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Lakers Draft 2015: Examining Duke's Jahlil Okafor

The talented Duke freshman is a strong contender for the #1 overall pick. Should he be at the top of the Lakers' board?

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

If you haven't heard of Duke's talented freshman Jahlil Okafor by now, you either are ignoring college basketball entirely on purpose, or you have been living under a rock that does not have Wi-Fi or cable access.

Okafor is a 19-year-old who is a legitimate 6'11", 270 lb. monster inside, and he is at the top of our collaborative draft board. Courtesy of Sports Reference, here are his numbers per game and per 40 minutes:


There are a few things that obviously stand out: He scores at a very high usage AND efficiency. If you can score 23.0 points while converting almost 67 percent of your shots, without a big turnover problem, you're quite good. Additionally, his rebounding is very solid, grabbing 12.0 rebounds per 40 over the smaller collegiate players.

Okafor's main appeal is that he is already incredibly polished in the post. You can dump it into him on nearly any possession and you're almost guaranteed to get a good shot. Via Synergy Sports Technology, Okafor is in the 84th percentile of points per possession in the post, which is considerably more impressive when you consider how frequently he's down there and the attention that he commands from defenses. A very impressive sign of polish from him is that he goes to the left and right blocks almost the same amount, with 90 possessions at 1.144 points per possession on the left block, and 107 possessions at 1.019 points per possession on the right block. Furthermore, he's almost equally skilled already at turning either shoulder to score, which might sound simple, but is often not easy for a lot of big man prospects.

As you can see, Okafor is incredibly difficult to contain in the post. He's big, he knows how to position himself, he has excellent footwork and he has a very nice touch around the rim. I could show you countless post touches, because most of them are fun to watch and usually end in him scoring with a soft touch.

He knows when he has an edge inside, and he knows when he needs to go quickly before help arrives. Put simply, he's one of the most polished post scorers as a college freshman that we've ever seen.

When it comes to passing, Okafor is already pretty solid at reading double teams and passing out of them.

In terms of pick and rolls, Okafor has a lot of promise due to his wide frame and finishing ability, though he doesn't get a lot of them at Duke, so that's mostly conjecture. In today's small sample size theater, according to Synergy Sports Tech, Okafor has had only 12 possessions counting as a roll man, but has scored 21 points on those (1.75 PPP). So, while one can see why he would be intriguing for pick-and-rolls, we don't know very much yet.

Defensively, Okafor loses some luster compared to Karl-Anthony Towns (plenty more on him at a later date). Overall, he's just very average defensively. He does have the length and strength to do some things, but he is a pretty mediocre shot blocker for his size (1.8 blocks per 40) and he can get lost at times. Of course, him being not great at defense as a 19-year-old does not set his fate in stone on that end, but it would be nice to see a bit more out of him. Furthermore, one of the appeals of Towns over Okafor would be getting the rim protector that would complement Julius Randle quite nicely.

Rebounding overall is a strength of Okafor's, with a 17.5% total rebound rate (slightly worse than Towns), but he is not without his issues there either. However, this is obviously something that can improve with time, work ethic, and proper coaching. As our own Ben R noted, Okafor usually just relies on his length and strength to grab boards, but if he fixes these problems, he could improve a decent amount in this facet of the game.

In terms of the Okafor vs. Towns debate, the tide is turning a bit in favor of Towns. It's a tough call, but currently, as I detailed on our first Lakers Draft Board (which you should read), I am starting to lean toward Towns due to his tantalizing upside, and his potential defensive impact.

As for a fit with the Lakers, any fan should be ecstatic if the Lakers are able to draft Jahlil Okafor in June. He's going to be a really, really good player. Okafor combined with Randle would be a badass, old-school style frontcourt that would be fascinating to watch for many years to come, with both players getting lots of buckets at the rim. They probably wouldn't be great defensively, but the Lakers are not at the point of their rebuilding process where they can nitpick a prospect that is the best post scorer to come around in a long, long time.

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