What Should the Sixers do With Jahlil Okafor?

Jahlil Okafor

Jahlil Okafor’s career as a 76er is quickly coming to an end. Philadelphia announced this week that they will not be exercising the 4th year option on Okafor, showing that the team plans to move on at season’s end. The Sixers are refusing to buy out his contract in full because they want to get a return piece(s) in a trade for him. The former Duke big man has appeared in just one game so far this season. He has expressed his desire to leave Philadelphia in order to rejuvenate his young NBA career. After

how this week has gone, it is hard not to side with him. I empathize with Okafor. He is still just 21 years old and wants the chance to prove himself with a franchise who believes in his ability. While I’m sure there are GM’s who still believe in his potential, Philadelphia has shown that they are willing to exercise some patience to find the right suitor.

Okafor averaged 18 and 7 in 53 contests as a rookie, but saw his numbers dip to 12 and 5 last season with the emergence of Joel Embiid. His role has been diminished even further in his 3rd season, and it has caused an early stir between Jah and the Sixer’s front office. Okafor is an extremely talented offensive player, with good touch around the rim and a solid all-around skill level with the ball in his hands. The issue has always been his defense. Okafor does not move well enough laterally and it makes him a major liability on the defensive end, especially matching up against versatile big men. This limits Okafor’s value on the trade market. While it is not wise to write off a 21 year old, I do not think many, if any, NBA GM’s see him as anywhere close to the franchise altering talent he was labeled out of Duke. This begs the question: What should the Sixers do with Jahlil Okafor?

#FreeJah

The answer here is simple: trade him. As mentioned earlier, the Sixers are not going to buy out his contract. Adrian Wojnarowkski stated earlier today that the Sixers are looking at moving Jahlil for a 2nd round pick. Chris Mannix of Yahoo thinks that in addition to 2nd round pick(s), a “salary filler or a stashed mid-level European prospect” are other potential options for the Sixers. Philadelphia is making a business decision to coerce another organization to eat the final $5 million of Okafor’s contract, but they need to move quickly. Their treatment of Okafor is already setting the league ablaze on social media (see Isaiah Thomas) and it would be in the best interest of both parties to move on swiftly.

Okafor wants to show another team why he was a Top 3 pick back in 2015.

The Sixers should move quickly to trade Okafor for future draft picks. Have the Sixers been drafting a lot in recent years? Absolutely. But dealing Okafor for another expiring gives the Sixers a piece for the remainder of the season before letting them go into free agency. Plus, they can pair the picks they would receive with a current player (preferably an expiring contract) to make moves for assets in the future. Rumors were tying Okafor to the Celtics if his contract were bought out, but it does not appear that is in play. In a trade the Celtics are probably not going to give up much in return. Okafor would give the Celtics an offensive threat up front off the bench, but it seems like there are hurdles to clear before that becomes a possibility.

Potential Suitors

If they decide to make a move for draft picks they may focus their potential moves on teams with at least $5 million in cap space. Atlanta, Brooklyn, Indiana, and Phoenix all fall into this category. Okafor and Myles Turner would be an interesting pairing, but the Pacers do not have a 2nd round pick until 2020. Collins and Okafor are redundant, but the Hawks are awful, and it is an opportunity for Okafor to put up offensive numbers. They have multiple 2nd round picks in 2019. Brooklyn and Phoenix are similar situations with bad teams and ample minutes for Okafor to get back on the court and earn a deal during the 2018 off-season. While Okafor may end up somewhere other than these four places, but the fit with minutes and cap space make them intriguing options for the Sixers to explore on the trade market for Okafor.

Philadelphia needs to trade Okafor, and do it fast. Find a suitor with a draft pick or two to part with and get it done. Continuing to stockpile future assets and potential trade bait, and give Okafor a chance to fulfill his potential in another city. I am far from the biggest fan of Jahlil Okafor, but he has handled the benching with grace and I will be screaming (figuratively, of course) #FreeJah until the Sixers make a move.

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