Sixers vs. Raptors Player of the Game: Big Jah Okafor


Jahlil Okafor continued his early season offensive dominance on Wednesday, despite the Philadelphia 76ers continuing their early season losing ways, falling 119-103 to the Toronto Raptors. Big Jah finished with 26 points, tying his career high, to go along with 7 boards and 4 swats, earning himself another Sixer Sense Player of the Game.

Early in this young season, Jah continues to impress on a nightly basis. And it’s really not just the points (which he is racking up at a record pace for a rookie), but rather the method in which he’s getting them. That method? Sheer dominance.

Okafor matched up against Jonas Valanciunas, no slouch of a center himself who, as pointed out earlier today, entered the game sixth in the league in total rebounds, seventh in field goal percentage, and 14th in win shares. Jonas is a legit big man who should not be pushed around. And that’s exactly what Okafor did.

Okafor manhandled Valanciunas under the rim, using his body to create space and physically overpowering the Raptors center multiple times. He also showed his finesse game, spinning away from the basket for hooks and towards the basket for reverse layups. Seriously, he looked unstoppable, and the Raps let the carnage continue, rarely doubling when Valanciunas was on the court. Okafor shot 59% on the night on 13-22 shooting, including 10 points in the first quarter helping the Sixers to a season high 34 first quarter points.

Shot chart for Jahlil Okafor in 119-103 loss to Toronto Raptors on November 11th, 2015.

With Nerlens Noel sitting out another game with sore wrists, Jah needed to contribute on the defensive end as well. He managed to swat four shots, but more importantly just played great hands up defense around the rim. One might have thought Okafor would gobble up all rebounds freed up with Nerlens on the bench, but he only grabbed seven boards. To me, rebounding is the one thing Okafor must work on. But hey, its only game eight, he has time. Let’s talk more about that offense.

Okafor has been doling out this offensive abuse on a nightly basis, and he’s giving it away for free. He more or less ended Tyler Zeller, dropping 10 points on him in the first 6 minutes of the season. Jah steamrolled Timofey Mozgov a few nights later, another big, angry European guy who, like Valanciunas, is not easily pushed around. He’s looked fairly unstoppable every game this year save against the Utah Jazz, where he faced Rudy Gobert a.k.a The Stifle Tower, potentially one of the best defenders in the NBA.

This raises an interesting question: who CAN guard Jahlil Okafor? It’s no secret that the NBA is weak on centers these days. It’ll be fun seeing what Jah can do against some of the elite guys like Anthony Davis, DeAndre Jordan, Andre Drummond, et al.

You know who is not an elite center? Bismack Biyombo. You know what Jah did to him? This.

That, fellow Sixers faithful, is just cruel. Jah stepped out on him, sized him up, then roasted him like a hot dog on a stick. It might remain to be seen how Okafor matches up against the elite big men mentioned above, but teams best not bring the B-squad against Big Jah because we know how that ends.

Next: Sixers vs. Raptors Game Recap

Upon being drafted, many a talking head pondered how a throw back post player like Okafor could exist in today’s pace-and-space NBA. Jahlil is providing the answer for us on a nightly basis: by dominating the centers who aren’t throwbacks. I’m guessing were going to be running out of ways to give him Player of the Game by seasons end.

Other Player of the Game contenders: T.J. McConnell (13 assists to two turnovers), Hollis Thompson (19 points on 5-6 shooting from downtown).