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Miami Heat 2020-21 player review: KZ Okpala

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The 2019 second-round pick, with no G-League or Summer League, had a minimal role when he appeared on the court.

Indiana Pacers v Miami Heat Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

The offseason has arrived for the Miami Heat, who were swept out of the first round in the NBA playoffs by the Milwaukee Bucks — losing their four games by a combined 82 points.

Before we deep dive into everything regarding the future months for this team, let’s discuss the seasons for Heat players who played and finished on the 2020-21 Heat roster.

For our 12th player review — conducted in alphabetical order — we will look at 22-year-old wing KZ Okpala. Here’s the previous 11 Heat players we’ve reviewed:

Let’s dive into it!


Brief Overview:

2020-21 stats (37 games):

  • 2.5 PPG
  • 1.8 RPG
  • 1.1 APG
  • 44.8 true shooting percentage
  • 5.2 player efficiency rating

The 2019 second-round pick appeared in 37 games this season, starting in nine of them. It’s not unfair to say that Okpala’s 2020-21 NBA season results, on the surface, were inconsistent, rocky, or any other synonym you could describe. It’s fair. But he also gained valuable experience. I’d be remiss to mention that his role was also inconsistent; some could argue that he was used in questionable situations, while others may say he wasn’t used in situations when he should’ve been on the floor. Both are fair assessments.

Numbers to note:

56.3 - Okpala had a dreadful shooting season. He shot just 37.5 percent from the floor, 24 percent from 3-point range and 52.2 percent from the free-throw line. However, Okpala became more respectable when he utilized his long strides to create easy looks at the rim. Per NBA.com, Okpala shot 56.3 percent on drives — the fifth best mark among active Heat players this season.

0.9 - Despite the limited offensive play (and role), Okpala’s length, athleticism and adequate physicality gives him respectable defensive acumen. Multiple times, he showcased his entire defensive package regardless of where or whom he was defending. Okpala’s on-ball defense is arguably his best skillset as a pro — but off-ball defense isn’t far behind, especially when swatting shots. The 6-foot-8 wing tallied a respectable 0.9 blocks per 36 minutes this season, tied with Andre Iguodala for the team’s sixth-best mark.

In the few clips above, dare I say he was ..... KZ Blockpala?


Best game?

May 16 vs. Detroit Pistons

Both of Okpala’s best games came against the Pistons and were exactly four months apart. For now, we’ll focus on the latter instead of the former, when he tallied a career-high 17 points. He shot 6-of-9 from the floor with five rebounds, two assists, two blocks and two steals.

The former, Okpala had 16 points on 6-of-9 shooting with a career-high four 3-pointers (on five attempts). It was his only game of the season with multiple triples — he hit one in eight other regular season affairs.


What’s next?

Similarly to Achiuwa, Okpala’s comfort level and shear development was halted by no NBA Summer League nor a Sioux Falls Skyforce G-League season. Experience at the professional level is beneficial, but a minimal role with an inconsistent workload isn’t.

It goes without saying that Okpala’s biggest room for growth looms offensively. He would be oftentimes be planted in either one of the corners with a minimal task. Okpala showed he was capable of getting downhill and, in certain cases, showed flashes as a drive-and-kick playmaker. But he also displayed the “dear in the headlights” look at certain points. That goes back to his comfort and familiarity with the NBA’s pace, which materializes with more experience. Okpala’s shot-making — both in the pull-up and off the catch — must also improve for consistent playing time at the professional level.

That said, let’s not forget that Miami traded not one, not two, but three second-round picks to land Okpala. The franchise sees the potential — as it should — but the 22-year-old’s development might be closer to a marathon, not a sprint.