NBA Position: Center
|TS%||eFG%||% FG Rim||FG% at Rim||DREB 40 Min||OREB 40 Min||BLK 40 Min||FT%||FTA 40 Min||Steal %||Assist 40 Min||USG||PER|
*Stats provided for by synergysports.com, sports-reference.com, draftexpress.com and hoop-math.com
- Prototype Size (6’11) for an NBA Center
- Upper Body and Lower Body Strength: Girth in the Post
- Standing Reach (9’2.5’’) and Wingspan (7’5) to Contest Shots and Finish
- Large, Soft Hands to Catch Passes in Traffic
- Elite Footwork in the Post: Nimble Feet and Smooth, Sudden Movements
- Assortment of Post Moves: Can Turn Over Either Shoulder
- Go-To Post Move: Quick Spin Over Left Shoulder
- Soft Touch Finishing Around the Hoop
- Can Post up on Either Block
- Face-Up Game: Glimpses of a Duncan-Esque Bank Shot, Utilizes Strength to Score
- Offensive and Defensive Rebounding: Positioning with Size and Length
- Seals Off Defenders in the Post, Establishes Low Post Position
- Passing Ability Out of Double Teams Due to Height and Court Vision
- Glimpses of Verticality Defensively with Height, Strength and Standing Reach
- Post Defense Size and Strength
- Intangibles: Worth Ethic, Good Teammate, Coachable.
Okafor has the size, strength, build and length to defend his position, NBA centers. He possesses excellent upper and lower body strength that helps him leverage and exploit smaller and lighter opponents, especially in the post. Okafor operates predominately in the post, using his lower body girth, upper body strength and nimble feet to score. His polished post play (and the most polished in years) begins with establishing early position on either block with the size and strength to seal off defenders. Due to his sheer size, it is difficult for defenders to either reach around him to tip entry passes away or move around him to front, thus Okafor presents a consistent reliable post target for wings. Okafor has incredibly large and soft hands, which allows him to snare entry passes, even in traffic. Once catching the ball, he has the hand size, strength and arm length to palm the ball and the height to survey the court from the block. If doubled, Okafor has the size and court awareness to see over defenders and find the open cutter or shooter. If single-covered, Okafor’s best trait, back to the basket post-scoring, is enabled, an aspect of his game he utilizes more frequently than virtually any other college player as exemplified by the following:
|Off Reb||15.2||1.159||66%||Very Good||64.5||9.8||19.5|
Okafor has subtle quickness, nimble feet and incredible footwork to pair with his size and strength on the block, creating an unstoppable combination. Okafor can turn over either shoulder to score in the post with a soft finishing touch, but his most NBA-ready move is a deceptive lightning quick turn over his left shoulder for a right-handed hook. He also has perfected the drop-stop, either off the dribble on a back down or immediately after the catch. He is a patient post-scorer who feels out the defender, waiting for the opponent to overcommit, and then he exploits. Defenders often sit on his left shoulder to take away Okafor’s patented right hook, but Okafor has the ability and savvy to spin back over his other shoulder to finish. While not an explosive finisher at the rim, which could present problems against more athletic NBA length, Okafor creates airspace with his strength by shielding defenders and finishing with his long arms, and should be able to wield off NBA defenders with his body. Okafor has shown glimpses, albeit inconsistently, of a Duncan-esque quick face-up bank shot in his repertoire to keep defenses honest, and can move defenders off the dribble with his strength to score. His face-up game is still a work in progress.
Okafor is also difficult to move down low, and is thus typically in solid position to rebound. He rarely gets pushed around when the ball is in the air, and can seal off his man with his size and strength. His long arms and reach then allows him to secure rebounds despite not having stand-still lift or jumping ability. Okafor’s large and soft hands also enable him to grab virtually every available ball, even in traffic, on the offensive glass especially. He projects to be a plus offensive rebounder and put-back scorer in the league because of his positioning, soft hands, and finishing ability.
Defensively, Okafor possesses the size and lower body girth to defend NBA centers in the post. He is difficult to move or back down in a back to the basket post up setting, and his standing reach enables him to contest shots. Okafor is best in situations where he can utilize his size and strength defensively, and has demonstrated solid verticality at times in going straight up when contesting shots at the rim. He is simply an albatross when he either extends his arms sideways in passing lanes or above his head to contest shots.
In terms of intangibles, it is always a dicey proposition trying to dissect a player, because really you don’t know a player until you coach him. But every report out of Duke suggests Okafor is a hard worker, is coachable and is a solid locker room guy. The first will be paramount to him maintaining NBA level conditioning.
