Big man Jahlil Okafor already may be on the outside looking in after just being selected by the Sixers with the No. 3 pick in last year's draft.
by Jack Kerwin | ydkjack1.gmail.com
McLovin’ the 76ers talk of late.
Stealing from NBA royalty, none other than King James himself, “It’s about DAMN time.”
Seemingly forever the forgotten franchise among Philly’s pro-centric fan base, it’s been a breath of fresh air the past few weeks as discussions abound about the draft, the lottery, the prospects and what our city’s basketball team should do now that “the process” is over.
Sorry, Sons of Sam, Hinkie-Ites and whomever else genuflected at the feet of the team’s former GM and went all in with his “lose, lose, lose, whenever we stop, umm, well, that would be news” credo, but the new boss in town has said so.
Take it from someone who grew up following Doc, Doug, Mo and Chocolate Thunder ... Praise be to Jesus Shuttlesworth.
Not for nothing, but for all the groundwork Hinkie did in collecting picks, chips, assets or whatever cheesed-up lingo today’s geek-infested sports society likes to label rights to players, there never appeared to be an end-game in place, or even in theory. At least none that was shared with personalities outside of Hinkie’s analytics-crunching noggin, and that, ironically enough, made the Sixers even more meaningless with the masses than the nondescript nightmare they feared remaining a mediocre, last-team-in-the-postseason entity would.
Like him or loathe him, Bryan Colangelo, Exit Stage Left Sammy’s replacement, has been locked and loaded, ready to pull the trigger on personnel decisions that would signal a step forward, from the moment he took over last month – a far cry from the accept-the-abysmal, no-end-in-sight plan that saw just 19, 18 and 10 wins, respectively, yielded in the last three seasons.
His arrival, coupled with good fortune, has given the team something it has lacked for years: life.
Now armed with the No. 1 choice to kick off next month’s NBA Draft, Colangelo and Co. are the talk of the town, if not the entire NBA outside of the playoffs … and it’s all good, even when it’s “trade the top pick” crazy.
Yo, think about it. The Sixers are back in the headlines, basically vying for top billing each day. Not automatically buried behind whatever the latest stale Eagles soap opera happens to be or the feel-good Phillies who continue with refusing to cut ties with an anchor making a true rebuild a farce.
What a nice change from updates about Sam Bradford’s potential problems with reconnecting in the locker room or issues with showing Carson Wentz the NFL quarterbacking way.
What an absolute relief from misguided morality plays about Ryan Howard’s right to take his sub-.200 batting average to the plate 3 to 4 times a night for a team whose ultimate death knell will be its ineptitude on offense.
Gotta say, those Ben Simmons-Brandon Ingram debates now get me going. Those proposed Jahlil Okafor trades now get me excited.
Whether that’s with being in agreement completely, partially or not at all.
Just the fact that the Sixers are out of the dead zone, stirring up conversation in town and outside, is welcome here.
Now if they could make the right pick on June 23 at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, start winning games and slip past, say, the Flyers in Philly’s sports pecking order, all would be right in the world.
Or worth McLovin’ even some more.
IF IT WERE ME ...
Wouldn’t trade Jahlil Okafor.
It’s not a question of liking or disliking the soon-to-be, second-year big man for the Sixers. It’s a question of what would they have in place of him should they move him.
Truth be told, not a fan. Never have been, and have been aware him, and his publicity, since his days as a ballyhooed prospect at Whitney Young High School in Chicago. He’s 6-11, weighs 275 pounds and, yet, is not exactly what would be labeled a force.
But he has some game. He can post up with an assortment of mostly finesse moves inside, stroke it a little bit from, say, 12 to 15 feet, and, when the mood strikes, actually grab a few boards.
As a rookie following his selection as the third pick in the 2015 NBA Draft by the Sixers, he averaged 17.5 points, 7.0 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game.
Not great, but not bad at all.
Thing is, with the team still trying to find its way and build an identity, there are too many question marks on the roster, even with the addition of Ben Simmons or Brandon Ingram as the No. 1 pick next month, to deal Okafor at this point. Heck, he’s one of them, being a liability on defense, lacking hustle at times and showing his immaturity off the court a few times.
But he’s far less of one than Joel Embiid and Nerlens Noel, the other two supposed building blocks to the team’s interior-based foundation. Yeah, Embiid is far and away the most gifted player on the Sixers … and he hasn’t played a second in two seasons after being drafted due to foot woes. Noel, likewise, has injury problems and his offensive ceiling seems even lower than Okafor’s defensive one.
Unless another team just wows the Sixers with some pre-draft trade package, they seem better off standing pat with what they have until determining if Simmons or Ingram is their guy on June 23. Each has a distinctly different “game,” which could alter the direction of the franchise as it builds an identity.
They also have Euro standout Dario Saric coming either this year or next. He could impact things as well. So, for now, seems Sixers should just chill and focus on that top pick. Everything else can follow, including an Okafor trade.