Sixers Player News: Defense of Jahlil Okafor

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Apr 7, 2015; Durham, NC, USA;Duke Blue Devils center Jahlil Okafor watches a highlight video during a welcome home ceremony at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

Shake It Off

To read the projections of Jahlil Okafor, you see two schools of thought.  In one camp you have former Duke’s coach  Krzyzewski who sings his praises.  You run into talent scouts who see this big man’s post game and see the legends of the NBA coming back to life.   Some see Jahlil Okafor as a renaissance player of the glory days of the NBA, single-handedly restoring the pro basketball model to big men restoring the offensive responsibilities to the NBA big man.

To others?  He’s a one trick pony.  He’s a post guy who stands and shoots, a guy who is offense only. His ability to defend? zero

Which is it?

Well, Brown talked to Krzyzewski about that.

"“Duke needed him on the floor and I talked to Coach K about that. I don’t see it [an inability to defend]. I watch him running the floor, a nimble man with mobility and big enough that if you use the verticality rules, he’s good. He’s not a shot blocker, but can play straight up and still be that size and that weight at the rim. I don’t see it at first glance as big of a problem that others see it is. I also see a desire to want to play defense. I understand the challenge there, but through coaching and getting his body to the best shape of his life, and we will, I see really good things all over the floor.” – Brett Brown"

Jahlil Okafor is a fresh and young NBA talent, even by today’s rule. He is a young man in a giant’s body. He’s also an NBA starting center at the ripe old age of 19.  The expectation of anyone who dons a jersey and steps foot onto the basketball court is “mature” “ripe” “peaking”.  But for a 19 year old with one year of college basketball, his game is just beginning to develop.

In the NBA summer league, Okafor averaged 30 mins, 15.8 PPG, 8.4 RPG, .8 BPG and 1.4 RPG.   His numbers are pretty consistent with the stats he had at Duke.   It’s no wonder, as he has yet to practice with his full team.  His game is understandably similar to the game he played as a Blue Devil.

Okafor has a 7’5 wingspan and a 9’3 standing reach. That’s impressive stuff, even for NBA centers.  Jahlil is not going to leap over anyone’s head, but he doesn’t  have to do so.  He’ll learn the vertical leap needed to provide a defensive buttress near the rim to cause shooter headaches.  On the Duke team, a team with 8 players, foul trouble was a serious concern.   To avoid penalties, the coaching staffed pounded conservative defense into the players heads.   What shows up on tape is not a series of bad defensive playing talent, but rather a well coached team that was coached to AVOID FOUL TROUBLE.

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