Trade Candidate: Jahlil Okafor

For much of the 2014/15 campaign, many pegged Jahlil Okafor as the top prospect for the 2015 draft. His footwork, ball-handling skills and overall fundamentals enraptured scouts and fans alike. Yet after two months of NBA action and several offcourt incidents, questions remain about whether the big man can become a franchise cornerstone.

January 2, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Philadelphia 76ers center Jahlil Okafor (8) controls the ball against Los Angeles Clippers during the first half at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Gary A. Vasquez / USA Today Sports Images

Part of the issue is the fit in Philadelphia. Okafor has no future in the league playing any position besides the five spot, something that’s even more true with the small-ball trend taking over the league. The problem, at least on the court, lies in the personnel around him. Nerlens Noel is clearly a center despite playing over half of his minutes at the four spot. Joel Embiid showcased some outside shooting during his time in college, but there is little evidence that he can play any position beside the five at the NBA level. Whenever the Sixers get out of the rebuilding industry and start looking to field a competitive team, they’ll have some decisions to make, as there is just no room at the inn for all these big men.

Making a trade will be the logical option at some point and maximizing value has been a constant during the Sam Hinkie administration. The Sixers traded Jrue Holiday just months after he appeared in his first All-Star Game, and they dealt Michael Carter-Williams when he was the reigning Rookie of the Year. Okafor’s trade value has probably taken a hit since he came into the league, but young big men with his kind of talent don’t become available very often, and if the Sixers dangle him in trade discussions, they should be able to fetch an excellent return.

Earlier in the season, John Smallwood of The Daily News wondered if the Sixers should consider a trade for Derrick Rose. Franchise-altering stars rarely become available, and although Rose hasn’t consistently played at an MVP level since injuring his knees, this is the type of move the Sixers should be making if they’re going to claim a strategy of championship-or-bust. Smallwood suggested the team offer the Lakers’ pick, which was acquired in the MCW trade, and one other late first-round pick for Rose. That Lakers pick is one of the league’s best trade assets, given Los Angeles’ struggles, and it may not make sense to give that up for the gamble that Rose has become. A deal centered around Okafor and Rose would be better for Philadelphia, and it would make sense for Chicago.

The Bulls have an anemic offense and the team chemistry has been shaky to say the least. With Jimmy Butler‘s emergence as a No. 1 option, the Bulls may be better off retooling around their star wing. Chicago has reportedly made Taj Gibson and Joakim Noah available in search of an upgrade on the wing opposite to Butler. Finding value for Noah would be tricky, as Chuck Myron of Hoops Rumors noted in Noah’s trade candidate piece, and trading Gibson would likely net a greater return, but it carries the risk of turning a position of strength into one of weakness if Noah and Pau Gasol depart after the season. In addition to adding a young pillar who could help carry the team offensively, the acquisition of Okafor would allow Chicago to explore the trade market for another perimeter player.

Philadelphia would have to include other players in order to have the financial ability to acquire Rose, as Okafor is making roughly $4.58MM this season and the Sixers currently sit nearly $10MM under the salary cap. They could toss Carl Landry with his $6.5MM salary and Isaiah Canaan, who is making slightly over $947K, into a package with Okafor and they would have a successful trade from a salary matching standpoint. Both sides would likely argue that the other should attach an asset to make a deal happen, but I’d speculate that Chicago would ultimately have to pony up a little more value, such as a protected first-round pick, to get a deal done because of the size of Rose’s deal.

His contract, which has slightly over $41.4MM remaining on it and includes a 15% trade kicker, makes acquiring him a deterrent for nearly every franchise. Yet Philadelphia is built a little differently than the typical NBA team. Acquiring Rose and his massive contract wouldn’t carry the same opportunity cost for Philadelphia as it would for the other 28 franchises to do the same. As noted above, The Sixers are nearly $10MM under the cap this season and the team has only slightly more than $25.5MM in guaranteed salary on the books against a projected $89MM salary for the 2016/17 season, as our Salary Cap Projection page indicates. Philadelphia hasn’t spent all of its cap space in any season during the Sam Hinkie era and there have been rumors that agents would steer their clients away from signing in Philly once they were ready spend. The presence of Jerry Colangelo might bring change to that, but the team can’t reasonably believe a true star is going to arrive via free agency yet.

