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July 10, 2015

Okafor struggles again as Sixers lose to Jazz in overtime, 84-78

The Sixers finish the Utah Jazz Summer League with a 1-2 record

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It was a cool atmosphere at EnergySolutions Arena on Thursday night, where a partisan crowd worthy of a regular season game took in some summer action. The fans got to drive home happy after their Utah Jazz (minus Dante Exum and Rodney Hood) made a late comeback to force overtime and eventually won the game, 84-78.

Just like last time, I’ll stick with bullet points to list my observations. Giddy up: 

•    There is no need to bring back a full-fledged “Dunkwatch,” but oh my, Jerami Grant just ended Brock Motum (thanks to everyone for the correction). Our thoughts and prayers are with the Utah Jazz and Washington State families:

•    Overall, this was the Grant I was expecting to see in the first two games, the guy who established himself as a bona fide NBA player as a rookie. He didn’t get much run in the second half presumably because the Sixers wanted to get a look at some other players, but Grant shot 4-8 en route to 10 points in only 17 minutes of play.

•    Oh, Jahlil Okafor. Where to start? His effort level seemed to fluctuate in this game, which might be due to both a lack of conditioning and the altitude in Utah. Big Jah’s lackadaisical plays mostly came under the rim, where he wasn’t willing to be as physical as his opponents on box-outs or post-ups. Late in the game, he started to get better position on the block because worked for it. At this level, he won’t be able to simply stand down low and carve out great position. He’ll need to work for it.

•    Billy Lange ran some nice stuff for Okafor out of timeouts, but as was already mentioned, he could stand to do a better job of creating offense without a set play. After all, that is the primary reason the Sixers drafted him.

•    Here is a play where Okafor worked hard to establish better position. Even though the 19-year-old center had a poor outing, plays like this make you excited for when he’s surrounded by shooters like Robert Covington, Nik Stauskas, and Hollis Thompson for a team that has a full training camp to figure out how to space the floor. This is high-level stuff, a pass only a few NBA players can pull off (via Shamus Clancy):

•    One area of Okafor’s defense that felt reasonably encouraging was in the pick-and-roll, where he did a nice job of corralling opposing ball-handlers at the free-throw line and recovering to his man. His rotations on the back line when guards get into the lane need a ton of work, though.

•    The spacing is a real issue, but Okafor had a legitimately tough time creating a good shot against Cooley late in the game. That is mildly concerning. He finished with 11 points (5-10 FG, 1-3 FT), 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, and 6 turnovers. There were a couple of flashes, but Okafor again didn’t play at a very high level. Oh well, I guess that’s why one of Vegas’ forty nicknames is, “The Capital of Second Chances.”

•    Jordan McRae… not much of a passer.

•    I wrote about Richaun Holmes in a positive light today, so I blame myself for this: Late in the game, he made a nice hustle play by going for a block and altering the shot, but his feet got tangled up with a Jazz player and he had to break his fall with his upper-body:

•    The one silver lining for Holmes is that the injury happened in the summer, and the rehab is indeed only two months, he should be back on the floor in time for training camp.

•    If you ask Brett Brown, Furkan Aldemir’s screen setting in the stuff of legend. If you ask me, so is his moving screen setting. King Dunlap ain’t got nothing on Furkan:

•    Aldemir again submitted a nice performance, rebounding the ball like crazy (15 total in 32 minutes). I still can’t get on board for anything more than a role on the end of the bench, though.

Follow Rich on Twitter: @rich_hofmann