Jahlil Okafor v. Cliff Alexander: Who Does Kansas Want?

Jamie Squire

A look at the top two big men in the class of 2014

Twitter rumors have abounded lately about both of the top big men in the 2014 class. Okafor, ranked first in his class and currently projected first in the 2015 NBA Draft by Draft Express, is part of a rumored package deal with Minnesotan Tyus Jones, the top ranked point guard in 2014. Alexander, projected to go 3rd in the 2015 draft by DX, is also potentially part of a package deal with Jaquan Lyle.

Whether either of those package deals are true, there's no doubt Kansas is interested in both Okafor and Alexander. Kansas will have Perry Ellis, Jamari Traylor and Landen Lucas for bigs next year (maybe Joel Embiid but I wouldn't hold my breath), and while Ellis will be the go to guy on next year's team, a second big could make them championship contenders from day one. There are plenty of rumors out there (and, again, take all recruiting rumors with a giant grain of salt) that Okafor and Alexander don't want to play together, and who could blame them. Given that info, let's figure out which big man we want anchoring KU's 2014 recruiting class.

Jahlil Okafor

Okafor is a 6'10" Senior from Chicago, Illinois. He played in the 2013 Under 19 World Championships and made all tournament team and led the tournament in field goal percentage, despite being the second youngest player on Team USA. He's the consensus #1 guy in the class of 2014, and here's why:

Obviously it's tough to see everything about a guy in highlight packages, but based on watching more tape of Okafor, he has a wide array of post moves and it's easy to see why people rave about his smarts. He already does a great job of drawing fouls and will probably draw even more in college assuming these new rules last more than one year. One thing other people gave him credit for that I didn't really see much of is the ability to finish with both hands. He looked to be really right hand dominant,  but I think the ability to score with both hands is a little bit overrated when around the basket (and a little underrated when it comes to post moves, to be fair).

The other nitpick with Okafor is he doesn't look to be a crazy excellent athlete. He's going to have trouble if he has to guard guys on the perimeter (which makes him a perfect guy for KU since Ellis can do that) and he might not be a great rim protector because, as you can see in that first video, he doesn't have a great vertical. Still, he has a high IQ and has a long wingspan. With said IQ and his post moves he should come into college as a more go to player than any big man Kansas has had in a long time, and he could be a very good rebounder at the college level as well.

Cliff Alexander

Also from Chicago, Cliff is an inch shorter (6'9") and about 30 lbs lighter than Okafor. His girlfriend currently goes to Kansas, leading most people to believe he's destined to be a Jayhawk as well. Whether that's true or not obviously remains to be seen. As for his game on the court, Alexander is probably a better athlete than Okafor, as you can see here:

Alexander is really athletic, but lacks the refinement in his game that Okafor has. While I think he's probably the better NBA prospect because of his upside, he is going to be raw as a Freshman. He physically manhandles less athletic high school players, but he's not going to be able to come right in and do that against men in college basketball. Like Okafor, I think he'll be able to get to the line a lot thanks to his motor and athleticism. His defensive IQ has been questioned a bit, but I think he has the ability to develop into a really good rim protector once he understands help defense and defensive rotations.

Who do we want?

It's verdict time. Honestly, I still don't know. I am going to lean to Okafor because I think his game is a lot better refined and it does seem like some of his speed and explosiveness issues can be helped out by working with Hudy. I will say, though, that I think Alexander might end up the better defender and with Perry Ellis probably back next year, having a rim protector might be more important than another go to guy on the block. But, when deciding between 2 of the top 5 players in the country, either one works for me.

Bonus Video!

Here's Okafor v. Alexander in high school

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