Why the Best Rookie Won't Win Rookie of the Year
*Photo via USA Today
And the best rookie so far this season is ... Jahlil Okafor. Yeah I said it, Jah as he is called, is the best, I repeat, the best rookie so far this season. No disrespect to Karl-Anthony Towns and Kristaps Porzingis, who have had good starts, but Okafor has been the most consistent out of the three. He will not win the Rookie of the Year because of the Philadelphia Sixers' horrendous start (1-28 and counting) but he has been the only bright spot for them. Also the off the court issues with him getting into it with a heckling fan in Boston and speeding on the road doesn't help his cause. In terms of numbers, Jah has done a good job this year ON THE COURT. Unfortunately nobody will notice because his team is terrible.
Jahlil is posting 17.6 points and 7.9 rebounds per game while Karl-Anthony Towns is averaging 15.9 points per game with 9.4 rebounds and Kristaps Porzingis is putting up 13.3 points per game and 8.2 rebounds. Okafor has bested the two front runners of Rookie of the Year in their encounters. He dominated Townes by dropping 25 points and 12 rebounds to the big KAT's 6 points and 2 rebounds performance, including two big blocks on Townes. Against Porzingis, he had 20 and 5, compared to Kristaps' 8 and 7. So it's not like if I am reaching over here. People need to take a closer look at what's really going on.
*Photo via USA Today
The difference is in the franchises that drafted these players. Okafor got drafted by the Sixers organization which has no stability and foundation at all. Their general manager, Sam Hinkie, (analytics guy who worked under Daryl Morey in Houston) has been preaching " trust the process " for years now, but how can the Sixer fans do that if the franchise is being mismanaged time after time. Tanking one season is one thing, but tanking every season?? C'mon son!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! And trading away talented players and not getting equal value ( in the case of Michael Carter-Williams) is not smart. Hinkie has drafted three bigs in a row in Nerlens Noel, Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor and my question is why?? With the NBA going "small" these days, what would be the reason to do this?? Only he knows I guess.
Another thing that Hinkie overlooked while constructing the Philadelphia Sixers through stats is chemistry and mentorship in the NBA. The Sixers' average age is 24.4 years old. They are the youngest team in the league, so there are no veteran players in that locker room mentoring Jahlil Okafor and talking to him about the NBA life, bumps you have to go through, ups and downs, etc. You compare that to the Minnesota Timberwolves who have the great Kevin Garnett, Andre Miller and Tayshaun Prince. Or the New York Knicks, who have Carmelo Anthony, Jose Calderon, Robin Lopez, etc. Players who have been in the league for a while, talking to Karl Towns or Kristaps Porzingis about the NBA life. Okafor doesn't have that same luxury because the player next to him are only a year or two older. Maybe if Okafor had that surrounding, he wouldn't have got into that scuffle in Boston.
*Photo via USA Today
And for a team that has been tanking for the last couple years, you would think Philadelphia had plenty of young talented players, but that's not the case. The Sixers have 6 undrafted players on their roster. Compare that to the T’Wolves (who have a worldly of young talent) and the Knicks (this year's talent was upgraded compare to last year). It's no contest. The better talent you have on your team, the easier the game is to play and Jahlil doesn't have too much talent surrounding him. As the focal point of the offense, the opposing team's defense is focused on stopping Jahlil whereas Towns has Wiggins and Porzingis has Melo to take pressure off them. So they can have an off night and still win because of who they have around their team. Jahlil Okafor doesn't have that and he is still putting up good numbers.
The smartest thing the organization has done in years is hire Hall of Famer Jerry Colangelo as Chairman of Operations.He will help out Sam Hinkie with his knowledge and experience and how to build an actual decent team. And with 2014 Croatian draftee sensation Dario Saric finally coming over next year ( he is the best prospect coming out of Europe) and trading Joel Embiid to get some more wing talent (because there is no way Noel, Embiid and Okafor can play together), the future might be looking bright. But as of now, the Sixers will continue to lose and hopefully Jahlil Okafor can keep his sanity and continue to be a consistent player throughout this hard rookie year.