Every day there seems to be a change in how the NBA teams at the top of the order will draft. One surprising change may be the Los Angeles Lakers taking a sudden interest in D’Angelo Russell, which means the New York Knicks, who are very interested in Jahlil Okafor, may get what they wish for.
The Knicks, picking fourth in the 2015 draft, have been working out other names, like Justise Winslow, who could go as high as third in the draft (76ers), but rumors keep suggesting their main interest is either Karl-Anthony Towns, who is most likely getting taken first by the Minnesota Timberwolves or Okafor, who seems to be dropping in the mock drafts recently.
The drop by Okafor might not be because he’s not as good as teams would like him to be. Obviously, Towns is the favorite to get picked first because of his defensive abilities and the more NBA-ready body according to scouts, but Okafor might be the more polished offensive player and could give more to any team that takes him right now, which seems to be the way teams were looking at the Joel Embiid vs Julius Randle debate last season. Both players didn’t get to play because of injuries (actually, Randle got a few minutes on opening night).
So how come Okafor is falling? Well, the Los Angeles Lakers have a need in pretty much every position but shooting guard. Kobe Bryant is on for another year, as bad as it is for them, and Jordan Clarkson, despite the attempts of Byron Scott to play him at the point, isn’t a point guard. That’s a whole story upon itself (how to keep Clarkson developing next to Bryant), but they do need a point guard like they need a big man. Lately, D’Angelo Russell, the best point guard in this draft, is looking more and more like a viable option for them to pounce on.
So if Winslow goes third and Russell, who has a lot more fans than Emmanuel Mudiay has among general managers and scouts at the moment, complete the top 3, Okafor becomes available for the Knicks. Some say they like Willie Cauley-Stein as well to build a defense around, but he’s probably going to be outside the top 5. Okafor might be a catch at 4, but there’s always the option of trading down and getting something worthwhile out of it.
The Knicks, at least according to the vibe everyone’s getting from them, want to improve now, and view very few players in this draft as being able to make that kind of impact right away. Just Towns and Okafor? Maybe. So if both of them are unavailable once it’s their time to pick, maybe trading down to get a player who can help them right away will be what they do.