The Okafor Era Begins

By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)

The Sixers opened summer league play last night with a 74-71 loss to the Spurs. They had a couple chances to tie the game in the closing seconds, but Jahlil Okafor stepped on the end line for a turnover and Jordan McRae missed a last-chance three-pointer. Still, it’s summer league, so the results are largely insignificant. What really counts is player development and evaluation, so with that in mind, here were 5 my takeaways from the first glorified scrimmage of the year.

1. Big Jah was who we thought he was.

Both Jahlil Okafor’s strengths and weaknesses were on full display in his professional debut. The Duke product was 0-4 from the foul line, often looked tentative on defense, was sloppy with the ball on occasion, and looked a bit winded at times. However, he was also clearly the most skilled player on the court, finishing with 18 points and 10 rebounds. Jah showed off decent speed running in transition for a few easy buckets, and good lord, the post moves, they should be encased in glass and displayed in a museum.

2. Richaun Holmes will be a factor this season.

The Sixers second-round pick only played 16 minutes but made the most of them, showing great energy on both ends of the floor. Holmes hit a three and a long 20-footer, displaying that potential spacing from the power forward position that could help him see the floor among a crowded Sixers frontcourt. He also had a couple steals and a great hustle play for a chasedown block. I think I’m going to like this kid.

3. Jerami Grant is bigger, but is he better?

Grant was the Sixers requisite ‘added 15 pounds of muscle’ guy and he certainly looked bigger out there. He also did a nice job getting into the lane and drawing fouls (5-10 from the foul line). I’ll never question a guy wanting to throw down tomahawk dunks in traffic. Grant certainly looked a step above the competition, but he should, as a guy coming in with a full year of NBA experience under his belt. Whether he continues to improve against NBA-level competition will be determined by his outside shooting, which looked awful. Grant finished 0-5 from behind the arc (4-13 total), and his attempts were ugly-as-sin bricks. It was just one game, so certainly no reason to panic, but something to keep an eye on the next few games.

4. Jordan McRae needs to calm down.

McRae did a lot of nice things in hitting 3 of 7 threes and regularly blowing by his initial defender. Once he found himself in the lane though, he looked out of control, throwing up wild shots (4-13, which means 1-6 on twos) and committing bad turnovers (6 total). Maybe he was just anxious to show he belonged, but I’d really like to see him develop some short pull-ups or euro-steps when he gets closer to the basket. The Sixers certainly need help at the guard position and you can see the faint outline of a guy who could fit the bill in McRae.

5. We’re spoiled with the 3M’s.

In case you needed a reminder of how good Sixers fans have it with the Marc. Malik, and Molly announcing team, Craig Bolerjack and Ron Boone were happy to help. Not only was the Jazz announcing duo just painfully boring, but they made numerous simple errors about the guys on the floor, including calling Jerami Grant ‘Jeremiah’, and mentioning something to the effect of Furkan Aldemir trying to play his way onto an NBA court (he appeared in 41 games last year guys, including two against your Jazz). I know they were doing every one of the games so they couldn’t do in-depth research on everyone, but come on. Hopefully for viewers’ sakes, they do a better job tonight.

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