Jahlil Okafor is going to be the No. 1 draft pick this offseason no matter which team wins the lottery, according to a new report.
Chad Ford of ESPN Insider says that every team he’s spoken to has Okafor pegged as the No. 1 pick.
“During the past several seasons, there’s been an intense debate among NBA scouts, GMs and fans about who will be the No. 1 pick. This season, so far at least, consensus has replaced debate,” he said. “To put it succinctly, he’s the most offensively polished freshman we’ve seen come along in a decade. While his lack of explosive athleticism and defensive prowess doesn’t put him in the same elite company as Anthony Davis or LeBron James as far as draft prospects go, he’s a very good No. 1 pick.”
The other top prospects, who at present are projected to go mostly in the top 5, are Emmanuel Mudiay, who currently plays in China; Kentucky’s Karl-Anthony Towns; Ohio State’s D’Angelo Russell; and Kristaps Porzingis, a Latvian player currently playing in Europe.
As the season ramps up for some teams, it’s winding down for others. Five teams have struggled to win much more than others, and therefore have better chances of winning the lottery and getting the No. 1 pick.
The Minnesota Timberwolves, with the league’s worst record, have the best shot at winning with a 25 percent chance. The Timberwolves would almost certainly draft Okafor, who would be teamed with Ricky Rubio and Andrew Wiggins for a young core.
The New York Knicks have the second-worst record and thus the second best shot at winning the lottery with a 19.9 percent chance. Team president Phil Jackson and other management recently scouted Okafor in New York, and would definitely pick him–either to keep or trade for an established superstar to team with Carmelo Anthony.
The Philadelphia 76ers, with a 15.6 percent chance of winning the lottery, would also almost certainly choose Okafor. “The Sixers are in a bit of a dilemma. They drafted Nerlens Noel in 2013 and Joel Embiid in 2014 — both of them are centers. Would they really take Okafor, a third center, with the No. 1 pick this year? I’m told the answer is yes,” Ford said.
“Noel has had a solid rookie season, but there’s nothing about his game that’s screaming ‘franchise superstar’ yet. Embiid is still recovering from foot surgery, has swelled to 300 pounds, and while incredibly talented, was always a major question mark. Okafor, on the other hand, is a sure thing. Noel and Embiid always can be used as trade assets if they need to be. Okafor’s closest competition right now appears to be Russell. The latter fits a major need for the Sixers and would immediately give Philly a much-needed sharpshooter in the backcourt.”
The Los Angeles Lakers, with a 11.9 chance of winning the lottery, and Orlando Magic, with a 8.8 percent chance of winning the lottery, would also likely take Okafor. The Lakers lack talent in many places, including center, and would love to team Okafor with last year’s lottery pick Julius Randle. The Magic are still looking for a superstar to build around, a source told Ford, and “Okafor could be that guy.”
The other teams currently with the best chances of winning the lottery, including the Indiana Pacers, Utah Jazz, and Boston Celtics, could all move up in the standings by season’s end, especially Eastern Conference teams. The Pacers and Celtics are still in competition for a playoff spot in the weaker East. But basically all of the teams would choose Okafor, although the Pistons are highlighted as perhaps the team that would pass if they somehow end up with the No. 1 pick.