Rose, who has missed the last few games because of his hamstring injury, hasn’t resembled anything close to a franchise player this season, averaging just 14.4 points, 5.1 assist and 0.6 steals per game, while shooting 38.6% from the field, including an icy 24.6% from behind the arc. The Memphis product has suffered numerous injuries over the last calendar year, including a torn right knee meniscus and a sprained left ankle. His preseason orbital fracture led him to spend two weeks in a dark room doing almost nothing, according to Zach Lowe of Having that type of facial injury has to alter your mental psyche on the court, and the Sixers would give Rose an environment this season where he could simply work on his game, similar to an elongated D-League stint. This is a perfect buy-low opportunity for the franchise and it’s also a winning situation for Rose. The former No.1 overall pick could benefit from running a Mike D’Antoni offense, which has historically been favorable to point guards, and set himself up for another lucrative payday at the end of the 2016/17 season.

Picture a healthy — both mentally from a basketball standpoint and physically — Rose running the break during the 2016/17 season with Noel and Jerami Grant galloping alongside him. Nik Stauskas is sprinting down the sideline, spacing the floor and taking attention away from Rose, while Robert Covington is trailing the play, staying ready for the spot-up 3-pointer in transition. Picture Embiid, hopefully standing on two healthy feet, cheering on the team near the bench as he gets ready to headline a respectable second unit that includes Dario Saric, Ish Smith and Richaun Holmes. Add in a likely top-three overall pick in the 2016 draft, as well as a few other rookies, and you can see a team with an identity and a future.

This scenario may be a pipe dream, but if the point guard’s game can resemble anything close to an All-Star’s again, trading Okafor for him would put Philadelphia back on the NBA map. If Rose suffers a setback or simply remains ineffective, the Sixers are right where they are now — in a position to tank. The difference would be that they took a high-ceiling risk that involved the acquisition of a possible game-changing star to arrive at the same point, and that would be a path to the lottery that other team owners can’t gripe about.

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40 thoughts on “Trade Candidate: Jahlil Okafor

  1. Michael

    If im the Sixers i’d be willing to trade Okafor for Jimmy Butler. Butler doesn’t seem to like his coach. Gasol probably will probably be gone soon. Noah has no offensive upside why not trade for a young center. PGs are easy to find and the drafts are always loaded with them but shooting guards that can shoot and defend are rare.

    • Chris Crouse

      I think Philadelphia would trade any player on the roster for Butler, he’s that good.

    • MattyWil

      All of Philadelphia’s players and assets maybe for butler. All the pics, saric, okafor

    • That would be a solid move but there’s alot of confusion out there. The Sixers are going to be fighting for a playoff spot with the team they will have next year. They need to trade Noel and other assets for a point guard that can help this team turn quickly with Embiid, Okafor, Saric, maybe Simmons and a free agent or two. They have a ton of options.

  2. tater777

    Micheal You are very stupid if u think the Chicago Bulls would trade Jimmy Butler for Okafor Straight Up. U would need to throw in a couple more players and some draft picks

  3. Dave4585

    Why would they trade the number 3 pick Okafor who is younger, healthier, and going to be a 20 PPG center which is rare these days for a has been beat up Derrick Rose who at best will be a solid 2-3rd option on a team. I don’t think Okafor is untouchable don’t get me wrong but the sixers would be stupid to do that, the last thing they need is to trade a future piece to the team for someone who can breakdown and be gone from the sport at any moment.

    • To answer your question, they wouldn’t. No one looks at Noel, Embiid and Okafor and comes away thinking Noel is the best option. They see that in the long termx he’s obviously the 3rd best and the real trade candidate.

      • Chris Crouse

        It’s not that Noel is the best option, It’s that Okafor would reap the most value.

        • And because Okafor would destroy Noel every time, as does Embiid in practice. Marcus Smart has no chance at being better than many point guards (I can name at least 15 better than him) in the league. He’s not even the best on his own team. Hinkie knows it and he’s positioned the Sixers to have the best front court in the NBA with all the resources to gain an elite back court and neither Rose or Smart are close to elite.

      • Thats only if Embiid comes back healthy, which there is little reason to believe so since he hasn’t even played a game yet. Even Greg Oden played a few more games than Embiid in his first few seasons. Even then, Noel might have sneaky value in that with the league going towards a small ball approach, he’s arguably the more athletic big of three and could stay in front of most smaller players. Embiid and Okafor seem like the more lumbering, Al Jefferson-esque type of big.

  4. Art Kyriazis

    Okafor should be traded maybe, but probably give him another year to develop. Jerami Grant (Horace Grants nephew) is by far the most improved Sixer and while Noel is much better defensively than Okafor, he’s also much inferior offensively. Playing both at the five makes sense at the rookie scale. Moving one of them for a 2 guard makes some sense, but not for Derrick Rose. Rose is done. He’s never going to play a full season again. The kind of 2 guard the Sixers would want would have to be durable and play 82 games and be cheap. He’d also have to be a great 3 pt shooter to spread the floor. Rose fits none of those criteria. Bad fit.

    • Chris Crouse

      A two guard would be nice. Any suggestions on who would be a good fit/available?

