Jahlil Okafor is heading to the Brooklyn Nets but brings a lot of questions with him. Will he find success in Kenny Atkinson’s fast-paced system and what does that mean for Brooklyn moving forward?
We were supposed to continue our four-part deep dive of the Brooklyn Nets‘ roster this week, but we have pressing news that needs to be addressed: The #FreeJah campaign is finally over! The former Duke standout and No. 3 overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, Jahlil Okafor, is on the move from the Philadelphia 76ers to the Nets.
As reported by ESPN‘s Zach Lowe, Brooklyn will be getting Jahlil Okafor, Nik Stauskas and a 2019 second round pick for Trevor Booker. Subsequently, Brooklyn plans on releasing guard Sean Kilpatrick to make room for the incoming players.
There won’t be any more of Okafor’s father wearing “Free Jah” shirts to Philly games. There won’t be any more Devin Booker “Free Jah” pleas on Twitter. But most importantly, we finally get to watch Okafor play basketball again.
There are a lot of different storylines, implications and questions surrounding this trade, but let’s focus on Jahlil Okafor, how he fits within Brooklyn’s system and what it means for the Nets moving forward.
On the court, Jahlil Okafor is an excellent post scorer, accentuated by his elite footwork.
Okafor is at his best when he’s able to operate in the paint. He can square his defender up and use that elite footwork to get to the rim (shown above), he can back his defender down on the block and use his post moves, or use his quickness and get to the hoop off pick-and-rolls. He put up impressive numbers in his 2015-16 rookie campaign, averaging 17.5 points and 7.0 rebounds per game on 50.8 percent shooting.
Jahlil has an elite repertoire of moves that allows him to score in the paint. The documented lack of inside presence Brooklyn has suffered from this year will get a much-needed boost with the addition of Okafor. Expect him to be starting over the likes of Jarrett Allen, Tyler Zeller and Timofey Mozgov sooner rather than later.
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With that being said, Jahlil is a pretty horrid defender. His defensive rating his rookie year was 108.7 and while he produced on the offensive end, his net rating was a miserable -16.6. During the 2016-17 season, his defensive rating somehow got worse (109.5) and his net rating was still bad (-14.5). Pair his poor defending with the slow, grind-it-out pace at which he’s accustomed to playing and you have some legitimate concerns if Brooklyn hopes to keep him long-term.
But does Brooklyn need to necessarily worry about his defensive woes or his slow-paced game fitting into Kenny Atkinson’s system right now? Absolutely not. General manager Sean Marks should be showered in even more praise with the job he’s doing in Brooklyn and for this trade specifically.
He turned Trevor Booker’s expiring $9.1 million contract into the No. 3 overall pick from the 2015 NBA Draft, the No. 8 pick from the 2014 NBA Draft and a 2019 second round pick. Nitpick about Okafor’s defensive struggles and the drama that surrounded him in Philly all you want; this deal is a fantastic one for Brooklyn.
Let’s think best-case scenario for a minute. Jahlil comes into Brooklyn rejuvenated, produces like we’ve seen him do on the offensive end and isn’t a liability on the defensive end. He then decides to sign a deal with Brooklyn next summer, and you now have a core of D’Angelo Russell and Jahlil Okafor to build around for years to come. This best-case scenario only cost an already expendable Trevor Booker.
According to The Vertical‘s Chris Mannix, Jahlil coming back to Brooklyn might not be that farfetched.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves yet. Instead, start to focus on Okafor’s fit within Brooklyn’s scheme. The way he’s integrated into Atkinson’s system will give us a better idea about how they want to use him and if that will translate into long-term success within the franchise.
This kind of low-risk, high-reward trade is an ideal outcome for a rebuilding team like Brooklyn, and the job Sean Marks has done up to this point should be applauded. They still have a long way to go, but these Brooklyn Nets are on the rise.