Philadelphia 76ers center Jahlil Okafor already had a shaky reputation in terms of his defense, but a fresh video clip of Okafor in action — or inaction — on that end of the basketball floor is going viral and causing a stir among NBA fans worldwide (per Fansided). During a recent game against the Miami Heat, Okafor showed in an approximate 12-second span why his defensive skills and effort have been so widely criticized since he joined the NBA in 2015.
The clip begins with Okafor defending the paint as Heat point guard Goran Dragic drives the lane for a shot attempt. As Dragic drives right into Okafor’s area, the 76ers big man barely moves and fails to raise his arms to defend the shot attempt. Dragic misses the floater in the lane, but Okafor stands and watches as Miami swingman Rodney McGruder aggressively goes after the rebound in front of Okafor, dribbles out to about 12 feet where he dishes the ball to Heat center Hassan Whiteside. Whiteside then takes an uncontested shot from inside the free throw line and makes the short jumper.
Jahlil Okafor makes little to no effort during this entire sequence, and after Whiteside scores the basket, Okafor very slowly begins to walk to the other side of the court. Okafor’s body language during and after the play is disturbing in that it gives the viewer the impression that he doesn’t care enough to even give minimal effort on the defensive end of the floor. If this was an isolated incident, one could perhaps chalk this up to fatigue, a nagging injury, or even just suffering a moment of poor execution (after all, everyone has an off day now and then).
The problem for Jahlil Okafor and the Philadelphia 76ers is that this isn’t an isolated incident. Okafor has earned a reputation as a “lazy” defensive player, and the numbers bear that out. According to ESPN‘s NBA Real Plus-Minus statistics, Jahlil Okafor’s defense is rated dead-last in the NBA among the 70 centers currently playing in the league. This is a case where perception and reality are in complete agreement — Jahlil Okafor’s lack of defensive intensity is making him a liability to his team, despite the low-post scoring he provides on the other side of the basketball court.
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As a result of the attention this video clip is receiving, Okafor is being roasted by fans and media alike. Sporting News reports that Shaquille O’Neal’s “Shaqtin’ a Fool” segment on the TNT Network threw shade at Okafor for his performance in this viral video via their official Twitter account. Numerous online media outlets are piling on Jahlil Okafor for his apparent disinterest in playing defense, as described by the Philadelphia Inquirer. The article gives examples of several snarky headlines being attributed to the Okafor video, including “This Horrendous Defense By Jahlil Okafor Is Truly Something to Behold,” as well as “Jahlil Okafor Plays Twelve Seconds Of The Worst Defense You’ve Ever Seen.”
Jahlil Okafor will not play on Saturday night against the Detroit Pistons, and sadly, that might be a plus for the Sixers. Starting center Joel Embiid is now out for the season due to a meniscus tear, and Nerlens Noel was dealt to the Dallas Mavericks before the NBA trade deadline on February 23. Philadelphia’s other center, Richaun Holmes, is also not completely healthy, but is expected to play through a right hamstring injury and has been doing a solid job of filling in for the 76ers since the injury bug hit the team’s big men.
Less than two years ago, Jahlil Okafor was looked upon as a potential franchise center when the Sixers draft him third overall in 2015. His stock has now fallen so low that the team was unable to trade him, even though it has been reported that they tried hard to move him before the trade deadline. Okafor is a sieve on defense, and his old-school post-up game and lack of athleticism make him a dinosaur in today’s NBA. Okafor is well on his way to becoming a colossal bust as a high draft pick, but if he has any chance of succeeding, he will have to find a way to crank up his motor and start playing with some energy and desire as his NBA career progresses.
[Featured Image by Lynne Sladky/AP Images]