The last two years of Jahlil Okafor’s life have been one recurring nightmare.
In 2015, Okafor was taken 3rd in the NBA Draft by the Philadelphia 76ers, coming off leading Duke to the 2015 NCAA championship. Okafor’s career was heading up and he was dubbed the future of the Sixers franchise, the first official prize of “The Process.” With all of the hype on his back and a city filled with hope, Okafor performed remarkably well on-court in his rookie season. He averaged 17.5 points and seven rebounds a game, and paired well with fellow young big man Nerlens Noel. In terms of straight basketball, things were looking good for Okafor.
Things were not looking good for the 76ers, though. They started the same season off with an 0-18 record, tying the Brooklyn Nets for the worst opening record in NBA history. Plagued by the frustration of his losses, Okafor put together a string of off-court issues, culminating in a fight with a Boston fan outside TD Garden. The Sixers finally broke the losing streak with a grind-it-out win over the Los Angeles Lakers on December 1st, 2015. A day later, a video emerged on TMZ of Okafor engaging in a second fight in Boston from that November. Okafor was suspended for two games by the 76ers as a result of this kerfuffle.
It did not get better from there. Although Okafor continued to perform well on the court, and he made sure to stay out of trouble, it seemed trouble would go out of its way to find him. On February 28, two weeks after he was selected to the 2016 NBA Rising Stars game, Okafor sustained what seemed to be a minor shin contusion after bumping legs with teammate Isaiah Canaan. What was supposed to be a one-game break turned into five games, which ultimately turned into Okafor being sat out the rest of his rookie season after a CT scan revealed he had torn his meniscus. Just like that, a tumultuous first season in the NBA ended for Jahlil Okafor.
Fast forward to March 2017. Okafor’s sophomore season has been injury filled, and not a particularly notable one at that. When he has played, he’s shown flashes of greatness, such as a 26-point and nine-rebound game versus the Washington Wizards. The Sixers have limited his minutes all season following a re-aggravation of his meniscus tear, making it hard to tell if Okafor is truly a bust or just isn’t able to show what he’s worth. On March 31, the 76ers abruptly decide to end Okafor’s season. He is shut down and left sitting on the bench watching helplessly as Philly loses seven straight to end the season.
Right now, Jah sits in a catch-22. He has fallen fully out of the rotation and hasn’t played a single game this season. He asked for a buyout and it was subsequently rejected. The Sixers have been looking for trade offers but no team wants to give up assets for the unproven big man. Okafor is stuck on a team he doesn’t fit in, with a contract working against him and nowhere else to go. As long as the 76ers continue to not play him, Okafor will never get a chance to prove himself, which means no team will want to offer anything more for him. Okafor is completely trapped.
At this point the reader may be wondering, “how come this is the case for Jahlil Okafor?” After all, that is what this article is titled. In fact, this article could even be used as a case against Jahlil Okafor. The player described is a giant mess who’s off-court issues are only overshadowed by his extreme injury woes. He is unproven and untradeable. So why is he worth anything?
The answer is simple. Throughout this entire article, through all of the mess ups and knee injuries, there has only been one constant: Jahlil Okafor can ball. It’s as simple as that. He is an extremely talented basketball player who led Duke to the conference title, averaged 17.5 points in his rookie year, and has put his all into the game of basketball. He has not been given a single chance to show what he is worth or what he is capable of. If he is put in the right team with the right situation, Okafor has the potential to go from being worth zero to an NBA All-Star.
The Process failed Jahlil Okafor. It’s time for Philadelphia to free Okafor, whether through buyout or trade, and let the world see what he’s truly got.
Man they acting like @JahlilOkafor don’t got game. Let the man go and rock out for somebody else! Crazy how they doing him
— Isaiah Thomas (@Isaiah_Thomas) November 2, 2017