Jahlil Okafor explains exactly how he needs to improve

Despite averaging 17.5 points and 7.0 rebounds in his rookie season with the Philadelphia 76ers in the 2015-2016 campaign, Jahlil Okafor’s career has taken a nosedive.

Due to the presence of Joel Embiid as well as the fact that he fell out of the good graces of Philly’s coaching staff, his minutes were cut to 22.7 per game last season. He subsequently averaged 11.8 points and 4.8 boards and even received many healthy scratches as the season progressed.

Before he was traded a couple of weeks ago, he got on the court just twice for the Sixers this season.

Therefore, it appeared as though times might be better for him as a member of the Brooklyn Nets.

But, he has seen the court in just four out of 17 games with the Nets, logging 23, 11, 13 and 10 minutes respectively.

The 6’11”, 260-pound 22-year-old center was the third overall pick in the 2015 Draft and has a proven track record of being able to score on the interior. The organization made it clear that he needed to work on his conditioning and get back into game shape before he can earn extended playing time.

In a recent self-written article for The Players Tribune, Okafor revealed the three areas in which he needs to improve.

“As a player, I recognized some key areas in my game that needed work. One, I’ve gotta improve on defense — improve both my physical quickness and my mental discipline. Two, I have to rebound better — maintain smarter positioning, be more aggressive on the jump. And three, I want to be the type of player who makes his teammates better — whether that’s by gaining confidence as a passer, or getting more comfortable spacing the floor, or even just being a supportive guy in the huddle. I’ve been working hard, and I’ll continue to work hard, to make those things happen,” he wrote.

Although Okafor is a proven offensive talent, he was an obvious defensive liability in the past. Therefore, he seems aware of that and is clearly making an effort to improve on that end of the floor.

Since he doesn’t play above the rim, Okafor’s rebounding numbers haven’t been very impressive throughout his young career. In 30.0 minutes per game as a rookie, he had 7.0 boards per game and in 22.7 minutes last year, he had 4.8. The Nets coaching staff will most likely advise Okafor to use his large frame to box out opposing centers more successfully moving forward.

As seen recently, Okafor has been working to expand his shooting ability beyond the arc. Judging by his comments, it also seems that he’s trying to make an impact across the stat sheet, which will increase his overall value.

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Despite his lack of playing time right now, the Nets will undoubtedly give him extended time on the court as the season rolls along. If he progresses beside youngsters D’Angelo Russell, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Caris LeVert while Spencer Dinwiddie continues to play at a high level, the 15-25 Nets could gain a lot of confidence in advance of next season, with a future core possibly in place.

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