Admit it. You’re just like everyone else, already thinking about turning a cold shoulder to Jahlil Okafor because he just CAN’T fit in with Nerlens Noel on the basketball court. Or maybe it was his series of incidents that caused fans to question his mentality because it started to seem like his heart and mind weren’t really with him during those times.
First, it was Okafor getting into a fight outside of a Boston nightclub after a game against the Celtics, then it was reports that he was speeding in excess of 120+mph on the Ben Franklin Bridge in Philadelphia. These incidents caused the former Duke Blue Devil to receive a two-game suspension and caused many 76ers fans to think: “Is this the player that we really want for our future?“
My answer to those fans, YES.
It’s just not fair to write off this guy when he is just 19-years-old. He is averaging 17.1 points and 7.5 rebounds per game, and is in very serious contention for the R0okie of the Year award. It is unfair to say at this point that a guy who is so young can’t become a decent defender in this league once he hits his prime. Jahlil has a lot of pressure on him now more than ever to play well. The 76ers are finally putting some wins together with the successful combination of Ish Smith and Noel, leaving Jahlil to watch it unfold while he becomes somewhat of a second option.
Two things hamper Okafor’s game. The fact that he can’t defend the pick and roll, and is slow on the offensive end so it hinders what Philadelphia is trying to do which is create more and more transition offense.
Okafor’s numbers speak for themselves. Yes he is a weak defender, but people forget how much of a weak defender he was in college and how he has actually improved which goes unnoticed. It is premature to say that Okafor needs to be on his way out of Philly just because Noel is clicking with one player to create a .500 record over six games.
People tend to forget how terrible Noel’s offensive game is. He can’t create his own shot successfully and needs someone who can get him the ball for him to score efficiently. Reality check: Ish Smith is no long-term answer, and he will only be a spark off the bench for teams in the future.
What Okafor is doing now is something we should not worry about. It will have to be a wait and see approach at the big man position as they will have some questions to answer going forward. What do they do with Joel Embiid? What do they do once Dario Saric comes into the NBA next year?
The answer I have in mind is a simple one. You build up Noel’s trade value this season, and trade him when his stock is at it’s highest. With Saric coming into the league, he can be the “stretch four” people are looking for on this roster, and oh, help Okafor immensely. With Saric playing the power forward position and Okafor holding down center, it can create the space Okafor needs. Once we get the wheels rolling as a franchise, we sign some guards who can score but also defend.
Yeah, I don’t see Noel producing these types of plays.
It’s not difficult to understand, this Okafor/Noel problem is temporary because one is probably on their way out, and it better not be Okafor because it will a big mistake for the 76ers franchise.