Two teams are off the table, which limits the options for the Philadelphia 76ers as they try to trade away the disappointing Jahlil Okafor. Right now it looks like the Chicago Bulls and New Orleans Pelicans are the remaining options for them.
Okafor sat out the Sixers last game, with head coach commenting that he didn’t want to “complicate things” with a potential trade in the air. Okafor played in just 53 games last season, and has appeared in 37 so far this season, averaging 11.6 points in 23.2 minutes, relegated to a bench role half the time, not to mention not really meshing with Joel Embiid when the two shared the court. Okafor was more meaningful offensively last season, but his defensive and rebounding problems seem to leave the Sixers with no choice but to try and get something out of their third overall draft pick in 2015, especially with Embiid looking like the future of the franchise, once his current meniscus tear is behind him.
And what do the Sixers want for Okafor? A future first round draft pick. Both the Bulls (7th in the East, 26-28) and the Pelicans (21-33, outside the top 8 in the West) have. The Bulls even own the Kings first round pick if it falls outside the top 10 which is a possibility considering Sacramento are very much alive in the playoff race. Both the Denver Nuggets and Portland Trail Blazers were also in talks with the Sixers for an Okafor trade, but instead they dealt with each other, as Mason Plumlee went to Denver and Jusuf Nurkic joined Portland.
One team that was previously mentioned is the Los Angeles Lakers, but they owe their first round this season to the Sixers if it falls outside the top 3, and they owe their 2019 first round pick to the Orlando Magic. As we mentioned last week, Mitch Kupchak is under review right now and might not hold on to his GM job for long. He’s a great evaluator of talent, but some of the deals he’s made in terms of contract value (Mozgov, Deng) and what he’s given up in trades, make his current position rocky, and for good reason.
Where does Okafor end up? He might be going home back to Chicago. The Bulls could use someone who can score points in the paint. Okafor has a lot of minuses, but coming off the bench to give Chicago a missing offensive option isn’t so bad, and might be a great way for him to have a fresh start in a familiar setting. Playing in New Orleans could put him next to another Chicago native, Anthony Davis. The Pelicans probably have a bigger need for him, but I guess it comes down to what each team is willing to give up. The Bulls have the extra draft pick.
The warning signs about Okafor were there during his college days. A talented player offensively, but one who seems to take it too easy when he doesn’t have the ball in his hands. Duke won the national championship thanks to the minutes when he was off the floor, and his rookie season in Philadelphia had a lot of bad in it, despite his decent numbers. With the Sixers moving on from their tanking days into a new phase, suddenly Okafor doesn’t seem to have a place in the team anymore, sometimes even looking like the whole situation if toxic for both him and the team. A fresh start would be good for him, but it doesn’t promise it’ll put him in a position to show he’s more than a one-trick pony, which at some point will push him out of this league a lot sooner than anyone anticipated.