One thing is certain and that is the Philadelphia 76ers have to many centers and not enough minutes for all of these young, high draft picks. I have already written about potential Nerlens Noel trades, as it seemed like Noel would be the one out of him, Jahlil Okafor and Joel Embiid that would get traded. Embiid is a future star and isn’t going anywhere. With Noel’s negative comments about the 76ers needing to figure out their rotation and that he was too good to only play 8 minutes, it looked like he would be the one to go. Embiid recently said that Noel is his best friend on the team and Embiid wants to try out playing together, which he and Noel really had not had the chance to. When your best player and future superstar says someone on the team is their “best friend,” you do what you can to keep them around. In the few games that Noel and Embiid have gotten the chance to play together, they have looked much more compatible together than Embiid and Okafor. After watching the combos of these players get their chance to play together, the Sixers need to do whatever possible to move Okafor instead of Noel
I have always felt that Okafor was the right choice in the 2015 draft. At the time Okafor, D’Angelo Russell, and Karl Anthony-Towns were considered the three surefire things in the 2015 draft. I remember watching the draft praying the Towns or Russell would slip to the Sixers but when they were taken #1 and #2, the Sixers had to pounce on Okafor. In retrospect, it is easy to say they should have taken Kristaps Porzingis, Devin Booker or a number of other players but at the time this was the right call. No one knew if Embiid would ever even step on an NBA court after his injuries and there was a hope that Noel and Okafor could play together. That hope quickly evaporated, as the floor spacing was horrific. From the looks of Okafor’s 2015-2016 stats, he looked like a future star. 17.5 points, 7 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game. This may be elite for your average rookie, but it could have possibly been a case of a good player on a bad team. What really stood out is what a defensive liability Okafor was and that for him to be successful, the team must be built around his slow-footed, half court style. He is a traditional post up big man in the mold of Al Jefferson that are close to extinct in todays fast paced, space the floor NBA.
The Sixers may struggle to get what they believe is the right value for Okafor, who not even two years ago was a potential #1 overall pick. If the Noel-Embiid pairing shows signs of continued cohesion, the Sixers may just have to cut their losses with Okafor to solve the dilemma they have. Okafor is not the right fit for most teams in the NBA, so it may be harder to find the right trade partner. The fact that he is under team control on a rookie scale contract is a selling point Noel does not posses, as Noel is a restricted free agent after this season. If the Sixers decide that they are going to hold onto Noel over Okafor, the Sixers are not necessarily in as much of a rush. With Noel, they are on a time constraint with his pending free agency (although restricted). With Okafor being under team control for two years following this, the Sixers could play it slow and hold onto all three of Embiid, Okafor and Noel. Although Okafor isn’t likely to gain any trade value over this time, he may be held onto as an insurance policy for Embiid. Although Embiid is having an All-Star caliber season, we still have no idea how his health will hold up over the long term. If the Sixers hold onto all three, there is also the possibility that Okafor is traded during the draft in June. If the season ended today and the lottery played out in the order of the odds, the Sixers would hold the 2nd and 7th overall picks. Perhaps the 7th pick and Okafor would be enough to move them up to the 4th or 5th pick. In the meantime, let’s take a look at a couple potential trades the Sixers could make to solve their center dilemma before the trade deadline.
Sixers Receive: Jeremy Lamb, Roy Hibbert, Hornets’ 2018 first round pick, lottery protected
Hornets Receive: Jahlil Okafor, Sixers’ 2018 second round pick
Why the Sixers do this trade: Although Jeremy Lamb has underwhelmed in his career thus far, part of that has to do with the fact Lamb was part of the package for James Harden so everyone had high hopes. Lamb would slot in at shooting guard this season, with my guess being he and Gerald Henderson would split playing time pretty evenly. Lamb gives them a still young, and relatively cheap guard for the next few years. If the Sixers decided to move on from either Henderson or Lamb, both should be easy to trade. The 2018 first round pick would give the Sixers additional draft ammo. The Sixers young core is going to need extensions in the near future so any young players coming in through the next couple drafts will just be more young talent on reasonable contracts.
Why the Sixers don’t do this trade: Roy Hibbert shouldn’t make or break this deal as the Sixers have cap space but he definitely is not a positive. I would expect him to be waived. If the Sixers do not value Lamb enough to think he will be around the next few year, which I don’t think is the case, the lone 2018 first round pick may not be enough. My guess would be that it will fall between pick #16-22 and trading just that for a former #3 overall pick is not ideal.
