The Philadelphia 76ers are right back where they have been for the past three seasons. The 76ers announced that rookie Ben Simmons will not play this season due to lingering issues that have kept him off the court this year. No one should be surprised, not because of the injury but this is the 76ers we’re talking about.
However, this is a different time that the 76ers are living in and the right move for them would be to shut down Joel Embiid as well. It was reported Monday morning that Embiid is out indefinitely with knee swelling, so why would they risk bringing him back for the rest of the year and possibly cause more damage? I get that Embiid is the face of the team but it’s time to see what the rest can do.
When the 76ers made the Nerlens Noel trade fans were up in arms that the wrong player was given away. Now, the team is faced with Jahlil Okafor and an Embiid pairing and both players have basically the same skill-set. By sitting Embiid the team can see what Okafor can do solo. No one is expecting him to lead the team on some historic run and put them in playoff position but, it will be great to see what type of numbers he can post and the type of leader he can be.
This is an audition for Okafor.
If fans may not see it, this will determine his place on the team for the 2017 season. The 76ers are made up of players that will be either second unit or deep pine riders on most teams. However, since joining the 76ers, the majority of these guys have had no choice but to be thrown into heavy minutes. Players like Robert Covington, Richaun Holmes, T.J. McConnell and others. But, the true soul of the team has been in the play of Covington, Dario Saric, and Gerald Henderson. The grit this team plays with does not scream “tank”. They believe they have a chance every time they step on the court.
With Embiid out, the focal point of the offense will be Okafor. Can he be the go-to-guy for the remainder of the season or will he fold under the microscope? For the season, Okafor is averaging 12 points and five rebounds in 24 minutes. But, with Embiid out, Brett Brown will have him on the floor for maybe 32 minutes per. In his last 10 games, he has scored in double figures seven times but has yet to play over 29 minutes. This is the time where the 76ers need to know who they have tied their future too.
Okafor is the guy right now and he has to show the team they made the right decision by trading Noel and keeping him.