Three scouts who work for NBA teams gave their thoughts on the strengths and weaknesses of Karl-Anthony Towns, D'Angelo Russell, and Jahlil Okafor in a recent article written by Ryen Russillo and published on Grantland (caution: language Captain America would not approve of). Not surprisingly, the scouts agreed that Towns was the obvious first overall pick, and that Minnesota would be foolish to pass on him.
However, while most Lakers fans seem to be sold on the idea of taking Jahlil Okafor with the second overall pick, the scouts disagreed, citing his defensive deficiencies as well as the brilliance of Russell. Here is a short excerpt on Okafor that should be particularly concerning to Lakers fans:
Now I've heard, if you were to ask the Duke people, and they were to be honest with you, there's not a great love for the game. Not like you'd think. Not a great passion. He'll be there, and do the right things. But it's like Jared Sullinger: I want to play, but I don't want to lose weight. I don't want to really get in shape. I want to do enough, but I'm not going to do extra. And that is concerning.
He's clearly third. Maybe the Lakers take him second. I don't think Julius Randle has any impact on the decision.
Here is another scout questioning Okafor's defensive capabilities:
Some of this will come with getting into better shape. His will and his pride — they are going to have to come into play. His willingness to and ability to play, I don't doubt any of that. He's going to have some growing pains. He just likes hanging around the basket. Our game is not like that.
I thought he was one of the worst defensive players I've scouted. I've seen him in practice, Nike Hoop Summit, and watched him all year. You can put on any Duke game, and if the commentator had a brain — like [Jay] Bilas — they would talk about it. Like ... holy shit. Look at some of the games they lost. The Miami game at home — they exposed this guy, play after play. I always say this about college players: What was Mike [Krzyzewski] going to do? Of course he is going to play. You aren't going to take him off the floor. Who are you going to play? [Marshall] Plumlee? So he is going to stay in the game, regardless of his inability to guard. He's going one, two, or three. Those teams that are drafting him? They aren't going to win anyway. The consequences are diminished.
While the scouts agree that D'Angelo has defensive issues of his own, they think both Russell and Okafor are excellent offensive players but the style of the modern NBA game gives the point guard out of Ohio State the nod overall. Here was one scout's take on Russell's skill:
I liked him right away when I saw him in the McDonald's game. Us scouts were sitting together saying, "Man ... " It really excites you to see a young guy with creativity and vision. He thinks like a point guard, but then he's talented, quick enough to get his shot.
I was really eager to see him earlier this year at Louisville, going into that lion's den. A year ago, he's in high school, now he's in the Yum Yum Center with 20,000 people. He gathered himself, he figured it out, and he put his team in a position to win that game. It took him awhile to realize the level of intensity, the quickness, and the things he had to adjust to. I thought, That's really impressive.
Another scout summed up his thoughts on Russell by simply saying "he's special". It's these kinds of endorsements that lead many to think that Jahlil Okafor is not as much of a lock to end up in Los Angeles as he appears to be.
While the second pick may still be up in the air, it's appearing that the No. 1 pick is all but a sure thing. Karl-Anthony Towns will be selected by the Wolves, barring some unforeseen change in their way of thinking. Kentucky Coach John Calipari recently had this to say about Towns and his desire to be the top pick:
He likes Minnesota," Kentucky's John Calipari said Thursday on a conference call. "He said from Day 1, ‘I'll go to Minnesota, let's build a franchise. There's two things for Minnesota and Minnesota's fans. First one is he is an unbelievable teammate. He's the No. 1 pick, he played 24 minutes and was fine and cheered on Willie [Cauley-Stein] and did everything he could to get Willie going and was fine with Aaron taking all the shots. He was fine, he's a great teammate. That's one.
"The second thing is, he likes Minnesota. ...Karl comes in, he is a great teammate but more importantly for the team and the fans up there, he's fine. He said, ‘Let's go Minnesota.'"
While it would appear that Okafor has his heart set on ending up in a Lakers uniform, Towns wants to the be the first pick in the draft even though he is likely the best fit for LA. Meanwhile, D'Angelo Russell has a strong case to be taken second and could very well end up being the best player in the 2015 Draft. How will everything shake out? We won't know for sure until June 25th.