Best case scenario: Okafor falling to 3?

Updated: Wednesday, May 20, 2015 06:52 AM
Jahlil Okafor

After last night’s NBA lottery results were announced, the immediate assumption was that Karl-Anthony Towns and Jahlil Okafor would go 1st and 2nd in the draft, in some order. The logical pick for Minnesota seems to be Towns, as they could really use his rim protection on that front line, but Flip Saunders is reportedly an Okafor fan, so the order of those two could still be somewhat in flux.

However, there has been speculation, perhaps spurred on by the logical conclusion that Julius Randle and Jahlil Okafor would be a questionable fit together, that the Lakers could pass on Okafor if Karl-Anthony Towns goes #1.

Would that be a bad scenario for the Sixers?

Perhaps not.

Despite Okafor’s defensive concerns, which I think are more than legitimate, I still have Okafor rated as the #2 prospect in my team-agnostic mock draft. His post scoring, and passing out of the post, are as advanced as any 19 year old you’ll find. If he’s able to get into better shape, improve his lateral mobility and quickness off his feet just a tad, and somebody can work on improving his defensive instincts just a bit, he still has a world of potential, and is as unique of a prospect as you’ll find.

But that’s not why Okafor falling might be a good thing for the Sixers.

Okafor’s fit with either Joel Embiid and Nerlens Noel is highly questionable, at best. He doesn’t move his feet well enough to defend power forwards. He cannot hit from 17′ to open up the paint for Joel Embiid post-ups or pick and dives. Long term, if both Okafor and Embiid work out, I think you likely have to decide which one you want to build around and move the other.

Because of this, because I have so much confidence in Embiid (if he’s healthy), and because there are other prospects that I like, Okafor has mostly been afterthought when thinking about the Sixers’ plans.

However, Okafor became interesting last night when you started to look at the way the lottery played out. The Knicks, who are practically desperate to get a guy who can make an immediate impact, had a very bad night. While Justise Winslow, Mario Hezonja, or Emmanuel Mudiay could probably make more of an immediate impact than many will give them credit for, the Knicks reportedly had their eyes set on the two big men.

If Okafor falls, could Sam Hinkie put the pick up for auction and prompt a ridiculous bid from the Knicks to get the guy they want?

The Knicks are in a weird spot in that they actually have draft picks to trade. Their 2016 1st round pick is owed, first in a pick swap with Denver then with the Knicks sending out whichever one of the two they get to Toronto, but they can trade their 2018 first round pick. Could Sam Hinkie walk away with an additional first round pick to move back one spot, giving up the right to draft a guy he may not have had interest in drafting anyway? It seems possible, at least.

The downside is that if Towns/Okafor don’t go #1 and #2, it means that D’Angelo Russell likely does. Still, having the ability to select from Mario Hezonja, Emmanuel Mudiay, Justise Winslow, or Kristaps Porzingis at #4, and picking up an additional first round pick, isn’t a bad outcome.

All the draft picks next year

With none of the Lakers, Heat, or Thunder picks conveying this season that means the Sixers are likely to have 4 1st round draft picks in the 2016 draft. It’s very likely that the Lakers pick (top-3 protected), Heat pick (top-10 protected), and Thunder pick (top-15 protected) all fall outside of their protected ranges.

Is that optimal? Not necessarily. It puts a lot of eggs in one basket, hoping that the 2016 draft class will be a strong one. It also creates for an interesting situation in 2020, when all of those players will be coming off of their rookie deals, in need of new contracts and with enormous cap holds until that happens.

What it does give the Sixers, however, is some very interesting trade pieces. With 4 first round draft picks, all likely to convey, the Sixers have a lot of “assets” if a situation comes up that they can capitalize on. After drafting Noel, Saric, Embiid, and <2015 #3 pick>, Sam Hinkie pushing some of these assets to the center of the table to acquire an established player to complement the young core that he’s assembled may be a route that’s in play, and this rebuild could get going very quickly.