Why the Hornets do this trade: Charlotte succeeded the past few years with their current core around Al Jefferson so they may feel they have the fit for Okafor. It seems easy to forget that Okafor is a very talented player; he just is not a fit in the 2017 NBA. If they can get what they believe is a 20 ppg scorer for what to them is spare parts, they should jump on it.
Why the Hornets don’t do this trade: Even though Jefferson worked well for the Hornets in the past, they might not want to move backwards. They are probably not bringing back Hibbert next year and they would be glad to get rid of his salary if they are picking up another center anyways, but Lamb, who has a value contract, and the pick, which will have a value contract may be too much.
Sixers Receive: Joakim Noah, Knicks’ 2017 first round pick, Rockets’ 2017 second round pick
Knicks Receive: Jahlil Okafor
Why the Sixers do this trade: Noah could provide some locker room leadership, but this is about the picks. Adding two more young players to their core will just give more young firepower going forward or the ammunition to move up in the draft.
Why the Sixers don’t do this trade: This would just be adding another center to their roster, one I don’t think would be happy riding the bench and being the locker room leadership. Not only would he not play but also he would be the highest paid player on the team this year. With 3 years remaining on his contract after this one, I don’t see a buyout happening. A mid first round pick and late second round pick is probably not enough to take on the salary.
Why the Knicks do this trade: A mid first round pick and a bad contract for last year’s #3 pick sounds too good to be true. Porzingis has the size defensive ability to help cover up Okafor’s shortcomings on that side of the ball and the spacing to let Okafor have the paint on offense. These two young players could be the frontcourt of the future and keep he Knicks relevant for the next 10 years.
Why the Knicks don’t do this trade: Phil Jackson is not someone I think would admit he was wrong. He gave Noah all that money and it has been a failure. So first this to happen Jackson would first have to admit that it was a mistake and then follow that up by giving up assets to get rid of that mistake. Sorry Knicks fans but I believe Noah will be playing out this contract in NY.
Sixers Receive: Ian Mahinmi or Marcin Gortat, Wizards’ 2017 first round pick, top 10 protected, top 5 protected in 2018
Wizards Receive: Jahlil Okafor
Why the Sixers do this trade: A lot of these trades have the common theme of taking on another team’s bad contract and getting picks in return. That is how far Okafor’s value has sunk in 18 months. The way the Sixers accept this trade is if this is the best pick value they can get.
Why the Sixers don’t do this trade: If the Sixers have a better option that includes what would be better picks, this trade becomes irrelevant. This is similar to the Knicks trade in which you are taking on a center’s contract that the other team wont have use for with Okafor.
Why the Wizards do this trade: The Wizards would get rid of whichever center the value less. Mahinmi seems like the better complement to Okafor, but with his injury history, the Wizards might want to ship him out now and not deal with his lengthy and expensive contract. The Wizards have some core pieces in place with Bradley Beal, John Wall, and Otto Porter. Adding a young center to the mix could set the Wizards up for success with these four core players. Markieff Morris gives the Wizards the spacing needed on offense, but the paint would be wide open with Morris and Okafor down low.
Why the Wizards don’t do this trade: John Wall is the focus of this team and we all know how fast he is. He might be able to set up Okafor with easy looks down low, but just like most teams, they may not want a center with the skillset of Okafor.
Sixers Receive: Terry Rozier, Celtics’ 2018 first round pick
Celtics Receive: Jahlil Okafor
Why the Sixers do this trade: This is a trade where the Sixers are getting some value in the player, not just the pick. The Celtics’ pick will likely be a late first round pick next year, but adding a young point guard helps ease that pain a little. Rozier has not really gotten a chance to shine on the Celtics with their deep roster and a change of scenery would do him well. Although not an elite shooter, he should be able to play off ball and defend well when Simmons is running the point on offense.
Why the Sixers don’t do this trade: If the Sixers end up with two early first round picks this year due to receiving the Lakers pick, I would expect one of those to be used on a point guard. If the Sixers do not feel as though Rozier would be an upgrade over TJ McConnell, Rozier would be sitting behind Jerryd Bayless, Ben Simmons, McConnell and their 2017 pick, Rozier might not even have a roster spot come opening day 2017. A late 2018 pick should not be enough to get it done.
