By Wil Crews
email@example.com With contributions from AU Athletics
Former Auburn standouts Chuma Okeke and Isaac Okoro made their professional debuts as the 2020-21 National Basketball Association season officially tipped off last Wednesday.
Okeke, the No. 16 overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, played 22 minutes off the bench as the Orlando Magic defeated the Miami Heat, 113-107. The Atlanta native had 3 points on 1-of-3 from the floor and added five rebounds, two assists and one steal.
Okoro, No. 5 overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, started and played a hefty 34 minutes for the Cleveland Cavaliers in their opening night victory against the Charlotte Hornets, 121-114. The Power Springs, Georgia, native had 11 points on 4-of-5 from the field, including 1-of-2 from downtown, and contributed five assists and three rebounds.
The Cavaliers and Magic both now sit at 3-0, and thanks to the contributions of Okeke and Okoro, are two of the five remaining undefeated teams in the NBA.
In the Magic’s second game of the season against, and Okeke’s second performance of his young NBA career, the forward played 18 minutes and finished 1-of-4 from the field with 3 points, three rebounds and two assists in Orlando’s 130-120 win over the Washington Wizards. Orlando’s third game was the second of a back-to-back against Washington, and Okeke played 16 minutes but did not attempt a shot, finishing with one rebound and three assists.
It’s been a slow start for Okeke, who missed all of the 2019-20 season due to a ACL injury he suffered while still with Auburn in the March 2019 NCAA Tournament game against North Carolina.
His fellow Tiger and Georgia native Okoro has had a better start in his first professional campaign. In Cleveland’s second game of the season, Okoro helped the Cavaliers eke out a double overtime, 128-119, victory over the Detroit Pistons. Okoro has immediately inserted himself as a crucial player for Cleveland, as the forward played 42 minutes and, although not registering a point, contributed with three rebounds, one steal and a +16 plus/minus while on the court. Okoro did not play in Cleveland’s third game of the season.
Okeke and Okoro become the 24th and 25th players in program history to play in the NBA. The duo became the first pair of former Tigers to play in the same season since Marquis Daniels (Indiana) and Pat Burke (Phoenix) in 2006-07.
Okeke is the second former Auburn player to suit up for the Magic, joining the aforementioned Burke (2002-03). Okoro is the fourth former Tiger to play for the Cavs, joining Mike Mitchell (1978-82), Eddie Johnson (1985-86) and Wesley Person (1997-2002)
Jared Harper, who made his NBA debut for Phoenix last year, made the opening night roster for the New York Knicks.