Elie Okobo is one of the most intriguing point guards in this NBA draft. On one hand, he’s an elite offensive talent with a clearly high basketball IQ and high potential, however he’s significantly behind where he needs to be athletically and still makes reckless mistakes with the ball. I can easily envision a future where Okobo is torching teams on a nightly basis en route to multiple All-Star bids, but it’s just as easy to think of him consistently showing tantalizing potential, yet frustratingly never capitalizing on it. Here’s why:
Position: Point Guard
Home town: Bordeaux, France
This may seem a tad benign given the fact that executing a pick-and-roll effectively is a pre-requisite for being an NBA-caliber point guard, but it’s the foundation upon which Okobo’s game is built. He’s already an elite navigator of the play, both as a scorer and a passer, and he already appears to understand the complexities and nuances of the screen that often take young point guards years to learn.
Throughout his time overseas, he’s exhibited a preternatural understanding of speed and timing that should instantly make him a weapon in the NBA. Watch how he probes the defense for just long enough for his teammate to get open before delivering a perfect bounce pass:
There are some five-year veterans who couldn’t make that play. His playmaking instincts in the pick-and-roll are elite and easily the best in the draft.
As a scorer, it’s possible he’s even more dangerous. He’s developed a lethal toolbox in the pick-and-roll which he can pull out at any time with everything from pull-up three’s to creative floaters to Chris Paul-esque mid-range jumpers. And most impressively he’s done it all with superb efficiency.
So far in his career he’s shown that he has the creativity and skill to be one a superstar-level guard in the NBA. Look how he escapes trouble and drains a contested pull-up three when he has the slightest opening:
He’s quite possibly the most advanced point guard in this draft and if his pick-and-roll game holds up he should be around for awhile.
Translation to the NBA
The only problem is, it’s not quite clear yet how he’ll translate. Sure, Okobo shoots 39% from three and has decent free-throw numbers, but the release point on his jumper is uncomfortably low and he might find the length of NBA defenders to be more of a hinderance than those in Europe.
Furthermore, he hasn’t demonstrated quite the quickness and burst necessary to really get past NBA level defenses consistently. Too often he settles for contested mid-range jumpers that have no shot at going in or gets stuck picking up his dribble in no-man’s land after a failed drive to the rim.
And he still is a 20-year-old point guard. Even with all of his skill in the pick-and-roll and apparent readiness for the NBA game, he’s still prone to committing careless turnovers that he could have avoided and shots that have absolutely no chance of going in.
Fittingly, Okobo reminds me a lot of Nets point guard, D’Angelo Russell. The two lefties have showcased elite feels for the game, are deft in the pick-and-roll and appear to have all of the tools to become superstars in the NBA, but for one reason or another, have failed to capitalize on their elite potential. Now, both guards could easily become top-level players in the NBA and are still young enough that the potential they’ve showcased is there.
Current NBA Draft ranking:
The Ringer: 19th
Draft Net: 24th
Sports Illustrated: 29th
Bleacher Report: 26th
Basketball Insider: 27th
Fit with Brooklyn Nets:
For as high as I am on Okobo, if I were Sean Marks I’d be hesitant about giving up assets for Okobo, however if he is still on the board at the Nets pick (as Sports Illustrated suggests he could be), I would not hesitate to take him. Okobo is a potentially elite NBA point guard and at this point in the Nets timeline, they should be willing to gamble on players who fit that mold.
Furthermore, he could be an excellent addition to the Nets guard corps and potentially take over the role of Spencer Dinwiddie if Brooklyn can’t find a way to keep him next summer.