Elie Okobo – France
CPP Big Board Ranking: #34 Overall (#10 PG)
Weight: 180 lbs
Age/Birthday: 20 (10/23/97)
Hometown: Bordeaux, France
(Brett Siegel – 6/19/18)
In a league (LNB Pro A) that has produced a lot more draft eligible talent throughout the years, and french star, Boris Diaw, 20-year old Elie Okobo looks to be the next french-star in the NBA. Okobo is a natural, lefty point-guard, standing 6’3” and about 180-185 lbs. This past season with Pau-Lacq-Orthez, Okobo performed much better than the 2016-17 season, which he saw very little playing time in. He stepped into a big role this year by not only growing as a passer, but as a natural scorer as well. Every month, Okobo continually improved his game, notching new season and career-highs in either points or assists. After leading his club to an 8-seed in the playoffs, Okobo dropped a career-high 44 points in a 99-97 loss to #1 seeded Monaco. Following his league’s playoff loss and the performance Okobo put on all season, his draft stock has rose from an early-second round prospect to almost a lock to be a first-round prospect at this point. His stock continues to grow, and by draft night, we may see Okobo go as high as 19! If you do not know much about Elie Okobo, it is time to start getting familiar with him because he is a very unique prospect with a lot of potential.
Elie Okobo’s biggest strength is that he is a versatile guard who can play either guard position. Being a combo-guard in today’s NBA is very valuable and allows teams to spread the floor better with that type of player. Okobo is also left-handed and has good size for his position. He stands about 6’3”, but possess a wingspan that was last measured at 6’8.25”. He is also a point-guard who does not need the ball in his hands to be successful either. Elie Okobo moves very well both with and without the ball in his hands and has the looks to be able to adapt to any system thrown at him. He is a very fundamentally sound dribbler and is underrated as a passer by many. He averaged 4.8 assist per game this season (1.5 assist per game higher than his career average) and was fantastic dishing assists out in the pick-and-roll game. His ability to “pick-and-pop” is above average for a guard coming overseas and he is an excellent and dangerous shooter.
Off of a screen, Elie Okobo really likes to get to his spot on the court and sets his feet nicely before pulling up, whether from three or from mid-range. Okobo has a quick first step, which allows him to attack his opponents in the paint and often exploit mismatches. Okobo is very quick attacking from his left side, obviously since he is a lefty, but in the NBA, very few wing-position players are exceptionally good at defending the left side and relying on weak-side help, so this could be something Okobo is able to use to his advantage early on in his career to get to the hoop. His step-back is very well above-average for an NBA Draft prospect and his ability to create space is very well-polished. He shot such a high percentage from the court and from distance this season as a result of his pull-up and ability to create separation both on and off the dribble. Okobo is very tough to keep up with when he is trying to get open, just because of his ability to slip through screens and his quickness. Whether it is off the dribble, off a screen, a quick pull-up, or even a catch-and-shoot, Elie Okobo is an exceptionally good shooter that continues to grow each and every week. His form shows no flaws and has been making shots at a high percentage all season long.
The pick-and-roll is where Elie Okobo plays exceptionally well because of his ability to pass and his ability to score. In France, he caused a lot of opponents to choose whether or not they would try to go through screens or switch, both benefiting Okobo. On a mismatch, he was able to exploit his opponents and drive past them with his left, and when his opponents went through screens, they would foul him and he is an excellent free-throw shooter. When driving with the ball, Elie Okobo can be a lethal passer if the defense tries to cheat. From watching film on Okobo, he made a living off “baiting” wing defenders in and kicking it out to teammates for wide open threes. He also showed the ability to find his “big guys” in the paint off the drive. Defensively, Elie Okobo has above-average lateral quickness and his long reach gives him an advantage in passing lanes. His defensive IQ is above-average as well, which led to him seeing a lot of plays before they developed this season. He finished the season with 0.9 steals/game, but recorded 2+ steals in 20% of his games this season. His speed makes him an aggressive defender and he does not tend to take a lot of chances. Okobo tends to be comfortable defensively and does not show many signs of worry.
My main concern for Elie Okobo going into the NBA is that he tends to play a little too aggressive at times, leading to him playing too fast. Not only is he not very explosive to be able to play fast, but this tends to lead to unnecessary turnovers. Okobo had 2.7 turnovers/game last season, which is too many for the minutes he saw and for his role moving forward into in the NBA. Originally beginning his playing career as a 2-guard, Elie Okobo is also still transition into a combo-guard. He has more tendencies that a guard off the ball would have, but is continually learning about being a facilitator and being able to run the plays. Shot selection could also turn into a problem in the NBA for Okobo as a result of his ability to knock down shots. He took a lot of rushed shots and unnecessary shots this year, especially when he would get the switch he wanted. He tends to settle for jumpers and shys away from driving to the paint and creating contact.
An NBA franchise looking for a pure-passing guard may be disappointed in Elie Okobo, because he is more of a point guard for the future. Even though he improved his passing in France last season, he still had issues with “eyeballing” passes. He is not very subtle with his moves and hesitates at times passing, leading to fastbreaks at the other end for the opposition. Okobo is a guy that could learn a lot from sitting behind an experienced and veteran point-guard for a few years before being tasked with leading the team himself. Other than driving to the rim and his step-back, Elie Okobo does not have many moves in his arsenal, which could be worrisome in the NBA. Eventually, if he is making shots with his step-back, teams will take that shot away from him, forcing him to put the ball on the ground and take him out of his comfort zone. Okobo is exceptionally well from the free-throw line, so he must show the ability to get there more often and maybe add some different shots/moves to his game. Steph Curry and Kemba Walker opened up their offensive games in the NBA more by adding abilities get to the low-post against slower defenders and also shoot floaters. If Okobo can generate a few more different ways to score, he can become much more dangerous offensively as he continues his development. Lastly, there are not many concerns for him defensively, other than just being aware at all times. Watching film on Okobo, he sometimes looked lost when not guarding the ball and did not reinforce the weak-side always when he could have. This has become a very important adjustment in the NBA today, guarding the weak side, and could help Okobo early on in his career if he gives a better effort defensively.
Player Outlook & NBA Comparison: Kent Bazemore
Elie Okobo is a really tough player to find a comparison for, but I would say Kent Bazemore is the most similar comparison. Although Bazemore stands 6’5” and 200 lbs, both players possess similar play styles with and without the ball in their hands as scorers. Over the past few years in Atlanta, Bazemore has found a niche as a shooter and continues to grow as a scorer. The lefty makes a high percentage of his shots from outside (39.4% from long distance last season, the same as Okobo in France) and can play with the ball in his hands as well. He averaged a career high 3.5 assist per game last season in Atlanta and continues to grow all-around offensively. Elie Okobo is most comparable to Bazemore as a result of his tendencies offensively as a shooter. Okobo often plays off the screen, much like Bazemore, and is becoming a better spot-up shooter, as well as a catch-and-shoot shooter like Bazemore has. One thing that sets him apart from Bazemore though is his step-back. I do not know if Elie Okobo has been watching a lot of James Harden, but his step-back resembles a mediocre version of Harden’s. James Harden has one of the best step-backs the game has ever seen, so I would not expect Okobo’s to be nearly as good, but he found a lot of success with his version of it over in France. If he is able to bring that trait to the NBA and teams do not know how to defend it, he could turn himself into a lethal scoring guard like Harden has. Overall, Elie Okobo is a very talented guard who, with time behind a veteran guard, could become both an excellent passing and scoring threat in the NBA. With the way the game is valuing guards who can play both on and off the ball as shooters, Elie Okobo will definitely fit some NBA franchise’s need.
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