- Defensive Versatility
- NBA Roster Construction: Harder to Build Around
- Slow Feet: Lateral Agility Defensively Moving in Space
- Athleticism: Not an Explosive Leaper or Sudden Jumper
- Weakside Rotations/Help Defense Mobility and Awareness
- Rim Protection/Lift Contesting Shots
- Stands up Straight Too Much, Out of Stance Defensively
- Pick and Roll Defense Limitations: Positioning, Recovery and Containment
- Motor and Effort Level Defensively
- Slow Release and Overly High Arc
- Jump Shot Consistency
- Doesn’t Box Out at Times
- Needs to Better Understand Angles
- Brings the Ball Down in Face-Up Situations
- No Left Hand in the Post, Finishes with Right Hand Over Right Shoulder
- Could Struggle Finishing Over Length Due to Lack of Athleticism
- Conditioning Level: Tires Too Easily
Most of Okafor’s weaknesses reside on the defensive end, and while some are correctable with coaching/experience, some are not. Okafor is not a versatile defender, meaning he is essentially relegated to defending immobile centers in the NBA. In the current NBA landscape where versatility reigns, Okafor’s inability to defend multiple positions is an impediment. Due to this lack of versatility and the clear limitations in his game, Okafor is difficult to construct an NBA roster around. Simply put, the eye test and the following metrics at this juncture support the notion that Okafor is not even an average defender:
|Spot Up||22.4%||1||33%||Average||37.2 (47 AJ)||0||2.3|
Okafor is also simply not a quick mover laterally in space.He doesn’t possess the short area quickness or lateral agility to stay in front of quicker bigs off the dribble, let alone guards. This presents concerns about Okafor as a pick and roll defender in the NBA, where he does not have the foot speed nor quickness to contain guards from turning the corner in space. Furthermore, Okafor is not a sudden accelerator, and struggles to recover to his man off pick and rolls. Okafor will struggle mobility wise in more aggressive NBA pick and roll schemes that require him to contain ball-handlers off the dribble and recover quickly to his man. His understanding and mastery of angles will be crucial for him at the next level.
Okafor is also not an exceptional athlete and is by and large a below the rim player. He’s not an explosive leaper or sudden jumper, which hinders his impact both offensively and defensively. Offensively, he is not athletic enough as a leaper to serve as a pick and roll dive finisher who can catch lob passes and finish with authority in traffic in the DeAndre Jordan, Tyson Chandler or Andre Drummond mold. Thus, defenses will not suck in the same way they do off Okafor hard dives because of his inability to explosively finish. Instead, defenses will scheme knowing Okafor’s most likely recourse in a pick and roll setting is to post, which simplifies game-planning.
Defensively, Okafor doesn’t have the lift or quick-jumping ability to be a plus rim protector. While his size and length with his arms extended is an impediment at the rim, Okafor does not have the athleticism to be a dominant shot blocker, limiting his defensive upside. He is also not an instinctual help side defender, and when encountering fast-moving defenders moving right at him at the rim, he tends to lean backwards while barely leaving the floor, allowing easy finishes.
Okafor is utilized almost solely in the paint as either a post-up threat or quick-hitting shot-maker, thus his perimeter play and jump-shot are underdeveloped. Okafor has a slow release and high arcing shot that has too much arc. He possesses a soft touch, which gives reason for optimism on establishing a consistent face-up jumper, but he needs to establish a more consistent jump shot. His free throw shooting is probably the best example to view his inconsistent shooting results. Currently, he is severely limited outside of the post.
As for correctable mistakes, Okafor does not play with plus effort or a motor defensively. He is constantly upright in his stance, resulting in either guards burning by him or a failed recovery to his original man in pick and roll situations. His positioning in pick and roll defense is frequently off, as he shades the wrong side of the screener, resulting in easy penetration. Okafor also ball-watches consistently, and loses track of his man. On the glass, Okafor sometimes attacks the rim to rebound instead of locating his man to box out, and while his length usually allows him to secure those rebounding opportunities, he will not find the same success against pro athletes. Okafor also brings the ball down in a one-handed cupping motion when trying to get around defenders in face up situations, making it easier for help defenders to strip him on dig downs. Furthermore, Okafor needs to develop a left hand, for currently he uses his right hand to finish even over his right shoulder, which wont be nearly as successful in the pros. His lack of overall athleticism could make him struggle to finish over pogo sticks like the aforementioned Jordan, but over time he should develop the experience and counters to be able to navigate around superior athletes. Lastly, Okafor’s conditioning level needs to improve. He noticeably tires easily, and would do well in dropping 10 pounds or so to aid potentially enhanced mobility.
