The Sixers Select Jahlil Okafor With the No. 3 Pick
Basketball writer Derek Bodner is covering the NBA draft for Philadelphia magazine at Sixers Draftland.
With the Lakers selecting Ohio State’s D’Angelo Russell second overall, the Sixers made the decision to go with another big man: this time Duke center Jahlil Okafor.
With Russell off the board the Sixers took their highest rated player, despite having already invested in major talent for their frontcourt over the last two seasons. Okafor will join Joel Embiid (3rd overall pick in 2014) and Nerlens Noel (6th overall in 2013) in a suddenly crowded frontcourt.
“I’m excited. I’m very excited,” Okafor told the media about joining Philadelphia. “I ran into Jerami Grant as I was walking back here, and he said I’ll see you tomorrow.
“I’m not too familiar with Philadelphia,” Okafor went on to say. “I’m excited to get to know the city a little better.”
Okafor was projected by many to be the top pick before the 2014-15 season started, although his standing as the best prospect was eventually overtaken by Kentucky’s Karl-Anthony Towns. Towns was the more well-rounded prospect, with some questioning Okafor’s perimeter (and free throw) shooting and defensive instincts.
“It’s easy to [criticize] somebody at the top of the hill,” Okafor said about the questions surrounding his game. “I’ve been at the top pretty much all throughout high school, all throughout college, so I was expecting it.”
Despite those concerns, Okafor showed himself to be one of the best post scorers to enter the NBA in quite some time. That post play is a big reason for optimism.
“My entire life I’ve been the tallest guy,” Okafor said about his post game. “I just got really comfortable in the post, I worked on my craft and I watched a lot of film.”
Okafor said he patterns parts of his game after Tim Duncan and Hakeem Olajuwon.
One part of Okafor’s offensive game that he may need to expand upon is on the perimeter. Okafor shot only 33% on shots beyond 12 feet and only 51% from the free-throw line during his one season at Duke. With Okafor having to share a frontcourt with Joel Embiid, who is a post scorer himself, and Nerlens Noel, who also struggles from the perimeter, improving his jump shot could be a key to the three of them being successful together.
“I’ve been playing basketball my entire life, so I feel comfortable doing whatever I’m asked of,” Okafor said when asked whether he would be comfortable if asked to focus on diversifying his perimeter game. “Like I said [though], my bread and butter is in the post. That’s where I’ve always been and that’s where I’m most effective.”
How will Embiid, Noel and Okafor have to adapt their games to succeed playing together?
“I don’t know. That’s not my job to figure out,” Okafor said when asked how they’d fit together. “I’ll just go there and work as hard as I can.”
That hard work, and the Sixers’ player development staff, are what the Sixers are banking on to make the three of them work. Because in the end, Okafor has the chance to be a special player, and that’s why he’s on the Philadelphia 76ers.
You can read more about Okafor in our prospect profile written before the draft.
We’ll have more coverage about the newest Sixer throughout the night.
Follow @DerekBodnerNBA on Twitter.
Previously in Sixers Draftland:
• Richaun Holmes, J.P. Tokoto Highlight Sixers’ Second-Round Picks
• Sixers Draftland: 2015 NBA Draft Liveblog
• Who Are the Sixers’ Second-Round Options?
• Report: D’Angelo Russell to Lakers a Smokescreen
• Report: Celtics Putting Together a Huge Offer for No. 3 Pick
• Draft Day Mock Roundup: The Experts’ Best Guesses on Who The Sixers Will Take
• Reports: Sixers Targeting Rashad Vaughn; Is Trading Down a Possibility?
• 2015 NBA Draft Big Board: The 10 Best Prospects for the Sixers
• Report: Sixers Locked In on D’Angelo Russell?
• Rumor Mill: Sixers Reportedly in Discussions to Acquire Another First-Round Pick
• Justise Winslow: A Defensive Maverick With Big “O” Questions
• Dario Saric Not Coming Over This Season
• Mario Hezonja: Is Elite Shooter Confident… or Cocky?
• Emmanuel Mudiay: The Point Guard With a Shooting Problem
• Kristaps Porzingis: International Man of Mystery
• NBA Mock Draft Roundup: Who the Experts Think the Sixers Will Take
• D’Angelo Russell: The Guy Everyone Thinks the Sixers Are Drafting
• Jahlil Okafor: One of the Best Low-Post Scorers We’ve Seen
• D’Angelo Russell to Work Out for the Sixers After All
• Karl-Anthony Towns: The Big Man the Sixers Probably Want — and Likely Can’t Get
• Does Joel Embiid’s Setback Change Sixers’ Draft Plans?
• Welcome to Sixers Draftland