Elie Okobo was the forgotten point guard of this year’s stacked class, but over the past few months his stock has began to soar. Especially after dropping 44 points in a playoff outing right before beginning his visits to NBA teams, including Phoenix, Okobo is now positioned to be taken in the mid-first round range compared to where he was before in the early second.
Possessing not only intriguing physical tools but also top-flight production alongside above-average advanced statistics, Okobo quickly gained steam in comparison to other point guards like De’Anthony Melton (USC) and Landry Shamet (Wichita State).
Per 36 minutes, Okobo averaged 17.7 points, 3.8 rebounds, 6.6 assists (+1.79 AST/TO) and 1.2 steals while producing 47.5/39.4/81.9 shooting splits. Okobo also is still getting familiar to playing point guard as he’s traditionally been used off-ball by his French club up until the season.
Comparing Okobo to the other guards rated ahead of him (not including Luka Doncic) — Trae Young, Collin Sexton, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Melton — he is tops in true shooting percentage but also leads all with turnover percentage. There is maddening inconsistencies sometimes with Okobo, but his elite flashes are exactly that. When he’s on, Okobo looks like someone who should be going in this year’s lottery range.
Even though he’s a late riser in the pre-draft process, Okobo is someone Phoenix could zero in on, if they go with Deandre Ayton with the No. 1 pick, so let’s dive into his strengths and areas of improvement.
If you haven’t seen Okobo play before, you will instantly be drawn in by how similarly he plays to Young. Like Young did at Oklahoma, Okobo is comfortable pulling up from 30 feet and drilling 3s in his opponents’ faces.
Instantly, you are drawn in to seeing how much damage Okobo can do, just like what happened against AS Monaco when he dropped 44.
Okobo not only has the moxie to thrive long term at point guard but his ability to create his own shot plus shoot effeciently from all three levels shows how high of upside he has on that end. The foundational toolkit for Okobo is there, and now he just needs to land in the right situation where his development will be prioritized.
After playing shooting guard for most of his professional career, Okobo has a knack for realizing cutting lanes before they open up. Also, Okobo can read and react well coming off screens either in playmaking or spot-up shooting roles. With his +40/+80 clip from beyond the arc and charity stripe, odds are he will be an average to above-average shooter on the NBA level.
There are athleticism concerns with Okobo, but his chiseled frame and savviness with the ball (eurosteps, jab steps, etc.) make up for the lack of pop. We have seen plenty of 1s get by with elite bounce who instead do their damage all across the court outside the restricted area. Plenty of times in club competition, Okobo would still beat him man off the dribble but it wasn’t much separation. In an NBA strength and conditioning program, Okobo should be able to improve the tad of athleticism needed to possibly becoming the best floor general in this draft class.
Even though he’s still learning the ropes manning the point, the 20-year-old Frenchmen is quickly picking up the nuances on how to effectively run a pick-and-roll. Especially if you envision PnR sets with Deandre Ayton, Okobo might be perfect complementary piece as someone who could hit open 3s consistently while filling into his role as the fourth or fifth scouring option in lineup combinations alongside heavy usage offensive players.
Adding in the ideal backcourt partner for Devin Booker includes some semblance of untapped upside on defense. Luckily with his +5” wingspan at 6’8”, Okobo could handle the duty of covering primary initiators. His motor is inconsistent on that end, but if he buys into playing both ends he could quickly become one of the bigger steals in the mid-first round.
Again, inconsistency is the biggest thorn in Okobo’s side. Whether he’s hot and cold scoring or just not trying much defensively, Okobo definitely has his negative moments. The thing is, with his lack of experience, it’s more like much-needed growing pains for him to experience. As evidence by his assist to turnover ratio and +20 turnover percentage, Okobo needs to slow down and read the floor better.
The Trae Young comparison with Okobo also shines through in terms of their shot selection, which can be very poor. When Young is chucking a few feet past the half court line, so is Okobo. However, he’s still hitting those shots with high marks so his range is almost limitless.
Some concern creeps in when Okobo gets inside the perimeter because far too often he has to settle for jumpers because of his lack of blow-by speed. From the games I watched on Okobo, if there is a rim protector out there, he tends to have his difficulties. There is some worry about how he can effectively finish through contact, but it could quickly be put to rest as he continues to grow into his frame at only 180 pounds.
Most of my main concerns with Okobo rest on areas that could be improved over his first few years in the league — familiarity with the position and continuing to physically mature in an NBA setting — but he could quickly turn into someone I have criminally underrated on my big board soon enough. There is some separation on it from Okobo and others like Melton, for example, but his upside is extremely high and it wouldn’t surprise me to see him heavily in play for Phoenix at No. 16.
Physical Profile Overview
Wingspan: 6’8” (+5” H2W)
Standing Reach: Unknown
Fit in Phoenix
After coming through Phoenix earlier this month for a pre-draft workout going up against West Virginia’s Jevon Carter, one of the most physical on-ball defenders in the 2018 draft, both Okobo and Assistant GM Pat Connelly believe he’s more in position to contribute next season compared to being drafted and stashed back in France.
Going in the direction of Ayton up top, which seems like a foregone conclusion at this point, the Suns would need to address their need at point guard either at No. 16 or via trade. However, if Phoenix sticks with their second first round selection, I could envision a scenario where they are debating these following prospects in their war room: Aaron Holiday, Melton and Okobo. All three bring different elements to the table, and going in the right direction would be obviously crucial.
Okobo’s blend of scoring, playmaking, and three-point shooting make him someone who could easily slide right behind Brandon Knight (or maybe another PG) next year while he learns the ropes. In second unit lineups alongside T.J. Warren, he would be an ideal match because he could capitalize off drive-and-kick opportunities as the spot-up man. That could also occur if he’s sharing the floor with Booker, and it’s perfect that Okobo is comfortable both on and off ball.
If the Suns believe Okobo truly does have high three-level scoring and defensive upside, taking a flyer on him at No. 16 could be an avenue they decide upon once June 21 rolls around.
Big Board: No. 28 (No. 6 Ball Handler)
Comparison: Ceiling - Mini James Harden / Floor - Rodrigue Beaubois