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NBA Draft Analysis: Jahlil Okafor Offers Sixers More Questions Than Answers

Jahlil Okafor comes with a ready-made set of skills and a lot of question marks. Can he change the Sixers fortunes?

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

You had to prepare for anything after the Lakers selected D'Angelo Russell with the second overall pick. Jahlil Okafor was one of the highest-rated players in the country and won a National Championship at Duke, but his presence in Philadelphia will test the very core of Sam Hinkie's draft philosophy.

At No. 3, he is the proverbial "Best Player Available" in the opinion of this analyst. Okafor accomplished everything possible during his only season at Duke. He was the runner up for the National Player of the Year, the first freshman to win the ACC Player of the Year award, and the centerpiece of a title-winning team.

Okafor is the most dominant post playing prospect in recent memory; he has moves on top of moves on top of moves, and then counter-moves with which to supplement them. Being a post presence of his caliber at age 19 isn't just rare, it's seemingly impossible. Nobody has this combination of moves, footwork and agility in the post at this age.

Better yet, Okafor has learned how to leverage his scoring ability in the post to make his teammates better, an advanced skill that many bigs never master. He took advantage of a bevy of good shooters around him at Duke, hitting cutters and open men when confronted by double teams. He is unselfish, and doesn't get tunnel vision when collapsed on by double teams and zones.

It's not all roses, however.  By the numbers, Okafor drew comparisons throughout the season to some of the best offensive players in NCAA history. The other side of the ball was, well, an issue:

Okafor struggles to contain pick-and-rolls, and despite having an amazing set of physical tools, is not yet the rim protector that he should be. But that concern has perhaps been overstated in recent months, as Karl Towns rocketed past him in mock drafts. For a player who is as skilled offensively as he is, it would be unwise to think he can't develop abilities in other areas.

One place where he'll need to apply that logic offensively is at the free-throw line. Okafor shot a putrid 51 percent from the line this season, a full 15 percent below what he managed from the field, which is rather incredible.

The million dollar question -- how does he fit in the Sixers plans? It appears they're not too concerned about having Nerlens Noel and Joel Embiid on board already.

The skill set overlap is apparent with Joel Embiid, and it's easy to suggest that they might be covering their asses in the event that Embiid's foot problems are serious. There's also a possibility that one (or both?) of Embiid and Nerlens Noel end up on the trade block as a result of this pick. One of the issues with selecting Okafor and figuring it out later is that it telegraphs the Sixers logjam. Teams know it might be necessary for Philly to clear the decks and open up minutes for their "core" pieces, and they'll surely try to take advantage.

From where I'm sitting, though, this looks like nothing more than taking the best player available. Jahlil Okafor was college basketball's most accomplished player in his only season, and brings a lot to the table as an NBA player. How he fits, and what parts of his game will translate remains to be seen.

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