One of the few bright spots in the Philadelphia 76ers’ 0-10 start to the season has been center Jahlil Okafor. The 6-foot-11 rookie has mostly surpassed expectations, averaging 19 points, seven rebounds, and almost two blocks, while shooting 47 percent.
I thought a solid season for Okafor would involve averaging about 14 points and seven rebounds with a shooting percentage in the high 40s. He’s clearly been impressive, but how impressive? Let’s dig through the numbers to put his early-season performance in perspective:
• Despite what he’s done on the court, Okafor hasn’t been the NBA’s best rookie. The Minnesota Timberwolves’ Karl-Anthony Towns is averaging nearly 16 points, 10 rebounds, and over two blocks per game while helping the Timberwolves to a 4-6 record.
• Through 10 games, Okafor has become the fifth rookie in the last 30 years to average at least 19 points while shooting at least 49 percent, joining Shaquille O’Neal, David Robinson, Grant Hill, and Christian Laettner. Talk about being in good company (outside of Christian Laettner).
• Okafor’s PER of 14.86 means he’s been an average NBA player so far. Despite how well he’s been scoring the ball, his efficiency has dropped off to the point where it’s cancelling out his strengths. Now that his field-goal percentage has dropped to 47 percent, combined with a 59-percent free-throw percentage and obviously no 3-pointers being added in, he’s only averaging 1.08 points per shot. He needs to boost this ratio up to about 1.2 in order to be a more effective scorer.
So overall, Okafor is doing well and shows great promise; we just shouldn’t get carried away when looking deeper into his overall effectiveness. He needs to get to the foul line more, and his free-throw shooting can’t be a liability. After a strong start, his free-throw shooting has dropped to 59 percent. But on the other hand, his high field-goal percentage is a big plus considering how many rookies often struggle with their shooting as they adjust to NBA competition. Add in his soft touch and array of post moves, and fans can see why he has the potential to be the team’s first legitimate go-to scorer since Allen Iverson.