Jahlil Okafor should break that trend, but according to Philadelphia coach Brett Brown, the No. 3 pick might not be fully healthy to begin the season.
Recently, Brown said he’d like to have Okafor playing about 32 minutes a game. But a sore right knee has sidelined him for close to a week, thus putting him behind as far as on-court fitness is concerned and defitinely delaying the 32-minute runs his coach was hoping for.
“It’s not fair to him, it’s not fair to put him in that situation (to be fully ready by opening night),” said Brown. “The end game, I hope, will be about 32 minutes, maybe even more. But it’s really based on his fitness. He has no right to come out and be fit right from this injury. So I have to be smart with the minutes I give him. That is the end game that I hope to get to, 32 minutes. It’s going to be based on if you can go hard for four eight-minute stretches. If you can go for four eights, then that’s a good thing.”
The 76ers, understandably, will be cautious with Okafor. They’re not trying to win this season. There’s no reason to rush him back.
Okafor should still play a huge role this season. His low-post scoring is excellent, and this team lacks reliable offensive options. But if his conditioning is lagging due to this injury, it’ll make it even harder for Okafor to address his deficiencies, defending and rebounding.
Philadelphia might have to wait – once again – to see what its big draft pick can really do.