Just another voice to add to the chorus of who the Lakers should nab with their No. 2 overall pick in Thursday’s NBA Draft (ESPN, 4 p.m.).
ESPN’s Jay Bilas — we’ll still gleefully refer to him as the former Rolling Hills High standout who happened to take a chance in life and go to Duke — has this answer when asked earlier this week who Minnesota should take with the No. 1 overall draft pick — Karl-Anthony Towns or Jahili Okafor:
“I’m actually kind of torn on who the best player overall in this draft is. I think Karl‑Anthony Towns is the most versatile player. He’s good at everything. There is nothing that we can tick off as far as attributes that he’s not good at. Nothing. Okafor has question marks on his defense, his ability to defend the pick‑and‑roll. He’s not a big‑time shot blocker, rim protector, but he’s not a zero in that regard.
“But I tend to lean toward Okafor because he’s a dominant low‑post scorer. Towns is not dominant in any one area. Maybe he’ll become that. But Okafor is the superior, low‑post scorer. I think he was hurt during the year and it affected him. I think he would have been much better had he not played against North Carolina and having played the rest of the year without getting healthy.
“I would not argue with anyone that likes Towns better, not one person. And I am sweating ‑‑ like, if it were my decision to make, I would have a really tough time with it. And I would probably defer to all of our people to say where we are on this because I’m kind of torn. I’m leaning one way, but I wouldn’t argue with anybody who has a differing view with me.”
Yes, both Bilas and Okafor are Duke alums. And Okafor can be an alum even if he only went one year, and Bilas made the required four-year commitment.
And apparently, this isn’t some draft-week revelation, but a new way of phrasing something he’s believed in for awhile.
So now the Lakers should be cool with Okafor, right? Unless they decided that it’s worth trading down to get Emmanuel Mudiay?
Bilas said of the 6-foot-5 guard with the very intriguing background: “I don’t think his decision to play in China will hurt him at all. In fact, I think it overall will help him a little bit. He didn’t have a choice. He couldn’t play college basketball last year, so he had to do something else. So I think he’s an outstanding prospect, top five good. We may look back on this draft as we have with others and say, hey, he was better than some of the big guys. He was better than this, better than that. But he’s a top five talent. With his size, his explosiveness, his ability to get into the lane and finish plays. He’s a good distributor, and he has the potential to be an excellent defender. He’s a very good defender that can be excellent in the NBA. He spent the year playing with a 24‑second clock, working out all day every day overseas. And when he got into the playoffs, he performed, after being injured, he performed at a very high level during his team’s time in the playoffs. So I don’t have one bit of hesitation with mood yea as a prospect.
“It’s just a question of do you think D’Angelo Russell of Ohio State may be a little better, or as I do, do you have Karl‑Anthony Towns or Jahlil Okafor over him? I actually have Mudiay, (Justice) Winslow and Russell ahead of (Kristaps) Porzingis, which not a lot of people have … which puts me on an island. I’m not sure if I’m right or wrong, but that’s sort of my judgment.”
Bilas will be on the main set with Rece Davis, Jay Williams, Jalen Rose and not Bill Simmons when the coverage starts Thursday — the 13th year in a row ESPN has it.
ESPN2 has a one-hour draft special today at 4 p.m. More on ESPN’s coverage with Bilas from this piece at SI.com.