Forget the losing. The 76ers are going to lose a whole lot of games. That’s been well-documented.
Take a peek at their future for a moment, specifically Jahlil Okafor.
Through the first eight games – all losses – the No. 3 overall pick from Duke has been absolutely terrific. If the 6-foot-11 Okafor continues progressing at this pace, he just may be the NBA Rookie of the Year. He’s been that good.
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The Sixers lost for the eighth straight time this season, 121-103 to the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday night, but Okafor tied his career-high with 26 points on 13-for-22 shooting. Okafor grabbed seven rebounds and added four blocked shots.
In another blowout loss to the Chicago Bulls Monday night, Okafor had 21 points and 15 rebounds. In that game, Okafor became the first Sixer to register at least 21 points, 15 rebounds and two blocks since Elton Brand had 33 points, 16 rebounds and two blocks against the New York Knicks on Feb. 4, 2011.
Okafor is the real deal.
After watching Nerlens Noel sit out a year with a torn ACL and then seeing Joel Embiid sidelined for a second consecutive season, it’s exciting to witness what a healthy big man can accomplish.
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“It’s deflating when you’re losing, and this is foreign to him, so I give him credit for being good in the locker room, being good on the bench, continuing to work,” coach Brett Brown said.
The injury-riddled Sixers had a depleted roster against the Raptors. Okafor wasn’t fazed by anything.
“Today, we had nine players,” Okafor said. “That's always tough and we played a good veteran team. It was tough from the jump. But that's really no excuse. Especially the way we came out in the third quarter. We know that's the real problem. We are able to compete with these teams. But we are not sustaining that through four quarters.”
Okafor will have ups and downs throughout his rookie season. Thus far, the body of work is all positive.
“Jahlil comes to work every day to get better,” Noel said. “He brings it every day and you have to be impressed. He’s going to make me better and hopefully, I’ll make him better, too. I’m excited to be his teammate here.”
Okafor realizes how much work lies ahead. He pointed to boxing out and rebounding and what needs to be improved upon. When it comes time to battle other big men like Chicago’s Pau Gasol, Okafor will never back down.
“It doesn’t bother me,” Okafor said. “I’ve always been a physical player. I welcome the challenge.”
Dating to last season, the Sixers have lost 18 straight games. Wins will likely be scarce in 2015-16.
Okafor’s development is a storyline worth watching on a daily basis.