You hope that, at some point, the kid can contribute, but unfortunately at this point we don’t know when that may be. In the mean time, the Sixers further fortified their frontcourt by selecting Jahlil Okafor with the third overall pick in the 2015 Draft. Okafor, whose selection was viewed by many as Embiid insurance, is ready to hit the ground running, and will be the beneficiary of increased opportunity due to Embiid’s extended absence.
Okafor said that his role is not impacted by Embiid’s status.
“It doesn’t,” he replied flatly when asked how Embiid’s being sidelined affected his role heading into the season.
“My role is to dominate,” Okafor continued. “I’m one of the centerpieces of the team, so my role is the same.”
While the attitude employed by Okafor is a solid one, and one you look to hear from one of the leaders of a team, it is not entirely true. If Embiid had been able to play this season, Brett Brown would have had to balance the minutes at the center and power forward spots between Embiid, Okafor, and Nerlens Noel. Embiid, touted by many as a potentially generational talent, would of course get an extensive look in his rookie season, which would undoubtedly impact the amount of minutes allotted for Okafor.
With Embiid sidelined indefinitely however, all of the minutes that would have gone to him are now open, and many will fall to the team’s newest prized pick. Noel and Okafor will almost certainly be the starting four and five, respectively, and the duo will likely get extensive burn together, as the organization is now forced to consider a future without Embiid.
Okafor and Noel project as near-perfect complements, as Noel is a dominant defender while Okafor specializes on the offensive end. Embiid aside, the Sixers might have their future frontcourt right there. (Of course, the hope remains that Embiid can fully recover, both for the team and for Joel, who is a great kid who is undergoing a very difficult situation).
Summer League provided a brief glimpse into what an Okafor-led offense could look like, and it was intriguing. Plug in some shooters that make defenses think twice about double-teaming the post, and suddenly it will start to look a lot better.
Okafor should have extensive opportunity to showcase his skills this season, which is exciting in itself for Sixer fans who are accustomed to having to wait to watch their prized picks play. How he gels with Nerlens Noel will be very interesting to pay attention to, and you just hope somewhere down the road Embiid can be added to that mix.
Michael Kaskey-Blomain is a scribe for Philadunkia. You can follow him on Twitter @therealmikeKB.
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