Jahlil Okafor was the right pick for the Sixers

June 28th, 2015 by Sam Shipley | Filed under General, NBA, Sixers.

The NBA Draft came and went on Thursday night, and one thing remained the same from the previous two drafts, the Philadelphia 76ers added another cornerstone to their rebuilding process. With the third pick in the NBA Draft the Sixers selected Duke center Jahlil Okafor.

Okafor was selected after Karl-Anthony Towns was selected first overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves, and D’Angelo Russell was taken by the Los Angeles Lakers second overall. There were many who wanted the Sixers to end up with Russell, as he has the potential to be a star guard in the league. However, the Sixers did not land the Ohio State guard, and the team gladly took the 6′ 11″, 272 lb 19 year old center who has tremendous upside.

In what many believe is becoming a guards league in the “new NBA”, Okafor is a old-school big man who has a flurry of low post moves and dominates in the post. There are some who believe Okafor has the footwork and skill-set to be the best true big man to come into the league since Tim Duncan.

One of those believers just happens to be one of Tim Duncan’s teammates and mentors, David Robinson:

Now is it fair to throw those kind of comparisons around and people to take it to heart? Absolutely not. Jahlil Okafor has A LOT to accomplish before he can be mentioned in the same stratosphere as Duncan. However, the comparisons certainly speak to the potential of the newest Sixer.

In his lone season at Duke Okafor averaged 17.3 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 1.3 apg, and 1.4 bpg, along with winning a National Championship. Adding a player with those kind of stats is always very exciting, but knowing that the player also is a winner is a huge bonus.

As everyone knows the Sixers are one of the worst teams in the NBA, and haven’t done much winning in recent years. On a team where there could be a lot of losing, Okafor acknowledged that losing isn’t acceptable to him in an interview with CSN Philly’s Dei Lynam.

“Winning has always been my main focus,” Okafor said. “I have always hated losing. I am a sore loser. I do not take losing well. I have always been about winning because I have been winning my entire life.

“I am excited to be here, and start winning some games. I have already walked around the city. I can see that the fans are so excited and so enthusiastic. It makes you feel really good, and you can’t imagine what it will be like when we start winning.”

Okafor will join a Sixers front-court that already features the Sixers most recent top two NBA Draft selections, Nerlens Noel and Joel Embiid.

While many argue that the Sixers should have taken a guard and passed on Okafor for the fact of having Noel and Embiid on the roster already, I am firmly against that argument.

When a team is rebuilding as the Sixers are, you don’t draft for need with the third overall pick in a three player draft. You simply take the best player on the board and figure out the rest later.

There are some who believe that the Sixers should have selected guard Emmanuel Mudiay after Russell was snagged by the Lakers. General Manager Sam Hinkie put that argument to bed very quickly in an interview with Mike Missanelli on 97.5 The Fanatic.

“We would have chosen Mudiay if we thought he was a top three player.” said Hinkie.

In a league where it is very guard oriented, having three high quality big men isn’t exactly the worst thing in the world. If anything it puts the Sixers at an advantage.

At the very least the selection of Jahlil Okafor is a security blanket in the worst case scenario of Joel Embiid’s injury. If Embiid is never able to suit up for the Sixers, or even have a very haunted career because of injury, Okafor provides the Sixers with a potentially great big man to replace another potentially great big man.

In the best case scenario the Sixers have a trio of towers who can dominate the game on a nightly basis. Look at the Eastern Conference for example, I can make the argument that I would take Okafor and Embiid over any of the centers in the East. I can for certain say that Okafor and Embiid have more upside than any center in the Eastern Conference, with the closest being former Sixers center Nikola Vucevic.

Even in a scenario where the frontcourt is getting crowded and there is a need that the Sixers desperately need in a year or two that will help put them over the top, the Sixers will have a young promising big man on a rookie contract who could potentially be a major trade piece.

The other part Sixers fans should get excited for about their newest player is the confidence in the 19-year-old. Despite the Golden State Warriors winning the NBA Championship just weeks ago with their main strength being a jump shooting team, Okafor believes that the big man still rules when it comes to winning titles in the NBA.

“Tim Duncan won it [in 2014],” Okafor told reporters in his introductory press conference today. “Then Pau Gasol [in 2010 and 2009] and Kevin Garnett [in 2008]. People get a little excited, because what Steph Curry and those guys did was great, and it worked, and their formula was fantastic. But for as long as I can remember, big men have been dominant and the result has been NBA championships.”

As noted earlier, the Sixers are very far away from having a parade on Broad Street. Adding a player like Okafor to the organization, however, is certainly a big step in the right direction to making that dream become a reality for the first time since 1983.

 

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