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Semi Ojeleye – 6’7″ Small Forward/Power Forward, Southern Methodist University, 22 Years Old
Semi Ojeleye is a hybrid small forward/power forward from Southern Methodist University who is projected to be taken in the early second round. In his junior season he averaged 18.9 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 1.5 assists per game. He shot 52.9% from two-point range, and 42.4% from three-point range (per DraftExpress). He also had a player efficiency rating of 26.8. Originally a Duke Blue Devil, Ojeleye made his transfer to SMU worth it. He was the American Athletic Conference Player of the Year this season.
Ojeleye made the most of his transfer bid to SMU. He put up big numbers in the only season he played significant minutes. What stands out to me is his athleticism. Ojeleye is a physical specimen at 235 pounds, who is at his best getting to the basket. He’s someone who excels in bully ball against less physical wings and finesse four men. If he gets parallel to defenders, he can get to the rim at a high rate. Along with that, he has the ability to finish lobs both in transition and in the halfcourt off of baseline cuts. His rim-wrecking prowess comes from Ojeleye’s chiseled frame and leaping ability. You often see that strength and athleticism on the offensive glass from guys not being able to box him out. Let’s not dismiss his shooting, either. For a man who is best suited as a power forward, he can generate spacing with a quick release and much-improved three point shot. To counter spot-ups, he can make pull-ups off of ball fakes. Defensively, he’s solid against fours in post defense with his stout frame. He does a great job of not giving up ground when in the post. That negates guys from getting easy jump hooks. In addition, his athleticism allows him to be comfortable in pick-and-roll switchouts. He doesn’t have great length for his height, but he can keep drivers at bay and get out to shooters with quickness. He projects better on defense against 4’s than small forwards, though. Lastly, on the defensive glass, his power can negate offensive rebounders from the weak side.
There are two problems that stand out with Ojeleye. First off, he’s already 22 years old. He transferred from Duke, and then excelled playing one season. Nonetheless, NBA teams could shy away because he’s a tweener. Being a 6’7″ power forward puts him a bit in a bind at the next level. He could transition his style of play to be more of a small forward, but that’s uncertain. Ojeleye is also not going to have problems offensively due to how he gets to the rim at times. Playing bully ball might work if he’s playing as a bench small-ball four, but against traditional NBA fours, that’s much harder to do. He is likely to struggle early on with the length of NBA opponents, especially because he’s mainly a face-up player. If he’s going to be a power forward long-term, this back-to-basket game needs to get better, along with his playmaking when defenses collapse to his drives. If that can counter his face-up/drive game and his outside shooting consistency improves, he could have a very productive career. On the defensive end, that lack of size really stands out. You’d be more comfortable putting him down low defensively if he was adept at blocking shots. He only had 0.4 blocks per game (per DraftExpress), and many times players simply shot over his contests. That lack of length doesn’t translate well to the NBA, either on the wing or in the post against taller players. Mike Schmitz of DraftExpress also has demonstrated how Ojeleye is not very aware in defensive rebounding. Although he has the strength to clear out the defensive glass, he often ball watches and looses track of his man which concedes offensive boards. That can’t happen at the next level.
Ojeleye looks like a second round selection to me. He’s a player who had a significant increase in production this season, and I give him credit. Leading your conference in points, offensive rating, and overall win shares (per Sports Reference) is nothing to sneeze at. However, he’s going to take three or four years to really carve out an NBA niche. I know the NBA is a “position-less” league in many ways, now, but Ojeleye doesn’t really fit that mold. He has a ways to go if he wants to have a career as a 3 or 4. He doesn’t shoot well right now off the dribble, and considering his post game is very limited, he’s going to have an uphill battle. I see him as a situational small-ball power forward offensively, who can occasionally play small forward in big lineups. Unless he drastically improves his playmaking (only 0.11 assists per possession) and post acumen, he’s mostly a rotational player. His rebounding also must improve; I’m concerned that he could just be a workout warrior. Having only 6.9 rebounds per game against not the greatest competition is not eye-popping with his athleticism and strength. The lack of length also concerns me both in the paint and on the perimeter. That said, this guy does have some versatility with his quickness and leaping ability in the open floor. If he has some veteran wings to mentor him in a quality organization, he could eventually be a starter or good sixth-man in about three or four years. He’ll need to change his skill set to play more small forward to have a long-term career, though.
Ojeleye is a tweener that has some elements of a few current NBA players to me. Based on the way he was able to completely dominate his competition this season with his strength, I see some similarities to Julius Randle of the Los Angeles Lakers in Ojeleye. Both guys are very athletic, and are a bit undersized to be ideal power forwards in the NBA. Randle is not the most polished post man, but can bull his way to the rim at times, like Ojeleye. The SMU product is a better shooter and has much better wing potential than Randle ever has as he’s a pure 4, but both are strong dunkers at the rim. Ojeleye is not nearly the rebounder Randle is right now, though. I personally see a lot of Oklahoma City Thunder wing Jerami Grant in Ojeleye as well. Grant has found a niche in this league by being a very athletic guy who is sort of a tweener who is a 6’8″ high-flyer. He’s a solid rotational player who can knock down the occasional open three. He’s developed into a much better wing defender in the last few years, too. Like Ojeleye, though, Grant is not as productive on the glass as his athleticism could allow him to be. Notwithstanding, both can provide some pop in the putback jam department.
Look for Semi Ojeleye to land in the early part of the second round on draft night, and be sure to stay updated with our complete coverage of the 2017 NBA Draft!