      • jpbits

        I think the sixers should trade Noel for Holiday and future first.
        Trade Ish smith and miami pick for Igoudola.

        GSW can use smith to rest curry.


  5. Lot of wasted words on this scenario. D rose is the trade candidate not okafor

  6. Sixersfan4

    Id take Rose any day. I really think the sixers should look to try and get a young guard though. I’d take a Marcus smart Jahlil okafor swap

    • Smart seems like a top 25-35 point guard, just like Ish Smith. Okafor seems like a top 10 scorer in the league with room to grow defensively. The Celtics would love that trade which is why it won’t ever happen.

    • Chris Crouse

      I like Marcus Smart for Philly, Boston would have to give up a first in addition, just like Chicago would. Only issue may be trading Okafor to a division rival. They would have to hear about the choice between him and Noel/Embiid for years.

  7. This is a ridiculous scenario. Obviously, they’d never trade Okafor for Rose. He’s better than Noel and there’s room for him to develop with Embiid in a starting l Iine up. Thinking Embiid, who would likely be the top center in the NBA if fully healthy would be on the bench behind Noel is obsurd. Grant is a bench player.

    • Okafor is not better than Noel. Okafor is so unbelievably bad at defense and rebounding. He also struggles when going against any kind of length. Noel on the other hand is a true game changer, when he gets to play minutes at center that is. Okafor has a good future ahead of him, but he doesn’t make the impact Noel does. Not sure how anyone who has watched the Sixers this year could think otherwise.

      • Dee Anderson

        Lmao that’s a joke. Noel plays well defensively until a big has a jumper. When you stop Noel’s ability to play help side defense, he is literally useless. On the offensive end, he needs to literally be breast fed. Unless it’s an alley oop, he is terrible. He drops every pass off a pick and roll and any pass from a guard when they drive. He’s terrible

  8. TheMilkman

    I cannot fathom where or why anyone would propose dealing Okafor, especially insinuating returns like Noah or Rose. Ridiculous

  9. Dolphineus

    Say what you will about the Sixers rebuilding process, but they have done very, very well in almost every trade. Zero chance they trade Okafor for Rose without Chicago offering significant value on top of Rose.

  10. Kenweas

    The sixers would be foolish to trade Oakafor at this point unless it was a no brainier deal like for Butler. He is too young with just too much potential at this point. He’s not Jrue Holiday or MCW, you need to allow him time to develop and get in NBA shape. Teach him defensive positioning and rotations and he can at least be adequate there. To date he’s the best pick the sixers has made, that has played by far. I think people are too quick to move on here and being short sited. it’s honestly too early to talk about trading him or Noel.

  11. I don’t have a problem trading Okafor, but it can’t be for Rose. He is well past his prime and getting worse by the year. We need a high end player that fits with the remaining bigs and could grow with the team. A guy like McCollum from Portland fits the bill, even Beal from the Wizards.

  12. rxbrgr

    Can’t say I’m a fan of this trade candidate article. Instead of discussing Okafor’s trade value in general (and what he could potentially reap from a wide range of teams), it instead focuses on a single seemingly unlikely and lopsided scenario. I realize it’s perhaps a fun trade idea for the author to have conceived, but it doesn’t really address Okafor’s trade value. Perhaps a different title would make this article seem a bit more legitimate.

    • rxbrgr

      If anything I would say that Rose has negative value in the sense his big contract could require the Bulls to take back similarly large albatross contracts).

  13. If he was to come home to Chicago
    I rather try to deal niko the Kings 1 round pick snell and they probably would want dougie fresh to get the deal done. They would get niko at the stretch 4man to go with Noel for the future with a potential lottery pick and the Bulls would have a line up of
    Rose butler Portis and JO to try and build around. And they also could use taj Noah and gasol as trade bait to get younger and faster for fred offense

  14. smittybanton

    More likely scenario is Chicago paying Sixers to take Rose’s contract.

  15. smittybanton

    I also think Okafor (and Saric) are insurance policies against the ping pong balls. This season is about getting Ben Simmons. If the lottery is unkind, Okafor is a chip to move up for Simmons or Ingram. Sixers need one of them desperately. If the Sixers do get #1, they take Simmons, then trade Okafor to whomever has #2 for Ingram.

    The Sixers goal should be a core of Ben Simmons, Brandon Ingram, Robert Covington, Jerami Grant, Dario Saric, Joel Embiid, Nerlens Noel.

    Still have cap space and picks (OKC, MIA) for guys like Wade Baldwin, Evan Fournier, etc…..

    • Will Joseph

      that makes a lot of sense. I doubt the cap space is used, even with the new direction of the organization mostly because I don’t see how FAs would be lured

  16. MARVIS


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