Report: Phil Jackson would’ve drafted Okafor over Porzingis

Kristaps Porzingis has been great during his first 18 games with the Knicks.

Tom Szczerbowski/Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sport

Kristaps Porzingis is already a star in New York. Heck, the rookie might be the most beloved athlete in the city at the moment. Baseball is over. A Yankees-run city probably won’t get taken over by Matt Harvey or Jacob deGrom. Ryan Fitzpatrick isn’t a star. Eli Manning is old news. The Rangers are great, but not mainstream enough.

NYC is now about KP6. But it almost didn’t turn out that way. And if the Sixers had passed on Jahlil Okafor, things might have gone very differently.

LATEST FROM THE NBA

From Marc Berman of the New York Post:

According to an NBA source, as much as Jackson’s top adviser, Clarence Gaines Jr., wanted Jackson to take Porzingis even if the Knicks had the No. 1 pick, that wasn’t the way the Zen Master would have gone if it was a choice between the two big men.

Okafor was Jackson’s man.

“He had to draft Okafor — too much a sure thing,’’ the source said.

Jackson was slightly worried about Okafor’s height — he measured in at 6-foot-9 without shoes — but he never thought it possible Okafor would fall to No. 4.

As it happened, Okafor came close when the Lakers stunned the draft world by taking point guard D’Angelo Russell at No. 2. Instant rumblings surfaced that the Sixers, desperate for a point guard, would roll with Emmanuel Mudiay, leaving Jackson to choose between Okafor and Porzingis.

Okafor has put up numbers (17.5 points and 8.2 rebounds per game) playing on the 0-18 Sixers, but he’s also had his troubles off the floor, running into multiple incidents at bars and a recent speeding ticket for going over 100 miles per hour. 

Porzingis, meanwhile, is averaging 13.7 points, 9.3 rebounds and is looking like he’ll turn into the defender Okafor may never become. The Knicks may have gotten lucky with this one. Good on them for at least finding a way to get it right.

MORE NEWS: Want stories delivered to you? Sign up for our NBA newsletters.