Most NBA teams would have picked Karl-Anthony Towns over Jahlil Okafor with the No. 1 pick in the 2015 NBA draft. I would have. The Timberwolves did.
But a plurality of NBA rookies prefer Okafor, who went No. 3 to the 76ers.
Two responses in NBA.com’s annual rookie survey reveal that:
Who will be the 2015-16 Rookie of the Year?
1. Jahlil Okafor, Philadelphia — 41.9 percent
2. Stanley Johnson, Detroit — 19.4 percent
3. Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota — 12.9 percent
T-4. Emmanuel Mudiay, Denver — 9.7 percent
D’Angelo Russell, L.A. Lakers — 9.7 percent
Others receiving votes: Willie Cauley-Stein, Sacramento; Trey Lyles, Utah
Which rookie will have the best career?
Jahlil Okafor, Philadelphia — 24.1 percent
2. Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota — 17.2 percent
T-3. Justin Anderson, Dallas — 13.8 percent
Emmanuel Mudiay, Denver — 13.8 percent
5. Stanley Johnson, Detroit — 8.0 percent
6. Sam Dekker, Houston — 6.9 percent
Others receiving votes: Willie Cauley-Stein, Sacramento; Bobby Portis, Chicago; Kelly Oubre, Washington; Kristaps Porzingis, New York; D’Angelo Russell, L.A. Lakers; Rashad Vaughn, Milwaukee
Picking Okafor for Rookie of the Year doesn’t necessarily mean he should have gone No. 1. The former Duke center is exceptionally polished offensively, and he should fill a big role on the lowly 76ers.
But the “best career” question is essentially asking who should have gone No. 1 – especially considering Towns and Okafor play the same position. Perhaps, a majority of respondents who took a third candidate would have taken Towns over Okafor, changing results of a run-off race. But with the information we have, plurality rules.
The survey also includes other interesting (Mavericks’ Justin Anderson as most athletic), unsurprising (Suns’ Devin Booker as best shooter) and surprising (Rondae Hollis-Jefferson as best defender) responses. Willie Cauley-Stein went No. 6 to the Kings largely based on his ability to guard the interior and exterior. If he’s not elite defensively – and his peers don’t rate him that way, ranking him fourth with 5.9% of votes – questions about his offense and rebounding become more significant.
For the second straight year, Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James ranked 1-2-3 as rookies’ favorite players.
Of course, don’t take these responses as gospel. Despite 13.8% of respondents – tied for third most – picking Anderson to have the best career, nobody voted for him as the draft’s biggest steal. How you can think the No. 21 pick will have the best career yet isn’t the draft’s biggest steal is beyond me.