2016 NBA Trade Rumors: Are Jahlil Okafor’s Days in Philly Numbered?
The state of the Philadelphia 76ers still isn’t a very good one. The Sixers were once again horrendous during the 2015-16 NBA season, bad enough to secure the #1 pick in the 2016 NBA Draft.
Come June 23rd, and possibly even before, the franchise will have some serious thinking to do. They may even have some big moves to make.
One big decision will be who to take with that top pick. LSU phenom Ben Simmons seems like the logical pick, while some think Duke’s Brandon Ingram is the more proven scorer and the better natural player.
That is a back and forth few would want to have to deal with.
Okafor Staying or Going?
It’s also a situation that may bleed into another: what is to be done with second-year star center, Jahlil Okafor?
— NBC Sports (@NBCSports) June 13, 2016
Okafor was the team’s lottery pick a year ago, and while he was every bit the offensive stud he was made out to be, he also left the organization wanting more when it came to his rebounding, defensive effort and maturity.
Okafor averaged over seven rebounds per game and chipped in the unsurprising 17 points per game, but given his size and talent, he wasn’t a tenacious rebounder and his defense was, to put it bluntly, regrettable.
His decision-making off the court was also questionable, as Okafor got into some scuffles away from the court and was even handed a brief suspension by his own team.
Further complicating Okafor’s NBA future is the current log-jam of talented bigs in Philly. Nerlens Noel is arguably best suited for the five spot, but with Okafor running the show there, he was used all too often as an ill fitted power forward. And even when the Sixers would get it right and keep Noel at center, it forced Okafor to play out of position as a power forward.
A potentially finally arriving Joel Embiid is also a problem. There is no guarantee Embiid is the player the Sixers thought they drafted, nor is there a guarantee he stays healthy enough to ever hit the floor in a game. That’s the hope, however, and after waiting for two whole seasons, it sounds like the Sixers want to see what they have in the former Kansas big man.
That, plus the potentially incoming Simmons – who many believe is ideally a power forward – creates chaos down low for a Philadephia squad starving for talent but understandably trying to get the right pieces to start to build toward something meaningful.
Okafor Likely Gone
As it turns out, that could lean to the demise of Okafor. It wouldn’t be for nothing, of course, at least not in Philly’s eyes.
In a winning move, the Sixers would dump a valuable player at a position of strength and replace him with two different players that are superior at rebounding and defending. That would also free up more minutes at power forward, where Simmons seems to be the more natural fit.
That could still have them dealing either Noel or Embiid down the road, but given Noel’s offensive shortcomings and Embiid’s shaky health history, it might make more sense to use Noel at the four and five and limit Embiid’s minutes at the five spot during his first pro season.
Where does that leave Okafor? Not in Philadephia, that’s for sure, and sadly, that’s all we can assume for now.
The big question, then, is where could Okafor be headed and when? The when, if it’s happening, has to be coming soon. Simmons is likely on his way into town and if the Sixers are serious about moving on from Okafor or diminishing his role, they have to know his value only goes down from here.
Naturally, that should have the Sixers looking for the best possible deal this summer, perhaps right around draft time.
There have already been whispers that the Los Angeles Lakers aren’t going to be takers.
Not-really-a-report-but-might-be-considered-a-report: The Lakers aren’t interested in Jahlil Okafor. https://t.co/qTyTAQbbvY
— Anthony F. Irwin (@AnthonyIrwinLA) June 15, 2016
Los Angeles has a young big to develop in Julius Randle and didn’t seem too enamored with Okafor in last year’s draft. They still have a need at center beyond veteran big man Roy Hibbert, but could also seen Okafor as a huge headache. Considering they already have Randle and prima dona point guard D’Angelo Russell to deal with, odds are they don’t see Okafor as a must-have prospect or an answer to what ails them.
That doesn’t mean Okafor isn’t wanted somewhere, however. Okafor is still very young and can absolutely mature, hone his rebounding skills and concentrate on becoming a better defender. The offensive skill-set he has is already tantalizing and even that could continue to improve.
There are plenty of teams that could value him long-term, and some even stand out atop this year’s draft. One could be the Boston Celtics, who seem hell bent on adding a go-to offensive player, as well as beefing up their high-end talent down low. Landing Okafor in the right deal could accomplish that, and it could end up being a much better move that going for broke by paying someone like Dwight Howard big money.
Boston isn’t the only team that should and could pay Okafor some mind, though. Other rebuilding yet potentially competitive teams like the New York Knicks, Chicago Bulls, Dallas Mavericks and Milwaukee Bucks could all make some sense.
There aren’t any direct ties to Okafor at the moment, and it’s still possible the Sixers don’t end up pulling the trigger on a deal. Perhaps that ends up being because they still value Okafor and think he can be great, or maybe they don’t respect the offers they get based on Okafor’s upside and the pick they already invested in him.
If a move is coming, however, a trade with the Boston Celtics might be the leading possibility. We still have over a week until some big moves could go down in this summer’s draft. Consider Okafor on high alert.
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