Sixers Player News: Defense of Jahlil Okafor

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Jul 11, 2015; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Philadelphia 76ers center

Jahlil Okafor

(8) is congratulated by teammates on the bench during an NBA Summer League game against the Los Angeles Lakers at Thomas & Mack Center. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Sixers Player News: Defense of Jahlil Okafor

When the Philadelphia 76ers claimed the player with their third pick of the 2015 NBA Draft, there was no question that center Jahlil Okafor was the obvious choice as far as overall talent. But there were plenty of thoughts as to whether the Sixers might trade the pick, trade the player, or embedded in the “wudda cudda shudda” circle of other prospects who offered more value to the team because they played the point guard position.

But the news of Okafor making the team, which coincided with the news that Joel Embiid would require a second surgery to his injured foot, created a chain of events for the team.  With the news, it required practically no time to understand where the team would need to go in terms of scheme and planning.

The pairing of Jahlil Okafor with Nerlens Noel together places a set of huge bodies near the rim, players whose games are nearly perfectly complimentary of one another.  Noel, a defensive standout even by the NBA standards, is incredibly athletic.  He blocks shots at a pace which reminds me of the play of Dikembe Mutombo.    Okafor, on the other hand, plays a very physical old school game on and around the post.  He’s an offensive dynamo, and his ability to rain shots in that close proximity rounds out the Sixers front court.   His game resembles that of another former Sixer great, Moses Malone.  If they realize their potential, Okafor and Noel could do great things together on this team by themselves.

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But a player who doesn’t grow, doesn’t evolve.  In today’s NBA, a player who doesn’t evolve remains stagnant, and is quickly cast aside.  Nerlens Noel played fantastically for the Sixers in his rookie season, and was a shining star on the team as he certainly played an incredible rookie season.   That should be enough for any player, correct?   When news of the Okafor selection, Noel was wise enough to realize his value for the team now rested in his versatility.   So he has spent the off-season upgrading his offensive forte, acquiring new shots to enable him to play minutes at the power forward position.

But if Noel can learn a shot, can Okafor learn a block?   If Jahlil Okafor is assuming the lead dog role of the team offensively, is that enough to expect of him?  Well, let’s discuss his defense.

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