3 Reasons Why Jahlil Okafor Has Struggled This Season
The Philadelphia 76ers are 4-14 this season, which is last in the Eastern Conference and second to last overall. However, with that being said, they are off to their best start in the last few years. The arena is a little more packed, media is talking about them more, and they've even had a few nationally televised games. But with the Sixers steady on the rise, some of the players have been on a decline, particularly Jahlil Okafor.
Jahlil Okafor was drafted third in the 2015 NBA Draft and had a phenomenal rookie season. Many expected his second year to be more of the same with an expected dip in production due to the arrival of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. However, Ben Simmons hasn't played yet and Okafor hasn't dipped, he's plummeted. Okafor averaged 17.5 points and 7 rebounds per game last season. So far this season he's only averaging 10.4 points and 3.8 rebounds per game. It's still early, but that's a huge difference in production. So why is Okafor struggling this season? Here's a few reasons why.
For many Sixers fans, this one is pretty obvious. Embiid has brought a new life to the Sixers organization and is, arguably, the sole reason for the increase in Sixers fans in the arena. The Sixers and fans have been waiting on Embiid to play for years and now he's finally playing. That can have an impact on Okafor, after all they play the same position. Even with the limited minutes, Embiid sometimes takes over Okafor's spot (mainly because he is the better overall player), which leads to the next reason why Okafor is struggling.
Jahlil Okafor has never been a lockdown defender, but his defense has diminished even further so far this season. He's been slower to cover opposing forwards and the Sixers’ +/- is -11.5 when he's on the court as opposed to -2.9 when he's off. That also has to do with Joel Embiid as he is a much better defender. Embiid and the other bigs being better defensively has led to Okafor struggling to find minutes, which leads to the number one reason why he is struggling so far.
Limited Minutes and Bench Role
With Joel Embiid playing well and Okafor being a defensive liability, Okafor's minutes have diminished and he's been delegated to the bench. Okafor averaged 30 minutes per game last season and started 48 out of the 53 games he played. This season he's averaging 20 minutes per game and has started 4 out the 16 games so far. It's safe to say that his bench role will continue when Ben Simmons finally plays. Okafor has started most of the games he's played in his life and this new role will be a new experience and an adjustment period for him. He will continue to struggle until he fully gets acclimated to his new role.
Okafor is a solid offensive player that can be an asset to the Sixers, but if his defense doesn't improve and he doesn't plays well within his role, he will continue to struggle. Okafor is off to a bad sophomore year, but he has a chance to get better and stay with the team. If not, the Sixers may look past him soon.