clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Jahlil Okafor Is What "The Process" Looks Like For Sixers, Fans

Jahlil Okafor's addition to the big-man mix has been met with mixed reviews, even among Sam Hinkie supporters. But if you bought into The Process, this is what that maxim looks like.

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

For months and months, Sixers fans have argued about "The Plan", "The Process" and what it all means to support the 76ers under Sam Hinkie. The selection of Jahlil Okafor at No. 3 has tested some of the most ardent Hinkie supporters, including some that write for this website. But make no mistake -- the decision to take him is The Process™ in its purest form.

Selecting Jahlil Okafor is fascinating on so many levels. Despite the bluster about Kristaps Porzingis in recent weeks and the fit of D'Angelo Russell alongside the pieces already in place, there was not a better, more successful teenager on planet Earth than Jahlil Okafor in 2014-15.

You can boil that down to numbers-- 66 percent from the field, 23 points and 11 boards per 40 minutes. You can boil it down to hardware -- a National Championship, Naismith runner-up and ACC Player of the Year trophy. You can even boil it down to the "eye test" -- he's got hands like Sasquatch, a ballerina's feet in the post and a move-menu that makes Cheesecake Factory's selection look miniscule. However you slice it, Okafor has both a history of success and specific tools that will help him continue on that path.

What the Sixers did by selecting Okafor is very simple, and yet the context makes it feel so complicated. How do you fit him alongside Nerlens Noel and Joel Embiid? How do you get fair value in a trade if teams know you're overloaded with big men? There aren't real answers to those questions yet; we haven't yet seen the guys play together that fans are counting on to lead their beloved franchise back to prominence.

Yet that's the very reason why Okafor was the pick. What we don't know far outweighs the things we know. Given that premise, selecting Okafor is the only decision that ever made sense, and it's the only one that meshes with the rhetoric supporting this rebuild style to begin with.

This undertaking began as part of an understanding that there would be no stone unturned on the path to finding a superstar, a headliner who could put a team on his shoulders and anchor the franchise. Maybe that was never going to be a player on the level of a Tim Duncan or a LeBron James, future members of basketball's class of immortals, but you set off on journeys shooting for the highest possible goal.

The third year of Hinkie's stewardship is upcoming, and The Guy™ has not yet made an appearance in a Sixers uniform. Philadelphia has been fortunate enough to bring in promising talent and unearth jewels in areas where other teams stopped digging after the first thin layer of dirt. But the goal has not changed and the goalposts aren't shifting; they are still looking for someone who they believe can take them to the promised land.

Say what you will about Okafor's deficiencies -- and I've said a lot -- but there is no answer for him in the post. He will decimate teams in the paint and force coaches to adjust gameplans. He has to get better in several major areas, particularly on defense and at the charity stripe, but he is a walking nightmare for opponents. Guarding him is the personification of a classic Mike Tyson quote: "Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth."

The level of dominance he's exerted at every level and the skill set in his possession should excite every Sixers fan, regardless of how much you pined for a guy who fit alongside the in-place cast. There are no injury concerns or delayed timetables, just jumphooks, dunks and bank-shots on the ledger. This isn't rolling back the timetable or pushing decisions off, it's getting the biggest, strongest dude in the Draft and betting on him to succeed.

That has always been the plan in Philadelphia, and will continue to be the plan until someone steps forward and removes all doubt about who the Sixers are building around. It might still be Embiid, or another unknown guy who becomes that franchise player, but under this regime, nothing is certain until that distinction is thoroughly earned. With foot injuries and offensive concerns plaguing the players in place, there is no room to hesitate when an Okafor is available in the draft.

For now, Jahlil Okafor is the walking embodiment of Sam Hinkie's Sixers, and you should be amped to see where they go from here. Until he's found, the search for Philadelphia's shining light continues.