(Photo via Slamonline.com)
The Duke big man has long been projected as a top 2 pick in the 2015 draft since as early as his junior year in high school with this awesome and rare combination of size and skill. We take a quick look at Jahlil Okafor as part of our next 2015 NBA Draft Prospect Evaluation.
2015 NBA Draft Prospect Evaluation:
Jahlil Okafor (19 years and 7 months old, Center, Duke University via Chicago, Illinois)
Okafor isn’t the tallest of the top big men prospects, but at 6’11”, he’s not far behind. Plus, his solid 270+ pounds means he may be the biggest of all the bigs. He’s an unrivaled low post presence for a 19-year-old, and while much of that has to do with his skills, his size certainly helps.
Measurements (per 2014 Hoops Summit):
Standing reach: 9’2.5
Video highlights (Duke YouTube Channel):
Relatively fast in the open court and rather agile for a player his size. While his footwork is solid, he’s forced to make up for a lack of vertical quickness on offense with his strong fundamentals. His lack of a strong vertical hinders his shot blocking ability, but luckily his size, including a 9’2.5” standing reach, helps him compensate. It’s also worth noting his giant hands. He catches the ball like it’s a softball, and that’s part of how he’s able to be so effective in the low post.
Low post offense:
This is where Okafor is easily the premier prospect in the draft. He’s got plenty of moves with his back to the basket, and all of them are effective enough that a lesser-skilled player would consider them go-tos. His giant hands make it seem like he’s putting the basketball through a hula hoop at times. The most talented prospect in this draft when it comes to low post offense.
Outside shooting ability:
Okafor’s outside shooting is almost non-existent, and he struggles mightily from the line. He only shot 51% during his season at Duke, which makes him a prime candidate for a hack-a-Okafor strategy when it comes to critical games. Okafor won’t spend much time drifting too far from the paint.
How is he going to score in the NBA?
It’s going to be all about the post for Okafor. At Duke he shot 66%, and that’s because he rarely did things outside a few feet from the basket. He’s also very effective on the offensive boards which can lead to a lot of very easy putbacks. He won’t have as easy of a time down low against guys his size, but he’s still got the footwork and size to score in bunches, reminiscent of some dominant big men of the ‘80s and ‘90s.
Low post position defense:
Okafor lacks a strong vertical and quickness off the jump, which hinders his ability to be a dominant shot blocker. He’s also not the best on the defensive glass, finding himself out of position and missing box outs more frequently than is ideal.
Okafor is the rare prospect who is drastically better on the offensive glass than the defensive boards. He grabbed 4.6 offensive rebounds per 40 minutes last year, which is a solid total, but he had less than 7 per 40 on defense. Much of that can be attributed to a lack of proper positioning. When a guy is near 7’0”, he’s going to get rebounds, but Okafor could use to be a lot more effective on that end.
Defending the pick and roll & perimeter
Duke was forced to adjust their pick and roll defense to compensate for Okafor’s lack of quickness when heading back to the basket. Some blamed it on a lack of effort, but Okafor just didn’t move fast enough to keep up with the smaller guards, meaning he usually went significantly under the screen. That was fine against college competition, but against some of the better guards in the NBA, his shortcomings will be exploited.
Rim protection ability:
Okafor isn’t a great shot blocker, but his size does allow him to still dissuade some smaller players from getting to the rim. He rarely leaves his feet for blocks, but his standing reach allows him to almost reach the rim anyway. He’ll need to improve his quickness and vertical to become an elite rim protector.
Okafor is a top-notch passer, especially from the post. He was frequently double teamed in college, and had no problem dishing it out to the proper player on the wing. The attention he draws in the post leads to a lot of open looks for his teammates, and he’s adept at getting them the ball.
Basketball IQ and intangibles:
Okafor has been touted as having one of the highest basketball IQs in the draft, especially on the offensive end. He plays offense like a big man with 10 years experience in the league, not the 19-year-old that he actually is. He’s also very coachable, and doesn’t lose his cool often. There’s little risk in this department for anyone taking Okafor.
Projected draft position:
Comparable NBA player: