(Eds. Note: This is a guest post from friend of the blog Jon Wallace (@jonwallace3), a Duke graduate, current Washington, DC resident, great American, and die-hard Blue Devils fan.)
Draft Notes from a Dookie
Hi, I’m Jon W. You might be familiar with me.
Please excuse my brief indulgence into the draft and NBA career prospects of the Duke early entry candidates from an unabashed Duke homer. This team has been one of my favorite sports teams to follow in my lifetime so there is no way I can be unbiased in the evaluation of these three players.
That said, I will try to give you my honest and candid opinions as to the strengths, weaknesses, and NBA prospects of Jahlil Okafor, Minnesota native Tyus Jones, and rising prospect Justise Winslow. There’s interest in these guys in Minnesota.
This is for good reason. I’ll spend this post on Okafor–who is the most realistic future T-Wolves player, and the best prospect of the three. My next two posts will be on Jones and Winslow.
Scouting Jahlil Okafor
Jahlil Okafor came into Duke hyped as the best offensive center prospect in a two decades and in large part lived up to and/or exceeded those expectation. He flashed a refined back to the basket game, impressive face up dribble drive moves, and even a Tim Duncan-inspired bank shot from mid-range.
Big Jah did struggle defensively protecting the rim, but much of that could possibly be directed to the imperative from Coach K to keep out of foul trouble. Rebounding out of his area was average, but he hit the offensive glass aggressively and productively. (including a big rebound and layup against Wisconsin in the last 3 minutes).
Duke’s offense, when Okafor received a post-touch, was incredibly efficient. At one point, it averaged 1.3 PPP , even though Okafor only attempted a field goal on only 41% of those possessions.
Contrast that with a PPP of .999 when he didn’t get a post-touch, and you can see the type of offensive “gravity” Okafor had in the college game–something coveted in today’s NBA, even though it is mostly discussed in terms of guards and stretch big 3-point shooters right now. Okafor is the rare big who could change that. He would improve your offense by leaps and bounds, and with Pekovic’s future status uncertain, he would be a great choice for the Wolves.
Now, for the doubters, here’s why you should still like Okafor–perhaps with the first overall pick, should you get it: While Okafor did not have his biggest impact in the stretch run for Duke, close attention to Okafor suggested that this was the result of an ankle injury he suffered in Duke’s first game against UNC last season back in late February . The injury curbed his mobility and limited his dominance (to a degree), but he continued to play at a very high level.
After watching almost all of Okafor’s games this season, while keeping a close eye on the NBA, my assessment is that Okafor projects as a definite offensive force in the NBA. His floor is probably slightly higher than a peak-level Al Jefferson–who is, incidentally, now a favorite around these parts, upon signing with Charlotte–and a ceiling that would make Okafor a true franchise cornerstone. Simply put, he would be a remarkable complement to the franchise-level talent Minnesota already has in Andrew Wiggins. He’d also play well with Ricky Rubio, but who doesn’t?
Defensive improvement will be the key for Okafor, but I anticipate this as a natural progression–he looks able and willing to refine his body, and therefore increases his athleticism, which will help a lot.
If Wolves fans close their eyes and dream up a perfect scenario, it isn’t impossible that Okafor and Wiggins could be a new school Shaq and Kobe could be a potential analogue to Okafor and Wiggins.
(Eds. Note from Jon W: Okay, perhaps not quite that, but maybe 75 percent of that. Which is still great.)
Meanwhile, here are some Okafor highlights to try on for size. I’ll be back soon with more on Tyus Jones and Justise Winslow.
UPDATE (4/25/15, 12:15 PM EDT): (Eds. Note: Jon W sent us some additional film on Okafor to include here. His quote in the email he sent us: “I’m trapped in a rabbit hole of Okafor highlights right now.”)
 That number comes from Draft Express, which did an excellent piece on Okafor using Sport VU data provided by Duke. Duke was the first college to use SportVU data in its game day operations and is still the only university to use it for practice data. For reference, Wisconsin’s historically efficient offense was at 1.28 PPP.
 BIASED HOMER SIDENOTE: While Karl-Anthony Towns was gaining on Okafor as the number one pick before this, the decisive inflection point seemed to be KAT’s domination of Notre Dame in the Elite Eight. Towns had 25 and 5, while Okafor in his 3 games against Notre Dame had 22 and 17, 20 and 10, and 28 and 8. Both of them feasted because Notre Dame play 4 guards and a 6’9” power forward guarding 6’11” future all stars.