Wednesday, September 18, 2013
Who steps up for Okafor?
By Joe Kaiser
The injury problems that have plagued Emeka Okafor throughout his career popped up again on Wednesday with the news out of Washington that the veteran center will be out indefinitely after being diagnosed with a herniated disc in his neck. What a big blow to Okafor and the Wizards.
So where do the Wizards, which were already thin at center, turn from here if Okafor can't make it back for the start of the regular season? Lets look at their options.
Defensively, the absence of a rim protector and rebounder alongside Nene could prove to be a big issue. Mike Prada of BulletsForever.com touched on the defensive improvement the team made with a healthy Okafor and Nene last season.
"Washington was the league's fifth-best defensive team last year, but they were also 30th in offense and only 23rd in the stretch after John Wall returned from injury. The defensive improvement is great and very much tied to the Nene/Emeka Okafor duo," Prada wrote. "Nene's ability to chase smaller players and Okafor's strengths protecting the rim blended seamlessly and helped make life easier for everyone else. The Wizards surrendered just over 97 points per 100 possessions with those two in the game at the same time; they would have been second in the NBA if those two played all 48 minutes of every game and held up at the same rate."
Nene would likely move to the five until Okafor returns, with young power forwards Kevin Seraphin and Jan Vesely fending for minutes at the four along with Trevor Booker and newly acquired veteran Al Harrington. Pairing Nene with any of those four will cost the Wizards defensively, and probably mean more offensive putbacks for the opposition, but it could also cause the team to play more efficiently and effectively on the offensive end.
Another factor to consider here is that a prolonged absence from the lineup by Okafor will put more importance on the health of Nene. This is a Wizards team many experts project to make the playoffs this season, but that could all go out the window in a hurry if the team is forced to go without both Okafor and Nene for any length of time.