Lakers’ No. 2 pick: the case for Duke center Jahlil Okafor

Jahlil Okafor

Jahlil Okafor began preparing for the NBA draft years ago.

(Robert Willett, TNS)

The Lakers pick second in Thursday’s 2015 NBA draft.

Presuming the Minnesota Timberwolves don’t select Duke’s Jahlil Okafor first, the Lakers should snatch up the 19-year-old center.

Okafor, at 6-foot-11 in shoes, represents a piece the Lakers have always had while collecting each of their 16 titles -- a dominant big man.

Certainly guards Kobe Bryant and Magic Johnson are among the all-time greats, but the Lakers have always relied on the size of players like George Mikan, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaquille O’Neal, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum.


Okafor may not be a true seven-footer, but he’ll enter the NBA as a highly skilled offensive player.

Through 38 games with the Blue Devils, winning the NCAA championship, Okafor averaged 17.3 points and 8.6 rebounds a game while shooting 66.4% from the field.

He needs to prove that he can defend at the next level -- and hit his free throws (just 51.0% at Duke).

Franchise big men are exceedingly difficult to acquire.


The Lakers may have the opportunity to trade their No. 2 pick to the Sacramento Kings before the draft for forward/center DeMarcus Cousins -- but Okafor has less of a temperamental personality and will earn $5.1 million as a rookie while Cousins is locked in a $15.9 million deal for the coming season.

As much as the league has shifted to guard-oriented small ball, the Lakers have a tradition based in size.

Okafor should be their guy on Thursday night.

Email Eric Pincus at and follow him on Twitter @EricPincus.

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