No surprise, Duke star freshman Jahlil Okafor is one-and-done in Durham as he officially declared for the NBA Draft. Let's project where Okafor would fit best & which team might pick him.
Breaking Down Lottery
The New York Knicks had the worst record in the league for most of the 2014-15 regular season. Then they went out and did something stupid: won two of their final three games. The Minnesota Timberwolves, meanwhile, closed the season with 12 straight losses to finish at 16-66 and beat out the Knicks by a game for the worst record. The Wolves will thus have a 25 percent chance of getting the No. 1 overall pick and 64.3 percent chance of staying in the Top 3. They can't fall lower than No. 4.
Here are the rest of the lottery teams with their percentage chances for the No. 1 overall pick and then for a pick in the top three: New York (19.9/55.8), Philadelphia (15.6/46.9), LA Lakers (11.9/37.8), Orlando (8.8/29.2), Sacramento (6.3/21.5), Denver (4.3/15.0), Detroit (2.8/10.0), Charlotte (1.7/6.1), Miami (1.1/4.0), Indiana (0.8/2.9), Utah (0.7/2.5), Phoenix (0.6/2.2) and Oklahoma City (0.5/1.8). Wouldn't it be something if the Thunder won the lottery and you could put Okafor on a team that should contend for a title next season as long as Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka stay healthy?
The lottery is May 19 and the draft June 25.
Okafor Vs. Towns
It seems a lock that no matter which team picks first overall -- except for one, which I explain below -- that the choice would be either Okafor or Kentucky freshman big man Karl-Anthony Towns. NBA scouts were hoping those two would face off in the national championship game. If one had dominated the other, it might have solidified the No. 1 overall spot for him but of course Kentucky lost in the Final Four to Wisconsin. Duke beat the Badgers for the national championship despite a so-so game from Okafor. He struggled with foul trouble and had 10 points and only three rebounds. Wisconsin senior Frank Kaminsky looked like the better draft prospect in that game, but Kaminsky is only a borderline lottery guy.
On the season, Okafor averaged 17.3 points, shooting a stellar 66.4 percent from the field, and 8.5 rebounds. Okafor is offensively ready for the NBA right now although he'll have to bulk up that 6-foot-11 frame. He has a great low-post game and unbelievable hands. Throw the ball down near Okafor and he's going to get it -- no guards are going to strip the ball away from him (huge hands). The negatives on Okafor is that he doesn't rebound that great for someone with his size and that he's a poor defender. Sometimes he gets a bit lazy on that end of the court. Towns, meanwhile, probably will never be as skilled offensively as Okafor but better on the boards and defensively.
Of the teams with the five best chances of landing the top pick, I think the only one that would pass on Okafor or Towns would be Philadelphia. The Sixers already have two young big men in Nerlens Noel, who was a defensive dynamo as a rookie, and Joel Embiid, who missed all of this season and would thus be eligible for the Rookie of the Year Award in 2016. Philly needs a guard in the worst way and thus likely would take either Emmanuel Mudiay or Ohio State's D'Angelo Russell. Or perhaps the Sixers trade down a few spots and pick up a good young player in exchange for doing so.
If Minnesota gets the pick, I believe it's Towns because the Wolves were so bad defensively last season. They have some potential on offense with Ricky Rubio, Andrew Wiggins and Shabazz Muhammad. They could put Towns at power forward next to center Nikola Pekovic. If the Knicks win the top spot. Okafor would seem to be great fit for the triangle offense with his range and passing ability. The Lakers probably go with Towns to give them an all-Kentucky frontcourt with last season's first-round pick Julius Randle. Orlando needs offense so I'd go with Okafor. The Magic already have a good rebounding and defensive center in Nikola Vucevic and they are also covered in the backcourt with Elfid Payton and Victor Oladipo.