Sixers Player News: Defense of Jahlil Okafor

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Sep 27, 2013; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia 76ers general manger Sam Hinkie is recorded on an iphone during a media day at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

The Gambler

It’s probably fitting that the NBA’s biggest risk taker assumes the biggest risk of the 2015 NBA draft. The number of questions about Okafor’s defensive play give him a wide range of outcomes, even for an NBA prospect. If Okafor doesn’t remain physically fit, doesn’t play hard, and fails to fix many of his poor instincts and habits he often displayed in college, he will be an awful defender. Even if just one of those flaws remains unfixed, it will significantly hurt Okafor’s defensive game. However, if he stays fit, works hard, and further develops the instincts he did flash in college he could be a Marc Gasol like defensive anchor.

So many times we see a prospect with projections of “everything going right”. RGIII in the NFL is the most recent example of too high too fast projections, that when pierced, reveal a hot air balloon of expectations that crashes to the ground.  Even the “facts” you may believe about our rookie center may not in fact be true.

But sometimes we get too far ahead of ourselves on the negative. Detractors of Okafor placed far too much emphasis on an under-rosterd NCAA basketball program that rode a hot handed center’s shooting into the championship. That Duke Blue Devil team needed Okafor’s offense and needed him to stay out of foul trouble.

Brett Brown will have his own coaching mandates to lay upon his team and Jahlil Okafor.  I’m encouraged by the young man’s attitude, and his athleticism.  Incoming players to the NBA have already recognized Okafor’s potential,voting him as the likely rookie of the year for the upcoming season.   It’s clear that he will play a significant role for the Sixers this season.  He has to.  Joel Embiid is returning next season.   Okafor has one year to cement himself in the role.

Next: Should We Expect Okafor To Be Quiet With Media?