2015 NBA Draft: Is Jahlil Okafor a Fit Next to Joel Embiid?


Watching Sixers’ big man Joel Embiid celebrate in his fine suits after every team win (what few there are) is an encouraging sight, especially for those of us who suffered through the Andrew Bynum era, or as I like to call it, the Year of the Deflated Fro.

Going fromone big man who didn’t care about the team, to another one who seems to care a great deal is a refreshing sight. However, as I often did with Bynum, I can’t help but to imagine what Embiid would look like while celebrating wearing a Sixers Jersey.

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Let’s face it, though Joel Embiid is another injured big, he’s also the cornerstone of the franchise moving forward (health permitting). When he does get on the court, he will likely be the focal point of our team on offense. So it’s safe to say that whoever the Sixers draft will have to fit around him.

Assuming that by the time this year’s draft rolls around we land a top-three pick (hopefully number one, damn you Knicks!), Philly is bound to select the best player available, which Sixers GM Sam Hinkie has made clear is what he drafts for. If such is the case, then it’s highly possible that the Sixers will be adding another top-shelf big man to the team. 

This will be the first of a three part series that will cover the top three potential big men that may be selected on draft night and how they would each fit around Embiid. Today we start with:

Jahlil Okafor

Listed at 6’11”, 270 pounds, the center out of Duke seems like an unnatural fit at first glance. So far this season, Okafor is averaging 18.9 points and 9.4 rebounds per game, while shooting 66.8 percent from the floor.

A player of Jahlil’s caliber would certainly be a welcomed addition, but when considering that most of his points are scored around the basket, things would get a bit crowded in the low-post between him and Embiid.

Jan 7, 2015; Winston-Salem, NC, USA; Duke Blue Devils center Jahlil Okafor (15) goes up for a shot while Wake Forest Demon Deacons forward Devin Thomas (2) defends during the second half at Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Duke defeated Wake Forest 73-65. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

So how could this work?

Jahlil, like Embiid, is a low-post fiend who can utilize an arsenal of moves to score in the paint. He possesses a lethal combination of explosiveness and power, and is starting to show a knack for hitting close-range jumpers. He’d be an upgrade over Nerlens Noel in regards to offense, and surely Brett Brown would find a way to get both him and Embiid a fair number of touches.

The only concern about this potential teaming is the disadvantage it would create defensively. Both bigs are equipped to lockdown the paint, however, by putting one at the four spot, you’re asking him to guard power forwards who, in today’s game, are stretching towards the perimeter.

Would either of them be able to keep pace with an athletic forward like Anthony Davis?

One thing to consider is that Brett Brown and the Sixers coaching staff are very serious about conditioning and would likely work Okafor into even better shape, making him quicker and more apt to playing the four spot in the process.With that being the case, then it’s possible him and Embiid could form a terrorizing duo that would haunt the league for the next decade or longer.

Let’s not worry about Nerlens Noel. There’s plenty of time during the game to rotate guys off the bench. What would be more disheartening to an opposing team then to see the 6’11” shot blocking savant coming in to replace Embiid or Okafor?

If the Sixers land the number one overall pick, it would be shocking if they passed up on a sure prospect like Jahlil Okafor out of Duke University.