Who is Jahlil Okafor?

Okafor is a 19 year-old native of Chicago, with his 20th birthday coming December 15th. In his lone college basketball season, Okafor won the national championship with the powerhouse Duke Blue Devils. Throughout high school, he was one of the most highly regarded players in the country. By the end of his senior season, he had been named to Team USA for the Nike Hoop Summit, the McDonalds All-American game (in which he was named the 2014 Morgan Wootten National Player of the Year), was a finalist for the Naismith Prep Player of the Year award, played in the Jordan Brand Classic, was named to the Associated Press first team, was named a Parade All-American, was USA Today's national player of the year, earned All-American status from MaxPreps, and was the Chicago Tribune's Athlete of the Year.

Prior to entering Duke, Okafor was selected as Preseason Player of the Year by CBSSports.com, NBCSports.com, our own banner: SB Nation, and ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla. He was also a Preseason All-American first team selection by USA Today, CBSSports.com, NBCSports.com, Athlon Sports, Bleacher Report, Sporting News, SB Nation, Sports Illustrated, and the Associated Press. Jahlil has more awards than Tom Hanks, basically.

You can learn more about Okafor in these interviews, from before his college season, and the Final Four… well-spoken gent with a low voice… maybe some voiceover work in his post-basketball career. Nice pipes, Jahlil:

Take a look at Okafor's stats from Duke:









REB (Off)














8.5 (3.5)







1.) Size: Okafor tops out at 6'10" without shoes, 6'11" in shoes and weighs 268 pounds. His vertical is not yet measured officially for the draft, but he has an impressive 7'5" wingspan. Jahlil is a favorite of many pundits, including a little local paper near me called the Los Angeles Times.

Okafor also has massive hands for his size, and is gifted with them as well, in both passing and catching the ball down low. Many observers have noted the ball looks more like a volleyball than a basketball in his mitts, and can score on a variety of moves down low. Okafor can also shoot over either shoulder, from the baseline or middle of the floor.

2.) Running: Moving up and down the floor was seen as a bit of a weak spot for Okafor coming out of high school, but Coach Mike Krzyzewski had him running before the season, and it became a very solid spot. Jahlil became a focal point for a fast-moving Duke offense, and in combination with his scoring capabilities, he was a bright spot for the Blue Devils all season long.

3.) Grace: Okafor's moves in the post are exceptional for most pros, let alone a young man just past his freshman year. Many draft reviews call his moves everything from graceful to balletic. His command of his body allows him to break through and pass out of double teams, score prodigiously, and command a vast disparity in fouls against him to fouls he commits (by a margin of nearly a hundred last year).

Okafor also has a reputation for being highly coachable, which, along with his physical gifts, helps explain his arc of staying near the top of his national classes throughout his high school and collegiate career, and speaks well to his ability to grow further in the pro ranks.




1.) Defense: Okafor has left some serious question marks on the defensive end of the floor, especially for a player of his size and athleticism. The confounding part of all of that is those traits, combined with some concentration, showed flashes of some exceptional post defensive play on occasion. But those moments were too few during the season, and Okafor more often looked lethargic or out of place on the defensive end of the floor, often being outworked by smaller players for the best post position. In turn, Duke was often forced to play a very conservative defense to accommodate Jahlil's weaknesses on that end, often having to cover his lackadaisical play.

2.) Defensive rebounding: Not a huge surprise, given weakness number one, but Okafor's lack of effort on the defensive end also plays heavily into his poor defensive rebounding stats (6.5 per 40 minutes), which make him one of the lowest-rated big men in the upper draft tier.

3.) Youth and conditioning: At 19 years of age, Okafor is still a puppy in terms of learning and growth. As exciting as that can be for possibility, it's a very young age to have the hopes and dreams of a lowly franchise heaped upon his shoulders, especially for someone weak on the defensive end. To be one of the jewels of the draft, one would hope for a player rounded at both ends of the floor. That said, Okafor's youth and coachability have already shown expansions in his game over the last year, and hopefully he can continue to grow once the paydays and freedoms come more easily. As to his conditioning, Okafor vastly improved his strength and conditioning in one year at Duke, but his build and habits make him a player that will always have to focus on that aspect of his game.

How can the Nuggets get Okafor?

The 4.3% chance the Denver Nuggets have at the top spot is obviously a longshot, and if they were to land it, they might look at a different player in the top slot. That said, the needs of the other teams who could be in the top three don't all lean towards big men, and there's a slight chance Okafor could slide out of the top three, if the right teams are up top. He's certainly a tempting player to improve a team, and though the odds of Okafor falling clear to the seventh slot are exceptionally small, a small slide and move up the ladder from the Nuggets are not so far-fetched as to be an impossibility.



Tuesday, May 19th


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