Pete Gillen: ‘Lakers Can’t Pass On Okafor’

Forget what you’ve heard about D’Angelo Russell, forget you’ve heard about Kristaps Porzingis, and forget what you’ve heard about possibly trading the pick.

The Los Angeles Lakers are going to take Jahlil Okafor second overall in the NBA Draft on Thursday.

“They cannot pass on Jahlil Okafor,” CBS Sports college basketball analyst Pete Gillen said on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “There’s no way. (He’s) the best inside big guy coming out of college since Shaquille O’Neal for the Lakers. They got to take him. (Everything else) is (a) smoke screen. D’Angelo Russell is a great player, but they need an inside scorer,” Gillen said of the Lakers. “They badly need a center, and I think they’ll definitely go with Jahlil Okafor. He’s the best big guy in the draft with his back to the basket, with moves inside, tremendous hands, tremendous feet, really skilled, can pass the ball. He’s got to work on his free-throw shooting and his 16-foot jump shot when he gets to the high post, but he’s very talented. He’s going to be a franchise center for the Lakers for a long time.”

Wait, does Gillen really think that Okafor is the best big man to come out of college since O’Neal?

“For the Lakers,” Gillen clarified. “He’s the best inside scorer for the Lakers. They haven’t had one. They had Dwight Howard, but he’s not a great inside scorer. He’s a little mechanical, a good defender, but they haven’t had a good big guys once Shaq for the Lakers. That’s why the’ll take him.”

Okafor, a 6-11 center, averaged 17.3 points and 8.5 rebounds as a freshman at Duke last season.

Karl-Anthony Towns, of course, is the presumed No. 1 overall pick, with Minnesota his likely landing spot. The Lakers could go in any number of directions with the second overall pick and were rumored to be interested in trading it, along with Julius Randle, to Sacramento for DeMarcus Cousins. That, however, is unlikely to occur, as the Kings could probably get more for their franchise player elsewhere.

Plus, it’d be hard for the Kings to part with a proven producer for a pair of NBA unknowns. Randle has played in just one game for the Lakers due to injury, and while Okafor is truly an elite prospect – after all, he was the best player on a team that won a national championship in his only season in college – he is still very much a work in progress. In addition to improving his free-throw shooting – he shot 51.0 percent at Duke – and his high-post scoring, Okafor also must get better on defense.

“He doesn’t move his feet really quickly,” Gillen said. “He has trouble guarding the pick-and-roll when a guard comes off there and his man sets the screen. He struggles with that. He’s not a real good defender, and the Lakers were horrible defensively last year. So that’s a problem right now. You got to do a better job with that.”

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