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January 19, 2016

Report: Sixers ownership pressured Sam Hinkie to take Jahlil Okafor over Kristaps Porzingis

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Stability had been considered an advantage for the current Philadelphia 76ers regime, with all levels of the organization (ownership, front office, and coaching staff) generally thought to be on the same page. Today, there is a report that puts that stability into question.

Marc Berman of the New York Post is reporting that Sixers ownership preferred the top three American prospects in the draft (so, Jahlil Okafor) over Kristaps Porzingis:

Sources have indicated Philly ownership was gung-ho to take one of the Big 3 — Karl-Anthony Towns, Jahlil Okafor or D’Angelo Russell — because taking another unknown European project may not have sat well with a disenchanted fan base.

As The Post has reported, Knicks president Phil Jackson would have done the same thing as Sixers GM Sam Hinkie — chosen Okafor over Porzingis. According to a source, the Knicks were still concerned about Okafor’s “defense, lack of shot-blocking ability and poor lateral speed,” but still had him higher on the board than Porzingis.

Porzingis, if you will recall, was booed lustily by the many Knicks fans in attendance that night. Famously, the selection even made a kid cry:

Six months later, and now Porzingis is the toast of the town and looks every bit the part of a future star. This is precisely why you don’t worry about fan reaction when it comes to personnel moves.

I don’t know if Berman’s report is true — Okafor, after all, was a very highly-rated prospect in his own right — but ownership stepping in front of the general manager almost never works out. When the front office is tasked with scouting players all over the world, they should be the ones making draft decisions.

Follow Rich on Twitter: @rich_hofmann