Last year, No. 3 overall pick Jahlil Okafor was the main attraction for the Sixers. So far this season, he seems like the forgotten man.
While Okafor had very solid rookie averages of 17.5 points, 7.0 boards and 1.2 blocks per game, those numbers seemingly will take a hit with the Joel Embiid now in the picture. While the Sixers have said Embiid most likely won’t play on back-to-back nights, it seems like Okafor’s role is very undefined at this time.
On Saturday, Okafor missed his third straight preseason game, didn’t make the trip to Cleveland, and the team hasn’t really addressed his injury situation. The 20-year old had surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee back in March, forcing him to miss the final month of the season.
The guy who was the center of attention for the Sixers last season, seems like a square peg in a round hole this season.
Sixers coach Brett Brown did say before Thursday night tilt with the Wizards that he wants his team at full health when the season tips-off on Oct. 26 against the Thunder. If that means resting Okafor so he is ready to go full tilt when the season starts, so be it.
Though Brown did say he anticipates Okafor to be ready for the season opener, telling Philly.com that, “he is not that far away.”
So what will his role be when he does return?
Coach Brown has indicated that Embiid will be the focal point both on offense and defense, making him the obvious choice to the the starting center, and with Dario Saric looking like the starter at power forward, Okafor seems to be the odd man out. But can Okafor find a role as a part-time starter on nights when Embiid sits and a sixth man, who could come in for 25-30 minutes, and provide post scoring on nights when Embiid is available?
The problem is, they might be viewing Nerlens Noel in a similar role, part-time starter, providing post defense when Embiid takes a seat.
Okafor can already create his own shot and score at will in the post, but his defense has been an issue. Although Noel is somewhat limited on offense, he can get the put-backs, tip-ins, and hit an occasional foul-line jumper, but what he lacks on offense, he makes for with his defense.
Right now it is truly undefined.
The most obvious role for Okafor?
Okafor and Embiid have similar skill-sets and would seem to be an unlikely pairing. We have already seen that Okafor and Noel aren’t a fit – the only solution to this seems to be a trade.
His name has constantly been involved in trade rumors, ever since the Sixers selected him in the 2015 draft, people have been waiting for him to be shipped out. One deal that was talked about on draft night and most of the offseason, involved the Boston Celtics. There was a Boston Herald report that the two teams “had a deal in place” to send Okafor to the Celtics at the trade deadline, but that was never confirmed.
However, maybe Okafor and Embiid will surprise us and become a dominating duo and Noel is odd-man out – who knows, one thing I think we know is someone will be the odd man out, and it won’t be Embiid.