Friday, June 26, 2015

Sixers get Okafor and little help in second round

The latest Sixers big man
PHILADELPHIA – The Sixers went the best player available route at No. 3 overall, taking 6-foot-11 big man Jahlil Okafor out of Duke.

The 272-pound Okafor was an early entry candidate following a standout freshman season with the Blue Devils where he helped lead the team to a 35-4 mark and the NCAA Championship. The 19-year-old  averaged 17.3 points, 8.5 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 1.4 blocks, and was selected as a consensus first-team All-American.

Additionally, Okafor was named the 2015 ACC Player of the Year and the USBWA 2015 National Freshman of the year, while also being selected as a finalist for the Wooden and Naismith National Player of the Year awards. He is also a three-time gold medal winner while playing for Team USA during the 2011 Under 16 FIBA Americas, the 2012 Under 17 World Championships and the 2013 Under 19 World Championships.

A fundamentally sound offensive player with the footwork of a veteran and huge hands, Okafor now becomes the so-called centerpiece in the Sam Hinkie rebuild which will now need to be pushed back yet another season because of the lack of guards and wing players on the Sixers' roster.

Okafor's presence also muddles the future of Joel Embiid, the former centerpiece who has yet to play a game for Philadelphia and recently had a setback in his attempt to recover from a stress fracture in the navicular bone in his right foot.

"I don't know," Okafor said when asked how he fits in with the Sixers. "It's not my job to figure out. I'll just go there and work as hard as I can."

The knocks on Okafor are his defense and rebounding, along with tepid free-throw shooting. That likely means Nerlens Noel is the keeper with Okafor because his defensive prowess will be key but nothing is ever certain with Hinkie.

The second round was a disappointment to most with Philadelphia garnering Bowling Green power forward Richaun Holmes with the 37th overall pick, Lithuanian stretch four Arturas Gudaitis with the 47th overall pick, North Carolina wingman J.P. Tokoto with the 58th overall pick and Serbian forward Luka Mitrovic with the 60th overall pick.

Additionally, the Sixers acquired the rights two future second round picks from the New York Knicks in exchange for the rights to the 35th pick, Spanish center Guillermo Hernangomez.

The Euro players were taken to stash and as the saying goes are probably two years away from being two years away.

The 6-10 Gudaitis has spent the past three seasons playing for Zalgiris in Lithuania’s LKL league. Last season he averaged 8.6 points and 4.8 rebounds in 57 total games, which included 21 starts.

Mitrovic averaged 9.7 points and 5.7 rebounds for Crvena Zvezda during the 2014-15 season, where the team won the Adriatic ABA League title. He has spent three seasons with Crvena Zvezda, where he played in 75 games in 2014-15, which included 60 starts.

Holmes was named MAC Defensive Player of the Year for Bowling Green  in addition to a first-team All-MAC selection. The 6-8 forward averaged 14.7 points, 8.0 rebounds and 2.7 blocks as a senior and recorded 244 career blocks to top the Falcons’ all-time list.

Tokoto spent three seasons at North Carolina, where he averaged 8.3 points, 5.6 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game as a junior in 2014-15. The 6-6 wing was selected first-team All-ACC Defensive Team for two consecutive seasons.
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