Philadelphia 76ers: Was trading Jahlil Okafor a mistake?

(Photo by Justin Tafoya/Getty Images)
(Photo by Justin Tafoya/Getty Images) /

With a fresh start in New Orleans, former Philadelphia 76ers center Jahlil Okafor has been putting up eye catching numbers. Did the 76ers trade the young center too soon into his career?

In the 2015 NBA Draft, the Philadelphia 76ers selected 6-foot-11 center Jahlil Okafor from Duke University. At the time of the draft, Philadelphia was very happy with the way things turned out on draft night. Did we get consensus No. 1 overall pick Karl-Anthony Towns? No, but we did come away with who many viewed as the next best available player.

Okafor’s time in Philly started during one of the worst seasons in NBA history, with the team going an abysmal 10-72. Despite this record, Okafor was named to the All-Rookie Team after averaging 17.5 points and 7.0 rebounds per game. At the time, we thought the team had found our big man of the future.

In his second season with the team, we saw a dip in production from Okafor, who only posted 11.8 points and 4.8 rebounds per game. The team was again fairly unremarkable despite a strong showing in January, finishing the season 28-54, which was good for second to last in the East.

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When being scouted, the issue with Okafor was never his ability on the offensive side of the ball, where to this day he shows he has a place on an NBA roster. The biggest criticism of Okafor comes on the defensive side of the ball, where on a good night, he is mildly effective. Catch Okafor on an off night defensively, and it’s like he isn’t on the floor.

On Dec 7 , 2017, the 76ers decided to part ways with Okafor in a package deal that sent him to Brooklyn after only appearing twice through the team’s first 23 games. We as fans could not get him out the door fast enough.

There was mounting frustration between Okafor’s camp and the 76ers organization in regard to his current situation, and it seemed from all sides that sending him elsewhere would be the best course of action. In the 26 games he appeared in for Brooklyn, he contributed 6.4 points and just under three rebounds per game.

After a relatively disappointing 2017-18 campaign for the third-year big man, he was released by Brooklyn, and eventually signed with the New Orleans Pelicans.

We are now approaching the All-Star break, and it appears that Okafor may have found a home that best suits him. Rumors surrounding the departure of All-NBA big man Anthony Davis have allowed the young Okafor to earn more minutes on the floor, cracking the starting rotation.

In his last six games with the team, Okafor has put up and impressive 20 points and 10 rebounds, earning him national attention. Many surrounding the Sixers fanbase have begun to question whether or not we jumped the gun by trading him so soon into his career.

The answer to that question is fairly simple. No.

It was no secret that Okafor was an offensively gifted big man, but what this 76ers team needed was big men who could defend. Despite these great stats of recent, one look at Okafor’s defensive stats tell a completely different story.

Through these last six games, Okafor has been a combined -44, posting double-digit minus’ in three of his last four. Next, just look at the performances given by Okafor’s primary matchups. In those last six games, Okafor’s primary matchup is averaging 19.5 points and 11 rebounds on 56 percent shooting. These six players have posted a +41 in these matchups.

In fairness to Okafor, he has gone up against the likes of Nikola Jokic, LaMarcus Aldridge and Steven Adams, but the numbers speak for themselves. Okafor is a very talented offensive threat, but he is a liability on the opposite end of the floor. A +/- differential that large in a six-game span shows the disparity between his offensive and defensive abilities.

Some fans like to look back at drafts with hindsight vision being 20/20 and suggesting that it was obvious we should have gone in another direction. If that theory was at all viable, Kobe Bryant should have been the greatest Charlotte Hornet of all time.

Kristaps Porzingis would not even work out with the 76ers because (now ironically) he did not like the direction the franchise was headed. Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell were already off the board when the 76ers were on the clock. After Porzingis, the next player that has made a real name for themselves in the NBA is 11th-overall pick Myles Turner.

While there is a chance that a change of scenery could spark a new career in the NBA for Jahlil Okafor, I still believe the 76ers made the right decision in moving him. That being said, I do hope Okafor has found his new home and continues to thrive. He, like any 76er in the last six or so years will always hold a special place in many fans hearts as true warriors of The Process.

Next. 3 needle-moving trades to push for at deadline. dark

With that being said, it is time for the front office to now attack the market in search for bench pieces that can complement this already talented roster. Buckle in Sixers fans, these next few months are going to be fun.