Offense: Back to the Basket Center in a Slower Pace Offense
Okafor is a plug and play foundational offensive piece who can be the primary cog in an NBA offense with the right surrounding pieces. Okafor can best be utilized much the way DeMarcus Cousins is in the league: as a primary post-up option who dictates the way defenses play. He’ll exploit single-coverage in the post with his array of post-up moves, and if doubled has the court sense and passing to find the open shooter. The traditional and simplistic NBA offense ran through a back to the basket big man is a dying breed in the league with more spread pick and roll schemes dominating, but it can still be effective. It is paramount however to build around Okafor with shooting to create the requisite space for him to operate down low without help defenders digging down and swiping at the ball.
While Okafor is not an ideal pick and roll big man due to his inability to dive hard to the rim and finish explosively and his lack of a consistent jump shot, he can be used in this manner to establish post position with a potential mismatch. Much the way the Magic utilize the Nikola Vucevic in pick and rolls to essentially pick and seal a defender deep in the paint for a post up, often times with a mismatch, Okafor could be lethal in this setup. Okafor can perhaps eventually be utilized in a pick and pop setting if he develops a more consistent jump shot to pair with his passing ability, but he will never be a true pick and roll dive big man finisher.
Defense: Conservative “Zone” Pick and Roll Scheme
Due to his lack of foot-speed, lateral agility and short area quickness, Okafor is best suited for a conservative pick and roll zoning scheme in the NBA. Teams will undoubtedly try to involve Okafor frequently in pick and rolls to either get a mismatch with a speedy guard who can beat him around the corner or force Okafor to recover to more agile bigs. Instead of putting Okafor in a more aggressive defensive scheme where he has to hedge or show hard, instigating these weaknesses, Okafor should be positioned farther back in the paint as a zone defender. This scheme has been adopted by numerous teams, most notably the Pacers with Roy Hibbert and Bulls with Joakim Noah. It will mitigate Okafor’s movement issues defensively, allowing him to sit back in the paint and use his size/length to either contest at the rim or challenge the desired outcome, a low percentage pull-up jump shot, with his reach.
Team Fit: New York Knicks (Triangle Offense)
This current Knicks team does not exhibit triangle concepts as much as advertised, due mostly to talent level, but Okafor could change that. The triangle is foundationally based on post-up action and spacing. Okafor is tailor-made for a Pau Gasol-esque role in the triangle as a post up cog who can pass to pair with Carmelo Anthony as the designated wing scorer on the block. Okafor is built for a slower pace scheme that emphasizes post-ups, read and react principles, spacing and half-court execution.
NBA Player Comparison: Rich Man’s (Taller/Bigger) Better Passing Al Jefferson
There is never a precise NBA comparison for college prospects, hence the long modifier, but Okafor’s most analogous comparison is Jefferson. Okafor is definitely a better passer with superior court sense, and is taller, bigger, and longer. Jefferson is the most highly utilized post-up option in the league who essentially has an entire offense run through him. Okafor projects to be utilized the same way. Neither are true rim protectors, but Okafor at least has a chance to not be a significant minus defender with his superior length, reach and size to contest shots. I also considered DeMarcus Cousins here, but Cousins was more gifted on the perimeter, a more skilled dribbler and had a superior face-up game with better quickness. A superior version of Al Jefferson is nothing to scoff at. Studying how Big Al abuses defenses with his deadly shot fake would also aid Okafor’s game.
Okafor does not have Anthony Davis two-way franchise player potential, but his refined post-game seems like the surest NBA translatable skill in the draft. The question is, how valuable is that one transcendent skill weighed against severe defensive limitations and lack of current offensive versatility? Most elite NBA offenses do not feature heavy post up cogs, and the ones that do (ex: Portland) feature post up players who play both sides of the floor. Okafor can be a lethal offensive contributor in the league due to his post scoring and passing, but if he’s a defensive liability, especially in pick and roll coverage, that offense comes at an tremendous cost. Okafor’s contribution to a winning NBA franchise is contingent on precise roster fit (pairing him with shooting and a rim protecting Ibaka esque stretch four) and him getting in better shape to optimize his mobility. Okafor can change his body enough to become more mobile and with defensive tutelage his awareness and positioning can improve, but it will likely never be enough to make him a plus defender. The NBA rewards scoring more than anything else, and Okafor is a plug and play 20-10 player, but his skill-set, being largely outdated in today’s game and necessity for precise roster fit keep him out of the #1 spot on my board.