taking a chance on. Consider the following:

  • The Wizards signed three undrafted rookies last summer to their roster. Ochefu was the only one of the trio who was given a three-year deal. Yes, the guaranteed money in year two and three of the deal is very minimal, but the third year is significant because they can make him a restricted free agent with full Bird rights.
  • Because the Wizards signed Ochefu to a three-year deal, Washington had to use cap space to sign him.
  • Ochefu was never sent down to the D-League this season. Part of that could be the team’s issues with injuries, particularly with Ian Mahinmi. But depth issues didn’t stop the team from assigning Chris McCullough (also a big!) or Sheldon McClellan at various times during the season.

I might be reading too much into this. You could also make a good argument for why the Wizards should cut him to avoid paying out his guaranteed money for the 2017-18 season. Ultimately, the only people who have enough insight into whether or not Ochefu can cut in the league are the ones who see him every day at practice. Their decisions over the next few months will tell us a lot about what they believe about his future.

If the Wizards see something in Ochefu that we aren’t seeing during his limited time on the floor, then by all means they should continue to invest in his development. Big men, by nature, are in short supply. That’s why they’re generally drafted too high and paid too much. If Washington can get anything useful out of a big man that didn’t cost them a draft pick or anything more than a minimum deal, that’s a great return on investment.