2018 NBA Draft: Elie Okobo is the European name to know after Luka Doncic

(Photo by Elyxandro Cegarra/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
(Photo by Elyxandro Cegarra/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images) /

Much has been made about Luka Doncic, and rightfully so, but the next European guy to know in the 2018 NBA Draft is France’s Elie Okobo.

Nothing epitomizes the international growth of the NBA more than Luka Doncic. Real Madrid’s 19-year-old star is likely going first or second in the 2018 NBA Draft. Over the last decade plus, teams have become more comfortable assessing and taking players outside of the United States. While the talent may have waned a bit in last year’s class outside of Frank Ntilikina, 2018 has some promise.

This international class is more than just Doncic though. Dzanan Musa, for example, is a gifted scorer from Bosnia who can get a basket from nearly any spot on the floor. Yet, it’s a lesser known point guard from France, Elie Okobo, who should be getting more notice.

Who is Elie Okobo?

At 6’3″ with a solid 6’8″ wingspan, Elie Okobo has great measurements to be a lead guard. Depending on matchups and how he adapts to the NBA, he could even spend some time on smaller shooting guards. At 20 years old, he’s still got plenty of room to grow, but you won’t find many youngsters in Europe as polished as Okobo (not counting Doncic, of course).

Like Doncic, Okobo’s numbers pop off the page. Numbers aren’t everything, and they aren’t on Doncic’s level, but it’s good to see them from a young player in Europe. Averaging 27 minutes per game this year, Okobo is putting up 13.2 points and 4.4 assists in the top league in France. What’s even more encouraging are his shooting splits. On the year, Okobo is at 57 percent from the field and 38 percent from 3.

Okobo is already elite in the pick-and-roll, which bodes well for the NBA’s style of play. He’s a strong guard who can score and shoot off the catch, even showing some pull-up ability. A solid athlete, Okobo should be able to hold up against much of the NBA with an ability to pull off incredible plays like this one (go to the 0:54 mark):

As you can see from these highlights and that dunk, he moves really well. In addition, he’s got some change of pace game to him. He’s not as herky-jerky as a Markelle Fultz, but there’s craft in his game at a young age. Add in his fairly clean mechanics and there’s a lot to like. He’s not lacking in confidence either.

"“As I look at the field, I am confident I am one of the best point guards in the draft,” Okobo told ESPN."

Where does he fit among the point guards?

So with all this in mind, what do we make of Okobo? A lot of scouts and teams will likely struggle to put him above the main three lead guards in this draft. While Europe is more observed than ever, they’re still being watched far less than Alabama, Oklahoma and Kentucky. Those are the schools with the top lead guards: Trae Young, Collin Sexton and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.

While it would be shocking to see this happen on draft night, there’s a strong case for Okobo to go over Sexton. While Sexton is a better defensive prospect, Okobo is a far better shooter, pick-and-roll player and has better length to play the 1. Sexton’s competitiveness and SEC Tournament showing will likely help him in addition to private workouts, but don’t be surprised if five years from now Okobo looks the better player.

Next: Full two-round 2018 NBA Mock Draft

Elie Okobo has steal written all over him. It’ll be fascinating to see what type of buzz builds in the next month or so. It’s unclear if he’ll get invited to the NBA Draft Combine, but that could be a real chance for him to build some more momentum. To me, he’s a first round guy and depending on team need, could be a good fit in the low 20s.