The Okafor Report
*Photo via USA Today
By season’s end, Philadelphia 76ers big, Jahlil Okafor will be a serious contender for the Rookie of the Year award. Three weeks into his NBA career, Okafor is winning even if the 76ers aren’t, and his elite footwork and post-moves have allowed the former Blue Devil to have immediate success. Through 12 games, Okafor is averaging 18.8 points, 7.5 rebounds and 1.7 blocks a game, highlighted by six 20+ point games and three double-doubles.
In the post, Okafor is taking everyone to school when he himself, at 19 years-old, should still be in one. When facing up, Okafor can either hit the long-two or drive to the basket, using crossovers to throw the defense off-balance. With his back to the basket, Okafor likes to spin to either side for floaters, revert back to the face-up, and use his spin move to get deeper positioning or shoot over his defenders on some occasions.
And that’s just a few. The moves and possibilities at Okafor’s disposal are endless and I haven’t seen an answer to his offensive genius yet. What I like about Okafor’s activity on the low-block is the fact that he’s not wasting anytime.
He does not hold the ball. Once he gets the rock, he’s making quick decisions and it seems like he already has a plan of how he wants to attack, when he has possession, and or adapts to the situation. On defense, Okafor is better as advertised. In the highlight video below featuring Okafor tying his career-high against the Toronto Raptors at the 1:30 and 2:04 minute mark, Okafor doesn’t jump to block Norman Powell and Jonas Valanciunas’s shot attempts.
His feet don’t leave the ground, as he uses his size and arm length to alter and block shots, which will be essential to Okafor staying on the floor and out of foul trouble. He can defend the pick-and-roll a little better and I think that will come with more experience and as a starter, there’s no better education for Okafor.
What’s also impressive about Okafor is the fact that he’s come to play against some of the best teams in the NBA and has not wavered. In a recent loss against the San Antonio Spurs, Okafor recorded a double-double of 21 points and 12 rebounds. Against the Cleveland Cavaliers, Okafor dropped 24. The NBA is all about the big stage. Stars against stars sells and it’s significant that Okafor hasn’t shrunk when those moments have arrived through 12 games. I do not see a deer in the headlights regarding Okafor.
Okafor is a quick learner who looks like he belongs. It’s safe to say that he’s a lock for All-Star weekend, competing in the Rookie Challenge and it won’t be long until he’s playing on that All-Star Sunday. But it’s only his first year--there’s a lot more basketball to be played. It will be interesting to see how Okafor will fare against some of the other great bigs of the league in DeMarcus Cousins, Marc Gasol and even Nikola Vučević, who will put the pressure on Okafor to expend his energy on the defensive end.
Two dates you should circle in monitoring Okafor’s development are Monday, November 23rd vs. the Minnesota Timberwolves and Wednesday, December 2nd vs. the New York Knicks. Okafor will matchup against two talented bigs that he shared the NBA lottery with in Karl Anthony-Towns (MIN) and Kristaps Porzingis (NYK).