Lost amidst the hype of an extremely successfully offseason for the Philadelphia 76ers has been the progress made by third-year player Jahlil Okafor.
With so much noise surrounding the Philadelphia 76ers at present, it’s hard not to overlook certain players involved in the process.
This summer saw the Sixers land their second consecutive No. 1 overall draft selection when they landed Markelle Fultz. The selection of Fultz, a 6’4″, multi-dimensional guard follows up from their selection a year earlier of Ben Simmons, who at 6’10” has already been anointed by head coach Brett Brown as the team’s primary ball-handler.
But with Simmons missing all of last season due to a foot injury, the Sixers find themselves in the unique position of entering the upcoming season with two No. 1 overall draft picks who have yet to debut.
And this is all without mentioning the presence of the most unique and dynamic player on the roster in center Joel Embiid. Despite having played just 31 games in three seasons, Embiid’s impact last season was so profound that Sixers fans can only wonder how productive the team will look with the additional talent this season at their disposal.
In addition to this prodigious young talent, the Sixers also landed a significant free agent in shooting guard J.J. Redick. With the team crying out for perimeter shooting, Redick’s shooting expertise, combined with his locker room presence, should prove to be an invaluable addition.
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So with all of these exciting moves happening with the franchise, the presence of a former No. 3 overall selection in Jahlil Okafor has become somewhat of an afterthought.
After a promising rookie campaign in which he averaged 17.5 points and 7.0 rebounds per game, Okafor slumped in his second season, averaging just 11.8 points and 4.8 rebounds per game. While the presence of Embiid was a key factor last season in his regression, it was also his inability to stay on the floor that hampered the 6’11” Okafor.
Over his two seasons in the league, Okafor has missed 61 games primarily due to persistent knee problems. While this may attributed to the increased demands that are associated in playing in the NBA, his physical conditioning has also not reached the ideal level.
But this offseason, Okafor has been putting his best foot forward to ensure he is not simply an after thought within the Sixers organization. Recently, Sixers’ head strength and conditioning coach, Todd Wright, made the following video post on Instagram detailing some of the work being put in by Okafor.
No doubt proud of the work he’s been putting in, Okafor reposted one of Wright’s posts to reinforce to all involved how he’s been progressing.
Furthermore, a recent report by Jessica Camerato of CSN Philly detailed that Okafor had lost 20 pounds since the end of the last season, mostly attributed to a vegan diet. As Okafor detailed:
"“I’ve cut out dairy, so that’s cheese, chocolate, stuff like that. But every now and then I still might eat some fish….I feel lighter, I feel great. I’ve been taking my body seriously, my health seriously, what I eat very seriously. So I think it’s going to pay off.”"
These sentiments are no doubt music to the ears of all involved in the Sixers, from the fans to the coaching staff. Because while Embiid was incredible in his time on the floor last season, there are still likely to be certain restrictions placed on him this upcoming season.
And with the work Okafor has been putting in this offseason, he’ll certainly be at the front of the queue to step up to the plate, if or when Embiid is unable to take the floor this season.