Boston Celtics Prospect Watch: Jahlil Okafor


On Wednesday, Forbes listed the Boston Celtics as the fourth-most valuable franchise in the NBA. Come June, the team hopes to be atop the draft board so that it can select Jahlil Okafor with the first overall pick.

The Celtics 13-26 record is the fifth-worst in the NBA. They have just one more win than their arch nemesis, the Lakers, who Forbes ranked as the highest valued NBA franchise, worth an estimated $2.6 billion.

Boston’s recent firesale has sent it from potential playoff team – granted, in the weak Eastern Conference – to the bottom-tier of the league. With some of the team’s veterans, such as Marcus Thornton, generating trade interest and the Developmental League showcase recently wrapping up, more moves that may negatively impact the win-loss column could very well be on the way.

Of course, as much as the Celtics would love to get the number one pick, the ping pong balls have never been kind to the green and white. Boston finished with the worst record in the NBA in 1996-97 and only had the third pick in the draft to show for it.

The Celtics were forced to watch Tim Duncan walk across the podium and don a black and silver Spurs hat. Then, they were forced to watch him help lead San Antonio to five NBA titles, carving out a hall of fame career in the process.Meanwhile, Boston selected Chauncey Billups, who didn’t develop into an all-star until years later as a member of the Detroit Pistons.

This is just one of several examples of the ping pong balls being much more cruel to the Celtics than they are to the Cavaliers, who have had the number one pick in three of the last four drafts.

A reversal of fortune could potentially net Boston the first overall pick and the right to draft Okafor.

At 6-foot-11 and 270 pounds, the Duke center is the consensus number one pick. He is averaging 18.6 points per game, 8.9 rebounds and 1.6 blocks.

Okafor is a mix between the centers of yesteryear and how big men function in today’s game. He primarily operates out of the low post, where he possesses a series of well-refined moves. He also has the athleticism, jump shot and soft hands to be effective further from the basket and in the pick-and-roll.

However, Okafor is not just a one-way player. His physical gifts and high basketball IQ allow him to be effective at the defensive end. His 1.6 blocks per game speak to the job he does as Duke’s rim-protector. The Blue Devils don’t just ask Okafor to defend the paint, but also lean on him to secure the rebound and start the fastbreak.

Okafor’s physical gifts and intelligence give him the potentially to not only be the number one pick but a future NBA star. If the Celtics are to get him, the leprechaun will have to work a lot harder.