It’s Time for the Sixers to Shut Down Jahlil Okafor
Just as they did with Joel Embiid last month, the Philadelpia 76ers should shut down Jahlil Okafor for the remainder of the season.
By the time the Sixers return from their current road trip – which Okafor isn’t on – the second-year center from Duke will have missed six straight games, seven out of the past eight, and a whopping 13 total on the 2016-’17 season with lingering right knee soreness.
The Sixers will have just five games remaining - Nets, Bucks, Bulls, Packers, Knicks - on the current campaign upon their return from the road trip, and there is literally nothing to be gained - by the player or the team - by trotting out a hampered, and not-in-rhythm Okafor for the final stretch.
The organization knows as much, they just haven’t made the move to officially shut him down yet, and for whatever reason, don't seem to plan to.
“If we were like on the verge of trying to get a playoff spot or something like that, I could go out there and play,” Okafor said recently, via Philly.com. “But Coach Brown and all of our people behind the scenes don’t believe it’s necessary for me to play if my knee is feeling sore and stuff like that.”
Indeed, it is not necessary.
The truth is, Okafor hasn’t looked quite right all season since undergoing meniscus surgery over a year ago – on March 22, 2016. (Why knee pain is still lingering over a year later is another issue entirely).
Okafor’s game was never especially explosive, but it seems even less so this season. The quick-reaction post moves that served him well during his rookie campaign (like this one) were few and far between, and it also seems as though a level of timidity set in; perhaps from not being completely comfortable with the knee. Okafor also appeared to fatigue rather easily this season, which is likely a direct result of the surgery.
The surgery last March robbed Okafor of his ability to properly condition for a good portion of the offseason, which set him behind. Then, the consistent stints on the sideline throughout the season -whether because of injury or team decision - prevented him from every truly getting into the swing of things.
With nothing to be gained by playing him. the team might as well shut Okafor down, assess the lingering knee issue, and try to get him back on track moving forward. An entire offseason devoted to developing his game, properly conditioning, and working on his defencies - something that he didn't have last offseason - could prove very beneficial.
Caution and long-term health have been the pillars of the Sixers’ recent approach to injury issues, and this situation should be no different.
Turn-styling in-and-out of the lineup isn't benefiting Okafor - or the organization - in the long run. It’s not improving his on-court comfort, and it certainly isn't helping his trade value. Thus, it’s time to for the Sixers to pull the plug on what can only be described as a disappointing sophomore season for the third overall pick of the 2015 NBA Draft.
On the season, Okafor is averaging 11.8 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 1 block in 22.7 minutes of action per game.