A Look at Jahlil Okafor and His Terrible Advanced Stats

If you've ever spent time on a Philadelphia 76ers message board, you've seen an argument about Jahlil Okafor.

The man is the point of convergence for all Sixers fans because he's either the future of the franchise, or a complete waste of space who needs to be traded immediately.

Everyone who dislikes him points to advanced statistics, which do not look good. But is that fair? How well do these stats work independently of the team? We know the Sixers were terrible last year, but did they make his stats look worse, or did he make the team look worse? 

Advanced statistics are complicated. It's hard to discern what one player can do independently of his four teammates.

The positives

Jahlil is a solid offensive player. He has been lauded for his footwork on offense, and the result is that he's a pretty effective inside scorer - especially for a 20-year-old. When he gets the ball and immediately goes to the hoop (AKA he has the ball for less than 2 seconds), he makes 58% of his shots, per nba.com/stats. He takes a lot of those shots, and they're serving him quite well. 

Additionally, he's generally taking good shots - half of his field goal attempts are from within 5 feet of the hoop. That's an area where he shot about 62% last season. Obviously, guys should be making a high percentage of their shots within there, but for comparison's sake, DeMarcus Cousins only made 55% inside. Some other notable names: Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe - 58%, Pau Gasol - 56%, Brook Lopez - 61%. 

The guy has a mean first step.

Nba.com has a strange disagreement where it shows one set of statistics on a player's personal page and then a different set on the league-wide stats page, but here's the breakdown of one that will blow your mind. Jahlil Okafor's defensive stats page says that opponents shoot 6.6% worse against him from inside 6 feet than they do against the rest of the league. They're also 5.2% worse against him from inside 10 feet than against the rest of the league.

Those are baffling numbers.

When you look at the league-wide page, the shooting percentages are different from inside 5 feet, but it still shows Okafor with a better opponent FG% than Andre Drummond, Dwight Howard, Brook Lopez, and even Marc Gasol. If you move out into the 5-9 foot range, Okafor's opponents are shooting worse than those of Andrew Bogut, Greg Monroe, DeAndre Jordan, and even Nerlens Noel.

Regardless of what you came here expecting to read, those numbers are shocking. Of course, they're not the only advanced statistics out there.

The negatives

VORP stands Value Over Replacement Player and it's a statistic that attempts to determine how many points better/worse a player is per 100 possessions than a replacement-level player. By using lots of averages and measures, it normalizes for a league-average team in the process. VORP is not a bullet-proof stat. None of them are. VORP has Jahlil Okafor as being -0.8 last year and being essentially a replacement-level player. This is one of the stats that "trade Jah" folks are leaning on.

Among players with an average of 20+ minutes on the court, Okafor had the 2nd worst Net rating among centers in the league.

Net rating essentially tells the point differential between team and opponent, while a player is on the court. For Jahlil, that's not good.

The theory was that he would make the team better and they'd play closer to their opponents when he was on the floor. The statistics say otherwise. With Okafor on the floor, the Sixers averaged 92 points per 100 possessions. Their opponents averaged 108 points per 100 possessions. 

You would expect that any player on the Sixers would have a negative Net rating because the team was so terrible, but -16 is insane. Nerlens Noel's Net rating was -11, despite playing for the same terrible team and occasionally sharing the floor with Jahlil. Okafor's was the worst on the team by several points. In fact, the entire team's season-long Net rating was -10.4. Not a great sign for Okfaor.

Most importantly, while this is not exactly and "advanced" stat, Jahlil was among the league leaders in Times Someone Ball Faked Over Your Head and You Fell For It.

It comes down to this: is he as bad as the +/- stats and the Net rating stats claim he is?

Probably not.

Is he actually an above-average defender like the shooting percentages claim?

Probably not.

Is he better than almost anyone who saw the floor for Philly in the last several years?

Yes.


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