Sixers GM ‘would like to think’ he would have drafted Jahlil Okafor even if Joel Embiid was healthy

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When the Lakers selected D’Angelo Russell with the second overall pick in the NBA Draft, it made things fairly tough for the Philadelphia 76ers.

L.A. was expected to go with Jahlil Okafor in the weeks leading up to the draft, which would have made Russell an easy choice for the Sixers when looking at the team’s glut of frontcourt players.

But even with Nerlens Noel and Joel Embiid needing plenty of minutes in order to develop, Philadelphia took Okafor anyway, because he was the best player available regardless of position.

Okafor may end up filling a need, if the setback suffered by Embiid in regards to his foot injury turns out to be a worst-case scenario. The fact that Embiid’s season is in question made the decision to select Okafor a little easier, but Sixers GM Sam Hinkie believes he may have gone with Okafor anyway, even if Embiid was 100 percent.

From John Smallwood of Philly.com:

Hinkie said selecting Duke University freshman center Jahlil Okafor third overall was not connected to Embiid’s situation. He said Okafor was the pick because he was the best player available.

But what if there was no issue with Embiid?

“I’d like to think we’d have had the courage to do it anyway,” Hinkie responded when asked if he would have still selected Okafor. “I knew and it’s hard to unknow where things stood with Joel, but I’d like to think we’d have the courage anyway.”

It seems far more likely that Philadelphia would have attempted to trade down to select a point guard like Emmanuel Mudiay if there were no issues with Embiid, rather than grabbing yet another big man to add to an unbalanced roster.