Derek Bodner

Derek Bodner is a credentialed reporter covering the Philadelphia 76ers independently for He is also a college basketball scout for, and an NBA contributor for The Ringer. Contact Information: / @DerekBodnerNBA

More Posts

  • AaronMcKie4MVP

    great analysis… as I’ve stated before, Okafor has the upside of sharif abdur rahim, and i am not really interested in that. i hate players that don’t find it important to be in peak physical shape. You are an NBA athlete, if you have any heart you hire a trainer and go on a no-carb diet.. imagine what could have been for Carmelo…

    the hypothetical situation you mention is a welcome scenario… in the end, i trust Hinkie will do the right thing. Not because i am some blind-hinkie lover, but i think he knows what he is doing.

    • I don’t think Derek was saying the Sixers should pick him for them, since as he mentioned Okafor wouldn’t be a good fit with Embiid & Noel. I think he was saying that it would be interesting if they picked him and traded him down to the Knicks so that they can get a future draft pick out of them.

      • AaronMcKie4MVP

        thanks Avika. i think you misunderstood my post.
        i welcome us trading okafor to the knicks if he falls to #3.. i know that Derek was not saying he wanted Okafor to play for the sixers.

        • AaronMcKie4MVP

          oops Akiva…

        • Ahh, all’s good. Sorry for the misread.

  • One small point:
    I actually don’t think the Heat’s pick will convey next year. I honestly don’t think they’ll be a better team next year then this one. They’re all growing older and achier. (And this coming from someone that was sure they would make the playoffs this season with Bosh, Wade & Deng).

  • I really hope the Heat pick doesn’t convey next year because the 2017 unprotected heat pick has a whole lot of potential. It’s not too far fetched to see the Heat cratering in a year or two.

    • Derek Bodner

      I think as long as Chris Bosh is healthy, the pick should convey. But it’s certainly a non-zero chance.

  • Derek

    I know it’s early but I’ve been seeing some comments about how the 2015/2016 Freshman Class isn’t exactly chock full of talent compared to the last few years. Is that true?

    The problem with your ‘trade with the knicks’ scenario is that it requires the sixers to do what they did to the magic. Take the player the Knicks want and then leverage a deal. And quickly since it’s the next pick. Based on what you wrote, the chances of being stuck with Okafor might not outweigh the better option (where do you stand on Muldilay by the way?)

    I think the lakers are a huge wildcard here. They’ve gone from being a well run franchise to a mishmash with questionable folk in charge handing out bad deals to aging players and giving them too much influence (ok one player). Don’t underestimate their worship of Kobe and Kobe’s belief that the lakers can win next year with a healthy kobe influencing the pick in ways we might think of. Kupchak really isn’t a strong GM and Jim Buss is in way over his head.

    Honestly, I think the lakers pick will probably still be at least a top 7 next year. I think one way or another Kobe will screw the lakers next year.

    • Derek Bodner

      Honestly, I need to see more. I go to a couple of tournaments every year but not enough where I feel comfortable really commenting.

  • I think barring anything crazy (such as a pre-draft inury ala Joel Embiid), KAT and Okafor will definitely go 1 and 2 in some order.

  • The Six

    I agree about the questionable fit in LA for Okafor and Randle. However, in that scenario, isn’t the right move to draft Okafor and ship off Randle? I never liked him that much as a prospect, and there is little argument that Okafor is an incredible offensive talent. I remember reading that scouting report posted on Grantland(I think) about Randle where the scout said his best low-post move is to knock his man over. Perhaps I’m just hoping that Russell is the guy here. We’ll see…

    • At this point though, don’t you have to think that they’d be selling Randle for pennies on the dollar. Missed his rookie season due to injury, then people know you’re motivated to move him because of fit. A fit you don’t even know is a problem. It’s not like the Lakers are even close to contending…they really should be in asset collection mode (even if it upsets the great and powerful kobe)

      • The Six

        I get it, but my point is, why would they pass on drafting Okafor just because a less talented, injured (you name it…), Randle is already there? The Lakers are looking for building blocks. If Okafor is clearly a better building block than Randle (which he is), why even consider Randle in the equation? Don’t trade him now if you don’t want to, but don’t base your lottery selection on the fact that Randle is there. Now if the lakers are simply looking for a more athletic Towns-esque big, then that’s a different story.

        But I wouldn’t pass on Okafor if he dropped to the Sixers. He’s too good. I know the fit isn’t ideal, but look at this kid. 13 tennis balls!!!!!

        • Derek Bodner

          They would have to rate Russell and Okafor comparably.