Jonah Bolden’s ascent could be the end for Jahlil Okafor with Sixers

If Jahlil Okafor’s days in Philadelphia weren’t limited before, they certainly are now with the emergence of forward Jonah Bolden in summer league.

The Sixers drafted Bolden with the 36th overall pick in June’s draft and he has shown a lot of promise on both ends of the court in the audition he’s been given so far. The thinking was that Bolden, who currently plays for Crvena zvezda of the ABA League, would be stashed in Europe for at least a year with a seemingly full roster. But his play so far may have just changed the minds of both coach Brett Brown and general manager Bryan Colangelo when roster decisions need to be made.

He signed a two-year contract with Crvena zvezda on June 10, but has a buyout on his contract of just $675,000 if the Sixers were to find a spot for him.

“The beauty of his intrigue is defensively he can rim-protect,” Sixers assistant Lloyd Pierce said. “Defensively, he can get out on the perimeter to use his length and athleticism to be a pest on the ball. Offensively, his athleticism, he can finish around the rim, and we know that he can make three-point shots.”

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All of the things he does well are the crutches that have been linked to Okafor’s game — defense, shooting, rebounding, ball-handling, athleticism and passing.

His up-tempo style of play was on display in Tuesday nights 88-83 loss to the Celtics. Bolden notched 15 points, eight rebounds, two steals and was the best Sixers’ player on the court.

For FMP Belgrade last season, Bolden averaged 12.9 points and 7.2 rebounds and shot 41.9 percent on three-pointers. A big who can stretch the floor, defend, rebound and pass is very useful in today’s NBA. A low-post big man like Okafor is becoming more and more irrelevant, especially if his abilities on the defensive end are limited.

“I think defensive versatility is a strength of mine,” Bolden, a 6-foot-10 native of Australia said. “I want to become a player who can guard all five positions.”

Bolden and Okafor are polar opposites on the basketball court. Bolden’s fit in Philadelphia is as clear as day. Brown and Colangelo should take a long look at him before the final roster cuts are made.

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