Philadelphia 76ers GM Sam Hinkie had been saying for months that the team would stick with the “Best Player Available” strategy when it came time to make their choice at the 2015 NBA Draft.
Once the Los Angeles Lakers chose Ohio State’s D’Angelo Russell, the player the Sixers had been rumored to be targeting for weeks, with the second overall pick, fans and analysts all waited to see what would happen. Would Hinkie go after Emmanuel Mudiay? Trade down in a deal with the Boston Celtics? Or take the best player available?
Hinkie stayed true to form and went with the best available, taking with the No. 3 pick center Jahlil Okafor out of Duke.
Okafor is 6-foot-10, 275 pounds and possibly the best post player the game has seen in quite a while. He shares the ball well, has great court vision and makes the players around him better. In his only year at Duke he averaged 17.3 points and 8.5 rebounds per game and shot 66.4 percent from the floor.
On the flip side, Okafor’s defensive skill set is not anywhere near where it should be, which could be an issue on a team like the Sixers where a premium is placed on defense. In addition, Okafor shot a terrible 51 percent from the free-throw line while at Duke, so there are obviously things that need to be worked on.
And of course, for those keeping score, this also means the Sixers now have three centers currently on the roster.
As soon as the pick was announced, many we’re counting the minutes until Hinkie worked his magic and traded Okafor away for a bounty of picks. Instead, Adrian Wojnarowski broke the word that the Sixers intended to keep Okafor for the long haul and not trade him, which confused people even more.
The Sixers plan to keep Okafor — for good, sources tell Yahoo. He won't be auctioned in a trade.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 25, 2015
Okafor joins a team that already counts Nerlens Noel and Joel Embiid on their roster. You have to assume that one of the three is not going to make it to the start of the 2015-16 season as long as Embiid’s recent foot issues don’t postpone his Sixers debut.
There can be no doubt that Okafor was the best player on the board when the Sixers made their selection, but for the team to hold onto him when they already have Noel and Embiid is puzzling. If anything it tells the rest of the NBA that yes, we have too many centers and we’re going to need to move one. Telegraphing a situation like that is not like Hinkie at all and has to make people wonder if Embiid’s setback recently was more serious than everyone was led to believe.
The pick of Okafor unfortunately also leaves Sixers fans with more questions than answers regarding the future and exactly how long The Great Rebuild is going to last. Are we looking at Tank 3.0 next season? Or can coach Brett Brown somehow make this work where the Sixers can hold onto all three for the duration and more the franchise forward?
Time will tell.
Best available vs. fill need. It is more than abundantly clear where Sam Hinkie falls on that debate.