I’m a firm believer that late in the Draft, whether it be the late first or early second round, teams should draft for need. Swing for the fences in the lottery; go for the “best player available” if that’s what the organization needs to do.
However, outside of the Top-20 picks or so, completely different story. Positional need, skill-set need, and situation are determining factors that should be weighed before selecting a young prospect.
As we all know, the Magic were awarded the sixth pick in the upcoming NBA Draft last Tuesday night. Regardless of what the Magic decide to do with that pick, one fact remains.
Heading into next season, the Magic have one point guard on their roster with a guaranteed contract. Of course, Orlando’s new management team decided to trade former Magic starting point guard Elfrid Payton at the NBA Trade Deadline last February. That created an opportunity for Shelvin Mack to earn some regular minutes for the Magic to close the year out, but his contract next season is only partially guaranteed.
The Magic own the 35th and 41st picks in this draft, they need to use one of those picks to add some point guard depth to the roster.
And I think the lead-guard depth in this class is most plentiful in the 25-45 range, so the Magic are in a great situation to have a look at guys like Landry Shamet, Khyri Thomas, Tony Carr, Devonte Graham, and others.
Over the last couple weeks, I’ve profiled Aaron Holiday, Jevon Carter, and Jalen Brunson.
I believe the Magic should take an opportunity in this spot to target their guy who can become the team’s back-up point guard. If he’s not going to be there at #35, they can try packaging their two picks in an effort to move up (into the 25-30 range for example). The Magic also have Nikola Vucevic and Terrence Ross, two players with expiring contracts, to work with.
I’m going to provide pieces that take a deeper look at the kind of lead guards the Magic should be targeting in an effort to rebuild their point guard depth.
Fourth in this series, I profile an emerging lead guard from France who is seemingly getting better every time he steps on the floor. My breakdown of Elie Okobo is below:
Elie Okobo (20 years old)
6-3, 180 lbs. (*reported 6-8 wingspan)
|Ranking/Mock Draft Slot||The Ringer||Tankathon||The Stepien||ESPN||Sports Illustrated|
Elie Okobo, who is currently playing for Pau-Orthez in France’s LNB Pro A league (the highest professional league in France), is averaging 13.8 points and 4.7 assists in just over 26 minutes per game in ‘17-18 (32 starts). Okobo has been playing for Pau-Orthez since he was 18 years old, but this year has been the first time he’s taken on a significant role for the club.
Okobo entered his name in the draft last year, and even came over to the United States to workout for several NBA clubs. He eventually withdrew his name and decided to play another year in France.
“The workouts I went to last year were a great experience, and I know much better what to expect from the process,” Okobo told ESPN. “I plan to leave for the USA (this year) immediately after my season here (in France), to train and prepare for the individual workouts,”
Okobo burst on the scene in 2016 when he averaged just under 19 points per game in seven contests at the FIBA U20 European Championship. In a sample size that includes 14 games over a two year period at the FIBA U20 Championships, Okobo shot 39% on his three-point attempts (39-100).
Back in 2016, Julian Applebome of Draft Express had this to say about Okobo’s performance in Finland (at the FIBA U20’s):
“Okobo scored in a variety of ways, using his burst and change of speed to get into the paint, while also excelling on the perimeter...Okobo can take and make tough shots...He shows flashes of point guard skills, making the occasional nice play out of the pick-and-roll (or pass on the move), but he looked more focused on scoring the ball than setting up his teammates. Okobo no doubt has the ability to score the ball, but given his size he’ll have to develop more at the point guard position.”
Okobo has improved greatly over the last couple of years developing his point guard skills. He is currently dishing out 6.6 assists per 36 minutes this year in France, which shows a significant improvement in Okobo’s awareness and play-making ability compared to the numbers he put up in league play and international competition in the past (improved his AST% from 18.7% last season to just under 32% this year).
Okobo is capable of making plays for others by getting into the lane off the dribble and kicking it out to an open teammate, as well as through the pick-and-roll. With his reliable outside shot, Okobo could potentially develop into a lethal weapon in the NBA running the pick-and-roll or pick-and-pop with another floor-spacing big.
Okobo turns the ball often far too often, his decision-making as a lead guard is still far from a finished product. Okobo is currently averaging over 3.5 turnovers per/36 for Pau-Orthez this season. Many of these turnovers can be attributed to Okobo leaving his feet, a problem I’ve seen him run into quite a few times on tape. Okobo has only been playing the point guard position for two years; many of his mistakes can be attributed to the 20 year old guard still learning the position.
