The Philadelphia 76ers made the right decision in last week’s draft by taking Jahil Okafor. Yes, their last three primary draft acquisitions are big men, but when considering Joel Embiid’s injury risk, they had to take him when the Los Angeles Lakers left him on the draft board.
So now that the biggest day of the year is over, what’s next?
Any day now, the Sixers will come out with an announcement on Embiid’s future. They could say he’ll continue the rehab process and hope that eventually his right foot will completely heal. They could also say he’ll have another surgery, which would effectively end his 2015-16 season and make us wonder if he’ll ever play more minutes for the 76ers than Andrew Bynum.
The good news is that no matter what, fans won’t be as affected by it emotionally as they otherwise would’ve been had Okafor not been drafted. At this point, any playing time for Embiid should be considered a bonus, and we should expect the worst. I’ve come to the conclusion that Nerlens Noel and Okafor will be the frontcourt anchors of the future, and that’s not a bad thing.
We’ll be able to speculate a little more of what that frontcourt will be like once we see Okafor in summer league play next week. If there are any concerns about him that may come to fruition, it’ll be at the defensive end, so notice how he defends one-on-one and pick-and-rolls. At the same time, take note of his strengths: His tenacity around the rim offensively, his post moves, his passing out of the post, and his knack for offensive rebounding.
In terms of free agency, expect the 76ers to do next to nothing outside of re-signing their own players or signing new ones for minor roles. I’m surprised there was even talk of spending their money this summer on players such as Kawhi Leonard and Jimmy Butler. These players, who were restricted free agents, obviously realized their situations are much better than almost anywhere else, and their teams were wise enough to take care of them financially, leading to agreements within 24 hours of the free agency period starting.
Interestingly, the 76ers did have a meeting scheduled with Butler, but he cancelled it once the Bulls made him a max offer. In order for this pattern to change, the 76ers will need a reason for top-of-the-class free agents to sign with them, and it’ll have to start with the play of Noel and Okafor.