The professional career of Jahlil Okafor is like your favorite rollercoaster, immense highs and some lows that might lull one to sleep. The No. 3 overall pick in 2015 for the Sixers was supposed to be the original centerpiece of The Process that Joel Embiid eventually became.
For Okafor, it’s been a crazy ride in the NBA since his days at Duke where he won a national championship in 2015. His rookie season was a mixed bag, as he managed to average 17 points and 7 boards in 53 games. There was, however, the incident in Boston where Okafor got into a fight with a man at a nightclub and then a second incident which left the Sixers with no choice but to suspend him for two games.
From there, everything went downhill for Okafor. The recent rise of Joel Embiid ultimately pushed Okafor out of the starting lineup and ultimately out of the rotation, leading to the ‘Free Jah’ movement which got traction with other NBA players. His saga in Philly ended in on Dec. 7 when he was dealt by the Sixers along with Nick Stauskas for Trevor Booker which gave the former Duke center a chance to revive his career.
Okafor wanted a chance to prove himself on the court, something he wasn’t able to do with the Sixers and in a recent Player’s Tribune article he expressed his belief that he can still be a franchise cornerstone player.
As a player, I recognized some key areas in my game that needed work. One, I’ve gotta improve on defense — improve both my physical quickness and my mental discipline. Two, I have to rebound better — maintain smarter positioning, be more aggressive on the jump. And three, I want to be the type of player who makes his teammates better — whether that’s by gaining confidence as a passer, or getting more comfortable spacing the floor, or even just being a supportive guy in the huddle. I’ve been working hard, and I’ll continue to work hard, to make those things happen.
I also recognized that maturing as a person would be just as important. I know I have to move past being one of those young guys who’s making dumb mistakes. I have to become the kind of person who’s “the bigger person” — who walks away from the bad situations, and doesn’t make excuses. And I’ve been working hard, and I’ll continue to work hard, to make those things happen too.
Basically, I just wanted to do everything in my power to make sure that the organization trading for me — they got a warrior and a leader. To make sure they got a player with the type of game that helps teams go deep into the playoffs. And to make sure they got what my family, friends and I have always envisioned me becoming: a franchise cornerstone..
Okafor also expressed love to everyone in Philadelphia 76’ers organization as he still referred to them as ‘his brothers’. However, the odds are slightly against Okafor as he’s an endangered species in the NBA — a plodding center that relies on post ups to score.
How Okafor can adapt his game to the modern NBA game will be critical to him getting his chance to prove that he is a cornerstone player in the NBA. He’s at least aware of the changes he needs to make to become that, which is a positive start. If he can make the necessary adjustments, it’s very possible his rollercoaster ride can reach a new peak.