Why the Celtics do this trade: The Celtics currently have more assets than any other team in the NBA. If anyone can afford to take a risk on a talented player who might not originally fit in, it’s the Celtics. Marcus Smart, Isaiah Thomas, and Demetrius Jackson are all point guards currently on the roster so there are not a lot of minutes to go around. With Brooklyn’s 2018 first round pick and such a deep roster, they would probably draft and stash with their own 2018 pick anyway. So giving these two assets up for Okafor isn’t too much. Center is the Celtic’s one position they could use a little more depth. If any coach can find a way to work Okafor into a 2017 NBA offense, Brad Stevens is one of the better bets.
Why the Celtics don’t do this trade: I think the Celtics would prefer a defensive minded center, so Noel would be their choice if trading with the Sixers. This is not the superstar Danny Ainge has been hoping for, but still leaves him with assets and cap space to do some more maneuvering.
Sixers Receive: Corey Brewer, Sam Dekker, Rockets’ 2017 first round pick
Rockets Receive: Jahlil Okafor, Nik Stauskas, Knicks’ 2019 second round pick
Why the Sixers do this trade: Sam Dekker is someone I valued higher than others di in the 2015 draft. I thought he would be a better Chandler Parsons for the Rockets but he seems underutilized so far and could slot in as the Sixers starting small forward until the Ben Simmons injury/position problems are solved. A late first round pick would push this over the top and Corey Brewer would be thrown in to make salaries work.
Why the Sixers don’t do this trade: If the Sixers are valuing draft picks more than players, this is not the trade for them. Given that this gives them both a pick and player, I think the Sixers would be very ok with this being the trade they make.
Why the Rockets do this trade: With Clint Capela going down with a serious injury, they Rockets could use another center. Although Okafor and Capela have opposite skill sets, this may make the long term outlook of having them both on the roster better than if the Rockets were to acquire Noel, which would give the Rockets to very similar players in Capela and Noel. Letting Okafor go to work on offense down low with four shooters around him could be a nightmare for other defenses. Mike D’Antoni has never been one for defense and perhaps he is one of the coaches who could find a home on the blocks for Okafor to play a significant role.
Why the Rockets don’t do this trade: A Ryan Anderson and Okafor frontcourt may light up the scoreboard on offense but that defense would be so bad. If there was one team to not worry about the defensive deficiencies it would be these rockets who are shooting threes at a record pace and trying to outscore everyone. This might be too much for even these Rockets to overcome and knowing they have a ton of offensive weapons, it might not be worth the risk.
Sixers Receive: Omer Asik, Pelicans’ 2017 first round pick, top 5 protected
Pelicans Receive: Jahlil Okafor
Why the Sixers do this trade: I think this could be the best 2017 pick the Sixers could get. Right now the Pelicans are in possession of what would be the 8th pick in the draft and it is likely to stay right around there. With the 2017 draft predicted to be a strong and deep class, this would give the Sixers 3, top-10 picks and would be able to fill in a lot of their roster gaps.
Why the Sixers don’t do this trade: Another trade, another bad center contract coming back in return. Asik is not getting paid over $12 million in any season under contract, but that contract runs through the 2019-2020 season. That is a long time to have someone sitting on your bench taking up a good portion of your payroll, even with the rising salary cap.
Why the Pelicans do this trade: The Pelicans get younger and cheaper and give Anthony Davis what is hopeful another foundation piece. When looking at the Pelicans’ roster, there is not much to get excited about besides Davis. Buddy Hield could grow into an above-average player, but nothing about him screams star. Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans both have probably hit their peak and are both in the last year of their respective contracts. Davis can hopefully make up for Okafor on the defensive end, while also spacing the floor for Okafor on offense.
Why the Pelicans don’t do this trade: Anthony Davis is signed through 2019-2020, with 2020-2021 as a player option. That may seem like a long time away but the Pelicans need to be focused on keeping Davis happy. That means making the playoffs and surrounding Davis with players who fit his style. I could see the Pelicans rather having a defensive minded center so Davis does not have to exert that much energy on that end of the floor. If the Pelicans see Okafor as anything but an above average starter next to Davis, and hopefully an All-Star, they may feel as though the risk of spending this draft pick on someone else and keeping Asik around to do some of the dirty work down low.
