With the 2018 NBA Draft around the corner and the Portland Trail Blazers holding the 24th selection in the first round, we’re looking at a number of prospects who might fall into that area. Among them stands French point guard Elie Okobo. I’ve played against him a couple times and watched him grow and he has the making of a first round prospect. But how would he fit with the Blazers?
Elie Okobo - Pau-Orthez France
- Height: 6’3”
- Weight: 190
- Wingspan: 6’8”
- Shoots: Left
- Position: PG
- Age: 19
- Projected draft range: Late first, early second round
2017-18 Statistics (Pro A France)
- PPG: 13.8 | Per 40: 20.8
- RPG: 2.7 | Per 40: 4.1
- APG: 4.7 | Per 40: 7.1
- STL: 0.9 | Per 40: 1.4
- BLK: 0.2 | Per 40: 10.3
- FT%: 83.5
- FG%: 56.1
- 3P%: 41.8 (74/177)
Elie Okobo has not been on NBA watch lists long. His growth came during the 2016-17 season, when he went from a rarely used kid off the bench to playing an intricate role for one of the most historic teams in France, Pau-Orthez. Okobo averaged just 13 minutes a game for the year, but that time made it clear that the young lefty was ready to take over. He led Pau in points, assists and three-point percentage. His signature game of the year came in the first round of the playoffs when he dropped 44including 8-11 from the three-point line in a loss to top seeded Monoco.
Okobo isnt particularly tall, but he has big hands and a 6’8 wingspan that make him seem lmuch bigger. He’s a very good athlete and can defend both guard positions. He primarily runs the point at this stage in his career, but he grew up as a combo guard and has the scoring mentality of one. He is a great shooter off of the catch-and-shoot and moves well without the ball, so he can still find an opening in the NBA playing off the ball. However, the majority of his success comes off of the pick and roll. He is a good passer with skill and fine decision-making. He is also tough to stop when he gets moving down hill. Okobo plays in constant attack mode, keeping the defense on their heels. He has a nice pull up, even out to 3 point range, and he’s a crafty finisher once he gets inside. He’s a good athlete and can put one down on a defender that’s not ready.
The tools are there for the 19-year-old to find success in the NBA, but he’s still young and makes young-guy mistakes. His attack mode which leads to good things, but he gets ahead of himself and stumbles into turnovers and forced shots. His three-point stroke looks great, but he still needs a second to set his feet before going up and he exposes the ball a lot for the NBA level. A great three-point shot is wasted if he can’t get it up around good defenders. His passing is good for a score-first point guard, but it’s not great for an NBA point guard. If he were 6’5 instead of 6’3 he’d be closer to a must-have player, but his length will help that. He plays strong, but he will need to put on a few pounds to play at the NBA level. Luckily, he has a body that can support it.
While playing a pickup game in France I asked one of my teammates, “Who in world this kid dashing through people like he’s Russell Westbrook?”. I had played Okobo numerous times in my career already, but I didn’t recognize him. The jump he made, both in talent and physique, tops my list of most impressive leaps I have ever witnessed. At 16, I hardly noticed him, at 17, he looked a level above everyone else. That day, I knew I’d see him on draft boards. He put in a lot effort into his game, and clearly that effort paid off. He isn’t a finished product by any means, but Okobo that has a pretty full tool box, including an NBA ready three-ball. He has shown the passion to improve. That’s the kind of high-ceiling flyer teams are looking to take late in the first round.
For what it’s worth, NBADraft.net has Okobo to the Blazers at 24. The move makes some sense. Portland’s backup point guard is Shabazz Napier, a restricted free agent. If he leaves, only Wade Baldwin remains to fill the lead role on the second unit. Okobo could fight for those reserve minutes right away. Okobo also brings ability to stretch the floor and play off-ball if he is on the court with either CJ McCollum or Damian Lillard.
The problem is, Okobo may need a year or two to develop before he turns into a legit weapon. If the Blazers are using Lillard’s timeline as a measuring stick, Okobo may fall short of it. I like getting some reinforcements in the backcourt, but the glaring hole for Portland is at the 2-3 position. If there is someone available that could help there, that would fill a bigger need.
What do you think? Would you feel good with the Blazers taking a shot at a high-ceiling backcourt project at 24? Let us know in the comments section.