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PWE Draft Preview Daily Prospect Two for One: Karl Towns and Jahlil Okafor - Pinwheel Empire
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PWE Draft Preview Daily Prospect Two for One: Karl Towns and Jahlil Okafor

submitted 2 years ago by in Daily Empire | Draft

Karl Towns


DraftExpress 
ESPN NBADraft Stats Wiki
Big |  6’11 | 250 | Kentucky
Projected: First Overall
Best Case: Pau Gasol
Most Likely: Al Horford
Worst Case: Chris Kaman

Jahlil Okafor

DraftExpress ESPN NBADraft Stats Wiki
Center |  6’11 | 270 | Duke
Projected: Second Overall
Best Case: Old Shaq
Most Likely: Al Jefferson
Worst Case: Eddy Curry

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This was supposed to be Jahlil Okafor’s draft. Just like Harrison Barnes, Shabazz Muhammad and Jabari Parker before him, Okafor was the dominant player of his high school class before getting outshone by a more exciting, athletic and versatile guy in college. Despite an absolute monster freshman season leading Duke to a national title, Okafor somehow lost his presumptive #1 pick status and has even been questioned as the second best prospect in the draft. How did this happen?

Effectively, Okafor was so good in the post on such volume that teams began to question whether he is right for this era of NBA ball. Having such a singular strength (and his post play is the single most outstanding strength of any prospect in this draft) would have been a pillar on which Okafor could build his candidacy for the #1 pick in the past, but instead he’s come along in a time where versatility is held in higher esteem than specificity. Indeed, the player who has passed Okafor as the presumptive #1 overall selection isn’t the typical freak athlete with ridiculous upside. Rather Towns is a reliable shooter (from the floor and the free throw line), has a little more mobility and athleticism to his game, adds positional flexibility and has greater potential as a rim protector while still being good in the post. Towns also has no glaring weaknesses, while Okafor struggles at the line and defending in space. Nowadays, that lack of vulnerability coupled with a wide variety of skills makes Towns the more valued prospect, where once a dominant low post scorer like Okafor would’ve been a consensus #1 pick.

Looking beyond stylistic differences, it’s hard to compare the pair’s productivity due their disparate roles for two historic college teams. Towns played 21 minutes a game in Kentucky’s platoon rotation, allowing him to a freedom to chase blocks knowing that he had backup in case of foul trouble. Okafor was the fulcrum around which Duke’s offense operated, so foul trouble was not an option for him. With that in mind, the advanced numbers have Towns as the better rebounder and shot-blocker while Okafor had a more efficient offensive output on significantly higher usage. Given the degree of difficulty Okafor faced I feel he had the more impressive freshman campaign overall, but will that translate to him being the better NBA player? Probably not.

I think Okafor might have the slightly higher ceiling. His game reminds me some of Shaq in his later years (Miami through Phoenix, before he really declined), when he still averaged near 20/10 on 60/50 shooting splits but was slipping as a shot-blocker and really struggled defending the pick and roll. That version of Shaq would still be a top three center today though and I can see Okafor getting to that point through sheer brute force paired with his genius in the post. I also think Okafor has the intelligence and tools, with his length and bulk, to become a decent defender, similarly to how DeMarcus Cousins has developed on that end in Sacramento. Nevertheless, I see Towns as the safer prospect, without the conditioning and commitment question marks that make Okafor a bust risk. Towns has the offensive flair to be a Pau Gasol type high post facilitator, shooter and low post maven if things break right. Even if he offense remains a little less creative I can see him being a strong shooter out of the pick and roll while also defending at a high level, much like Al Horford does in Atlanta.

In the end, these two are justifiably the top two prospects in this draft. Towns’ game provides more avenues to NBA success, so he is the logical #1 pick. Okafor’s post wizardry gives him a decent shot at being a special player but his style and flaws make him a greater risk than Towns in the current NBA environment. Perhaps the inevitable comparisons between these two will be indicative of the debate over the death of the traditional center in the NBA. If that’s the case, go Jahlil ‘Baby Shaq’ Okafor!

 

 

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