The NBA Draft lottery hasn't even happened yet, but that won't stop the mock drafts and other projections from piling up in the meantime. ESPN's Chad Ford took the reigns as general manager for every team, making selections based on what he felt would be the best fit. Duke's Jahlil Okafor doesn't just lose the No. 1 spot to Karl-Anthony Towns, he somehow drops past the Philadelphia 76ers and New York Knicks to the Los Angeles Lakers at No. 4.
It's a stretch to imagine Okafor "falling" that far, especially when the Knicks desperately need help at center, but Emmanuel Mudiay goes to New York in this scenario. The reason? Questions regarding Carmelo Anthony's fit next to Okafor, and Mudiay's physicality gives him a nod over Ohio State's D'Angelo Russell.
Okafor's defense and free-throw shooting became big question marks as the college season progressed, but he's undoubtedly one of the best low-post operators coming out of college in years. For that, the Lakers would almost be lucking out to get a chance at taking the player who was once almost unanimously the top prospect in college. Here's what Ford had to say about Okafor, via ESPN (Insider):
I'm not down on Okafor. And in fact, if this were the 2005 NBA draft instead of the 2015 one, I think he'd go No. 1. He's the most offensively polished big man I've scouted in years. But I do think there are legitimate concerns about fit with Okafor. His lack of defense, his lack of elite athleticism and his poor free throw shooting are all major red flags for teams that are emphasizing smaller, quicker athletes who can protect the rim in the NBA. With that said, at No. 4, he's a no-brainer in this draft and paired with last year's lottery pick Julius Randle would give the Lakers a very impressive young front line for the future.
Will it shake out as such? You never know, and it's worth mentioning Ford was drafting based on what he felt would be best for each team, not what general managers or teams are "expected" to do. It'd be an interesting outcome, though, and a Randle-Okafor frontcourt would be plenty of reason to look forward to the future.