Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Class of 2013-16: NBA Comparisons of #1 Recruits!!! (Jahlil Okafor)

DERRICK COLEMAN   -   JAHLIL OKAFOR (2014)   -   AL JEFFERSON


Written by: Prospect-Central

Making player comparisons is the nature of the business. The majority of the time these comparisons are way off base, but it's fun none the less. There are many things to take into consideration when comparing high school standouts to NBA stars, but even if they share similarities in their game, that doesn't necessarily mean they'll have the same type of success.

While a players size, handles, jumper, vision, athleticism, strength, work ethic, and even facial features are all used in making comparisons, there's really no concrete way to determine if they'll end up with the same type of NBA career or not. How far these four high school hoopers go in the game of basketball will ultimately be up to their desire and passion, and there's no measuring stick for that.

Since only one of these players is eighteen years old, they obviously have a lot of time to mature physically as well as mentally. With that being said, you should take these comparisons with a grain of salt.

Whether they live up to the hype, or crumble under the pressure, they will certainly have the opportunity to showcase their skills at the highest level. You already know what they say about opinions, but here's Prospect-Central's NBA comparisons for the #1 recruits in the Class of 2013-16. * Below is the NBA comparison for Jahlil Okafor; #1 recruit Class of 2014.

Okafor on verge of tearing down the rim
Jahlil Okafor c / 6'10'' 270 / Chicago, IL
The toughest #1 recruit to find an adequate NBA comparison for was probably Andrew Wiggins. Since Wiggins is all but a lock for super stardom, it was obviously difficult to find someone with the same characteristics to fit the bill. With that being said, it was nearly just as hard to find a comparison for Jahlil Okafor as well.

While Okafor's not as dynamic as Wiggins, he's still gonna be a problem at the next level. With his size, skill level, and overall feel for the game, there really aren't too many players in the NBA that compare to Jahlil.

Even though he's definitely a large young man, at roughly 6-foot-10, he's still slightly undersized for an NBA center. And therein lies the problem. How many undersized centers can you name that are stars in the league?

Let's analyze his measurables for a second. Okafor's listed anywhere from 6'9'' to 6'11'', but he's most likely 6'10''. As I stated before, not the greatest height for an NBA center, but he'll more than make up for it with his 7'3'' wingspan and massive 270 pound frame.

With his massive size, Okafor's a good athlete, but not a great one. He definitely has more than enough lift to bang it on NBA big men, but he lacks elite explosiveness. As with a lot of large people, conditioning could be an issue in the future, but for the time being he runs the floor very well for his size.

What sets Okafor apart from other players his size however, are his soft hands and nimble feet. That may not sound like much, but those are some of the most important traits a big man can have. With his gigantic hands, he's able to catch nearly any pass thrown in his direction, and his feathery touch around the basket is truly a sight for sore eyes.

The big man has an excellent back to the basket game, extremely smooth footwork, great body control, an array of spin moves, a proficient mid-range game, and an overall high basketball IQ. Bottom line, Jahlil Okafor's nickname should be "Wax", because his offensive game is quite polished to say the least.

As of right now, there's no question Okafor's more advanced on the offensive side of the ball than he is on defense. That's not to say he can't play D, but since he rarely faces an opponent as large as himself, that area of his game will need to tighten up as the years go by. He's still a very good rebounder however, in particularly on the offensive glass.

As far as Okafor's mental makeup is concerned, the young man is mature beyond his years. He conducts himself very well on and off the court, and is definitely not a knucklehead. A lot of things can be contributed to Okafor's humbleness, but it might be what happened to him as a child that's shaping him into the man he's becoming today.

When he was nine years old, Jahlil's mother contracted bronchitis causing her lungs to collapse. Two weeks later, she died. Experiencing a tragedy like this at such a young age can cause a person to grow up pretty quickly. Jahlil Okafor became a man that day.

Coleman trying to embarrass Corliss Williamson
The 17-year old is far from a finished product, but there's no question his future playing days are in the NBA. So, who are some players that compare favorably to Okafor you ask? Good question.

