Okafor (fourth from right in bow tie) and other top picks gather for a selfie on a stick!
Ideally, Sam Hinkie would’ve watch Ohio State guard D’Angelo Russell walk up the steps, give some dap to NBA commissioner Adam Silver, and do all of this while wearing aPhiladelphia 76ers’ draft cap. Unfortunately for the Sixers, they were faced with the tough decision at No. 3 of reaching on a lesser prospect or taking the surest thing available in Duke center Jahlil Okafor.
They took Okafor. And really, you can’t fault them for taking the guy who was thought to be the top prospect in the draft for most of the past year. In a vacuum, it looks like a fantastic stroke of luck for Okafor to fall to the Sixers. In the context of their rebuilding plan, you wonder how this all fits together. When Hinkie left the Houston Rockets and took over the Sixers, his first big splash (after letting Andrew Bynum walk) was the trade ofJrue Holiday for Kentucky big man Nerlens Noel and a future pick.
A year later, he’d watch Kansas center Joel Embiid fall to him at No. 3, probably because of the injury concerns about the big man. Three drafts later for Hinkie and his most important pieces are three prized big men, who probably don’t fit together.
Jahlil Okafor on how Philly makes 3 straight bigs work: “That’s not my job to figure out.”
— Dan Devine (@YourManDevine) June 26, 2015
This is both a gift and a curse. In a world in which the perimeter game has taken over the NBA world, the impactful big man is still a very important piece. You need someone who can be a dominant presence inside in some facet of the game — preferably defensively. You need that anchor to the defense, and it looks like Noel is developing to become that after his rookie season. He was so good defensively as a rookie, you almost don’t care that he sat out the first year with an ACL rehab.
If Embiid can get on the court, he projects to be a difference-maker on both ends of the floor. He’s a dominating presence inside, who can protect the paint, defend in the pick-and-roll, and control the boards. He also has a wide range of scoring methods and could be one of the most complete big men in the league. The problem though is a foot injury cost him his first season in the NBA and there are rumors persisting about it eating into the second season.
— Zach Harper, CBSSports.com
How did Okafor enter the college basketball season as the consensus No. 1 overall pick, put up huge numbers in leading Duke to a national title and still slip from No. 1? Concerns about his pick-and-roll defense and free-throw shooting is the most obvious explanation. The 76ers already have former top-five picks Nerlens Noel and and Joel Embiid, but they couldn’t resist adding Okafor too when he fell to them. Now they have to either find a trade partner or hope that Okafor’s array of polished low-post moves outweigh his other flaws. Marc J. Spears’ grade: A.
— Jeff Goodman, Yahoo Sports
The Sixers take the best guy left on the board, but they are loaded up front and you have to wonder if this is this a prelude to a trade (not Okafor but someone)? Okafor is as polished and skilled a post player and scorer as has come out of the college game since maybe Tim Duncan — he is going to put up points as a rookie in the NBA. He has spectacular footwork, is phenomenal with his back to the basket. His passing has improved but still needs work. Questions remain about his defense and effort on that end of the floor, but his issues down there were overstated.
— Kurt Helin, ProBasketballTalk.com
The tricky part about this is that we don’t know how the minutes are going to be divided if Joel Embiid is healthy. You obviously can’t play Okafor, Embiid and Nerlens Noel at the same time. We don’t know yet if Embiid can stay on the floor, though, and we do know that Okafor will be able to put up points immediately. Even if he’s coming off the bench, the Sixers should place an emphasis on giving him the ball on the block. He’ll put up numbers, especially because Philadelphia will push the pace again.
— James Herbert, CBSSports.com
Okafor is a talent. But once again the Sixers walk away from a season of tanking without the guy they wanted and without a clear plan forward. They may have wanted Joel Embiid last year, but not an injured Embiid (and an Embiid that one year later, still hasn’t recovered). This year, Russell and Towns were their targets.
Instead they settle for the guy who, while talented, doesn’t fit a need and doesn’t have the transcendent talent they need. And for the third straight year they draft a center. At least he’s not an injured one. With no guards or wings to really build around, the Sixers still seem years away from being anything more than a perennial loser in the lottery.
— Chad Ford, ESPN.com