Poor Jahlil Okafor.
The Sixers’ former third overall pick has seen his role in Philadelphia continue diminish — from one-time Rookie of the Year contender to injury-ridldled back up to Joel Embiid.
Drafted due to his ability as a gifted inside scorer, Okafor was the subject of trade rumors all season long, leading up to the surprising move to send Nerlens Noel out of town at the deadline instead. And he’s battled injury issues during his two seasons in the NBA, including a knee ailment that has kept him from playing in 5-on-5 drills this offseason.
After all of that, Okafor is still in Philly and he’ll face a tough battle to get playing time behind Embiid and against Richaun Holmes. But surprisingly, the 6-foot-11 Duke alum is in good spirits and glad to be in Philadelphia.
“I hear trade rumors and stuff like that,” Okafor told The Intelligencer. “I realize that having a new scenario, you think it might be better than it is right now. But when it comes to the NBA, all I know is wearing a Sixers uniform.”
According to ESPN Okafor has lost weight and will return to the floor in training camp in better shape. During his first season in 2015-16, he averaged 17.5 points and seven rebounds per game in 53 games. Playing in 50 last season — but more than seven minutes less per game, he averaged 11.8 points per game. Emiid and Okafor were kept seperate from one another on the court as the two seemed unable to adapt their respective styles of play with one another.
It will be interesting to see how much he’ll see the court in 2017-18, but there’s no doubt the team will be much better than in previous seasons with Okafor at center, with the arrival of first overall pick Markelle Fultz and healthy debut of Ben Simmons expected in October.
“I’m excited,” Okafor said. “There’s a lot of excitement around the city. It’s warranted, as well. I’ve talked to some of the guys. Everybody’s ready to go.”
It’s anyone’s guess as to whether he’ll be with the Sixers once the 2018 trade deadline passes in 2018 — but he could be in the move as one of the few unessential young pieces on the Sixers budding roster.