Sixers Receive: Allen Crabbe, Cavaliers’ 2018 first round pick
Blazers Receive: Jahlil Okafor
Why the Sixers do this trade: Shooting and a draft pick, just what the doctor ordered. Allen Crabbe seems to be a name coming up often as a target for the Sixers due to his age, shooting and the fact the Sixers have the cap room to absorb his salary without having to match salaries. Whether Crabbe is coming off the bench or the starting shooting guard, he give skills that the Sixers desperately need, and I could see a lot of possessions ending with a Simmons to Crabbe for a 3.
Why the Sixers don’t do this trade: The Sixers may feel as though Crabbe’s play does not justify his large contract. If Crabbe were to pick up his player option, the Sixers would be paying him over $18 million a year through the end of the 2019-2020 season. They may feel as though they can get the same production for way cheaper from a future draft pick, something they could get in a Okafor trade.
Why the Trail Blazers do this trade: The Trail Blazers have a lot of money invested in wings, and this past summer when all that money was spent, people questioned it. I think the Blazers did it knowing that they would have to move one of either Evan Turner or Allen Crabbe. This move gets rid of an expensive player that is somewhat redundant on this team while only sacrificing what will be a late 2018 first round pick. This is not a high price to pay at all for a position of need on this underwhelming team. Adding an elite offensive post player may not be exactly the move the Blazers would want as they have a lot of offensive players as is, but there is no doubt in my mind Terry Scott could find a way to make things work with Jahlil Okafor as one of his main big men.
Why the Trail Blazers don’t do this trade: The Blazers have limited trade assets and are in a win now mode. They may value defensive minded center more than Okafor and they cannot sacrifice two of their few assets for someone that isn’t a necessity.
Sixers Receive: DeMarcus Cousins
Kings Receive: Jahlil Okafor, Robert Covington, Sixers’ 2017 first round pick, Lakers’ 2017 first round pick, Kings’ 2019 first round pick, Thunder’s 2020 first round pick
Why the Sixers do this trade: A DeMarcus Cousins/Joel Embiid frontcourt with Ben Simmons feeding them the ball is a terrifying thought for opposing defenses, especially if they could find some shooters to put around them. Not only would that be the most intimidating frontcourt the NBA has seen since Tim Duncan and David Robinson but it would be so entertaining, Think Cousins and Embiid smacking each others butts up the court in the one game they have played against each other and picture that all year long. I could see them developing a Kyle Lowry/ DeMar DeRozan relationship. They both have the floor spacing abilities along with being elite defenders and rebounders to make this work and they clearl resect each other’s game.
Why the Sixers don’t do this trade: For all the skill DeMarcus Cousins possess, he tends to have a bad attitude and is a distraction to his team. The Sixers may feel that is not worth bringing into this young locker room and that they are better off building organically and using their draft picks on positions of need and letting these players develop. Cousins could come in with a sense of entitlement, something no one wants and although he and Embiid seem to like each other now, could end up butting heads.
Why the Kings do this trade: If the Kings were to make this trade, I think it is safe to assume Rudy Gay would have already been traded or the next one out the door. There would be no established star, or anything even close to one on this roster. It is safe to say that the Kings would be one of the worst teams in the NBA for the rest of the season and at least next year. Okafor would be able to come in and be the focal point of that offense much like he was last season for the Sixers. The Kings would not have to wait too long to reap some of the benefits of the draft picks, with two likely being in the top 10 this year, expediting the rebuild. With what will hopefully for them be another draft pick or young players for Rudy Gay, the Kings will hopefully not be in a rebuild too long. The only other team who I can see creating a trade package that will match the Sixers is the Celtics. If Cousins is traded, I would expect it to be to one of these two teams.
Why the Kings don’t do this trade: I do not think the Kings will trade Cousins, especially not this year. When you have the best center in the NBA on your team, you do whatever you can to hold onto to that. Even though the Kings are getting a solid return and what could end up being four high draft picks, draft picks are not guaranteed, no matter how high of a pick. With the Kings currently fighting for a playoff spot, I do not see this happening, no matter how entertaining I think it would be.
Prediction: The Sixers decide that they will resign Nerlens Noel come the offseason and move forward with Noel and Embiid leaving Okafor as the odd man out. I do not think he will be traded during the season and will be moved at the draft or right before for a pick in the 9-14 range. I would prefer to see one of the trades above, just as a fan who likes the drama of the trades, while also getting to see the players traded on their new teams immediately as opposed to waiting for the new season.
*any draft picks that were acquired in a previous trade hold the same protections unless otherwise noted