Okobo has a really nice physical profile as a point guard prospect, measuring 6-3 with a 6-8 wingspan. I think he possesses a solid frame that is capable of adding more weight/muscle as time goes on. His measurements/body offers more of a possibility that Okobo develops into at least an adequate NBA defender, compared to some of the other guards I’ve profiled in this series (Aaron Holiday, Jalen Brunson).
Without a doubt, Okobo’s shooting ability is the part of his game that excites me the most. Here is a clip of Okobo knocking down a game-winning shot in LNB league play last season off the dribble (as a 19 year old):
Okobo’s left-handed stroke is a thing of beauty. He’s currently knocking down 41% of his three-point attempts in one of the best professional leagues in Europe. Okobo can get his shot off of the dribble (loves the step-back), coming off screens, and as the primary ball-handler orchestrating the pick-and-roll.
Okobo is currently sporting a TS% of 62%; just under half of his field goal attempts have come from behind the arc. Okobo’s stroke is real, he’s converted over 84% of his free throw attempts over the last two years as well (although he’s not overly adept at getting to the line, more likely to kick the ball out when in the paint).
Okobo is one of the premier shooting/scoring lead guards that could potentially be available at the end of the first round or the first half of the second round. He’s always been able to score the basketball; his future success in the NBA will depend on how much he continues to adapt to the point guard position.
Jackson Hoy of The Stepien wrote a fantastic piece on Okobo in late February. In the beginning of the article, Hoy presented Okobo’s stats alongside other French guards who played in the LNB Pro A league and then went on to be drafted by an NBA organization. Okobo’s production thus far in his career has been on par (if not superior) to other French stars such as Tony Parker, Nicolas Batum, and Evan Fournier (at that point in their respective careers).
Hoy feels like Okobo has the potential to stand out compared to other lead guards in this draft because of his “intersection of height, length, and quickness.” He suggests that Okobo improving his ability to finish at the rim in the NBA will be his “swing skill” that ultimately goes a long way in determining what kind of ceiling Okobo possesses.
Elie Okobo’s best film: May 23rd @ Monaco
Okobo’s line: 44 points (12-17 FGA’s, 8-11 3PTA’s)
44 points on 17 shots for Elie Okobo (#31 in latest ESPN Mock) in game one of the French playoffs, on the road, against the best team in the league (Monaco). You can bet that NBA teams will be looking back at the film on this one. Can't believe his teammates looked him off late.— Jonathan Givony (@DraftExpress) May 23, 2018
Tremendous display of shotmaking from 20-year-old Elie Okobo vs Monaco. 44 points, 8-for-11 from 3, a couple skill finishes in the paint, threading the needle in traffic. Pau is 13-5 since the coaching change, and Okobo has exploded during that stretch. (Video via @OttouAnthony). pic.twitter.com/XdvC4c0lOD— Mike Schmitz (@Mike_Schmitz) May 23, 2018
Okobo possesses what many NBA teams look for in a backup point guard. Okobo has the ability to play both back-court positions, he can facilitate a team’s pick-and-roll offense, and he can stretch an opposing defense with his ability to shoot it from the outside. He will have to take care of the basketball more consistently to stay on the floor in the NBA. But when considering how far he’s come in the last couple years playing with the ball in his hands, I have confidence his basketball I.Q. and awareness will continue to improve.
By the time late June rolls around, Okobo may be a player that’s out of reach at the 35th spot. No matter, the Magic should bring Okobo in for a workout to see him up close. Orlando owns two second round picks; they could always try to make their way back into the late first round to grab Okobo. Remember, Vucevic and Ross have expiring contracts that could sweeten a potential deal as well.
In fact, President of Basketball Operations Jeff Weltman and General Manager John Hammond both ventured over to Europe to scout players about a month ago. There’s a very good chance Weltman and Hammond saw Okobo play on that trip.
In the last six years, the Orlando Magic organization hasn’t had a great track record of unlocking the upmost potential out of their young players. Okobo has the shooting ability, the scoring potential, and physical profile to thrive in the NBA. If the Magic can get Okobo at any point in the late first or early second round, there’s really no risk (and a ton of reward) in seeing if the confident young guard from France can reach his potential in Orlando.