Duke center Jahlil Okafor was selected by the Philadelphia 76ers with the No. 3 pick in the 2015 NBA draft on Thursday night at the Barclays Center.
Okafor averaged 17.3 points, 8.5 rebounds and 1.4 blocks in his freshman season for the Blue Devils. He shot 66.4% from the floor in 30.1 minutes per game, but was only 51% from the free throw line.
Led by Okafor, Duke won the 2015 national title. The center scored 18 points in a Final Four win over Michigan State before scoring 10 points in the championship game win over Wisconsin.
In 2012, Okafor was named one of Sports Illustrated's “Future Game Changers.” He would go on to be ranked the No. 1 recruit in his class before committing to Mike Krzyzewski and the Blue Devils.
Mannix's Analysis: Philadelphia wanted D’Angelo Russell. They settle for Okafor, a potentially dominating offensive center. The Sixers, though, could move him. Okafor is the most appealing prospect on the board, and over the next few hours GM Sam Hinkie will be on the phone with half the GMs in the league who will try to pry Okafor out of Philadelphia. Still, if JoelEmbiid’s most recent setback is real, Philadelphia would be wise to keep the talented center, whose skills would be a nice complement to defensive-minded forward Nerlens Noel.
Strengths: If the modern back-to-the-basket player is a myth, then Okafor is Bigfoot, armed with preternatural instincts within 10 feet of the rim. He enters the NBA with a post game more developed than the majority of big men around the league and is a sure-fire bet to command touches and defensive attention immediately. He’s unselfish, an advanced passer out of double-teams and his midrange game has started to come along. Okafor has the strength to compete inside, the size to guard his position and his 7’5” wingspan will help him as he develops defensively. It’s more a matter of when, not if, he becomes an offensive anchor.
Weaknesses: Though his offensive game is rightfully heralded, Okafor’s free-throw shooting leaves a lot to be desired (51% from the line at Duke). If the NBA changes its hacking rules, the concerns die down, but continued struggles would place a cap on his productivity. Okafor’s defensive performance in college stands as a greater issue, as he was often slow on help rotations and isn’t a leaper, which limits his presence when contesting shots. His defensive rebounding could be much better considering his size and length. His offense should keep him on the floor, but he could be a liability in a pick-and-roll heavy league. Improved positioning and communication is teachable, but Okafor could struggle against NBA athletes. He’s been coachable his entire career, which should serve him well.