The two most common comparisons you'll hear are Jared Sullinger and Carlos Boozer. I actually like both of these comparisons due to their combination of power and finesse, but I wanted to find two players who were legitimately 6-foot-10. Okafor has a chance to be a better defensive player than Boozer also, and in Sullinger's case, I wanted to set the bar a little higher.

I can't pinpoint the exact time when the NBA center position downgraded from a height perspective, but it's sometime within the last ten to fifteen years. Nowadays, the position is mostly about strength & mass, as opposed to how tall a player is. Point being, 6-foot-10, 250 pound Derrick Coleman could have held down the position in today's game.

The former #1 pick of the 1990 NBA Draft and Rookie of the Year, Derrick Coleman had a pretty solid NBA career despite never quite living up to the hype. He was definitely a power forward during his era, but he was strong enough and physical enough to play center in today's NBA landscape.

Some similarities between the two players; a crafty post game, average athleticism, ball handling capabilities, shot blocking instincts, a strong physical presence, and an overall high offensive skill set to size ratio. As similar as they appear to be, there's obviously some differences between the two players as well.

For starters, Derrick Coleman's most productive playing weight was right around 250 pounds. He reached 270 pounds later in his career, but that was clearly too heavy for him. Jahlil's already 270 pounds, and quite frankly, he carries it very well. Coleman also had 3-point range, something Jahlil has yet to add to his arsenal.

The most notable difference though, has to be Coleman's questionable attitude throughout his career and off the court issues. Jahlil has no signs of that being a problem in the future. Regardless of all the extracurricular activities, Derrick Coleman was still a pretty good basketball player. And who knows. If Jahlil pans out, maybe he can charge people $1,500 to have dinner with him, just like Derrick Coleman does now :)

I don't know about you, but it seems like Al Jefferson has been part of NBA trade rumors even before he entered the league. Is Al Jefferson an all-star? No. Is Al Jefferson an exciting player? Not particularly. Is Al Jefferson good looking?  You got to be kidding me (lol). But is Al Jefferson a legitimate starting center in the NBA? You darn right he is!

With a career average of 16.4 ppg, 9.0 rpg, and 1.4 bpg, Al Jefferson has more than held his own throughout his nine years in the league. Ironically, Derrick Coleman's stats are virtually identical. At 6-foot-10, 280 pounds, with a 7'3'' wingspan, Jefferson and Okafor have very similar frames. They also both have an array of post moves, strong hands, average athleticism, nice footwork, decent shot blocking capabilities, and a solid mid-range game. Lets not forget, they both are extremely humble as well.

Jefferson jamming as Tayshaun Prince spectates
Even though I think Jahlil will rebound the ball better than Jefferson, I wouldn't be shocked if the two players have similar careers. Considering Al Jefferson's already made nearly $75 million dollars, I'm sure Jahlil wouldn't be too disappointed with that.

Jahlil Okafor played very well this past season for Whitney Young (Chicago, IL). He averaged 20.7 ppg, 9.3 rpg, and 3.0 bpg. To tell you the truth though, he'll probably play even better next year as a senior. Despite finishing the season with a disappointing loss to Jabari Parker and Simeon Career Academy, in Chicago's Class 4A Argo Sectional finals, he still took home a number of individual accolades, including the Chicago Sun-Times Player of the Year honors.

There's significant rumors Okafor will join the #3 recruit in the Class of 2014 Tyus Jones, when both players decide on which college to attend a year and a half from now. Duke, Ohio State, Michigan State, and Kentucky seem to be the favorites, but anything can happen when it comes to recruiting.

As it stands right now however, Jahlil Okafor already has his eyes set on the NBA. There are a number of people who believe he could play in the league right now, and last summer he actually got the better of Al Jefferson's backup Enes Kanter in a scrimmage. Yet another similarity he shares with the Utah big man. All in all, Jahlil Okafor appears to be another future NBA lottery pick hailing from the city of Chicago. After that, it's up to him how far he takes his game.


NBA Comparisons of #1 Recruits
2013 / 2015 / 2016

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