At 6-foot-11 inches, 272 pounds, there is no denying the beast like comparison that many attach to the name Jahlil Okafor. He Duke an inside presence that is lethal compared to the play of Coach K’s recent post players, like the Plumlee brothers and Ryan Kelly have provided. Okafor is third in the ACC averaging 9.4 rebounds per game and the freshman cannot be stopped in the post as he simply bullies smaller bodies.
However, I believe that will be the reason for his lack of success in the NBA. As a lock for a top pick in the 2015 draft, Okafor is not ready for the league. His go-to move is lower the shoulder and use his strength to get to the basket. In the NBA with bigger-body defenders and more athletic shot blockers, it is going to be very difficult for Okafor to dominate the way he does at Duke.
When you watch Shaq play in his prime, yes he is a huge body, but his post moves are virtually unguardable. Okafor has decent moves on the block, but he is using them against players that are, for the most part, unexperienced and 25-30 pounds lighter. Try making the same moves on 280 pound Andre Drummond or two of the league’s top defenders Tyson Chandler and Joakim Noah. I know Noah and Chandler both weigh less than Okafor, but their post defense has been phenomenal against the league’s best centers and they are extremely experienced.
Okafor is also yet to develop any outside game whatsoever. He is essentially useless from outside of 10 feet. In the NBA, the back-down center that was once so popular, is now almost non-existent. Without a 15-foot jump shot, it is tough to fit in as a center in this league. So many offenses involve pick-and-pop type plays and if you can’t knock down the shot, there’s an open seat on the bench. Okafor has also not proven to me that he is good enough on the dribble drive. All-Star Anthony Davis is so good facing the basket from 15 feet, putting the ball on the floor, and getting to the rack.
Finally, Okafor lacks speed and defensive skills. I’ll use Davis as an example again because he is so versatile. Watching Davis run in transition is magical. He can out run perimeter players and is athletic enough to play above the rim. Okafor simply doesn’t have enough athletic ability to consistently beat guards down the court and dunk on opposing shot blockers. The recently crowned national champion also struggles on the defensive end of the floor. According to ESPN, as of February 19th, Okafor was 14th in the ACC in defensive rebounding percentage. He also fails to keep opponents out of the paint as Duke allowed 62 points in the paint against North Carolina. Finally, Basketball Reference’s defensive rating is an estimate of the points a player allows per 100 possessions that he faces while on the court. It is based on his rebounds, blocks, steals, turnovers and forced misses. Oakfor ranked outside of the top 300 players in this category.
Okafor is too one dimensional for the NBA. Duke rarely uses him to set screens, take mid-range jump shots, or fly high in transition. It is all in the block posting up for the freshman. He is also not very light on his feet and has a tough time protecting the rim. I’m not saying he will be a bust in the draft, but I don’t see him averaging more than 13 points a game throughout his career.