Community Shootaround: Best Fit For Jahlil Okafor

With Eric Bledsoe officially a Milwaukee Buck, one of two major early-season trade candidates is off the market, leaving Sixers center Jahlil Okafor as the other notable player seeking a change of scenery.

Okafor’s less-than-ideal situation in Philadelphia has been well documented, both on Hoops Rumors and elsewhere, but here’s the abridged version: Despite being the third overall pick in the 2015 draft, Okafor has fallen behind Joel Embiid, Richaun Holmes, and Amir Johnson on the Sixers’ depth chart, and rarely sees the court. Philadelphia also turned down the 21-year-old’s option for 2018/19, putting him on track to reach unrestricted free agency next summer.

With no role in Philadelphia, Okafor has confirmed he wants a trade or a buyout. However, the 76ers are in a tough spot. Now that they’ve declined the option on Okafor’s contract for next year, a team that acquires him in a trade can’t offer him more than $6.3MM as a starting salary in 2018.

At this point, Okafor seems unlikely to earn an offer that significant anyway, but what if he enjoys a breakout year after being traded? The better he plays for his new team, the less likely that team is to have the ability to re-sign him at season’s end. As such, clubs are unlikely to surrender much of value for him. Throw in the fact that the Sixers are uninterested in taking on salary for 2018/19 in any trade, and it’s not hard to see why finding a viable deal is tricky.

Still, Okafor was a third overall pick just over two years ago, and had a solid rookie season in 2015/16, averaging 17.5 PPG and 7.0 RPG. He’s not the sort of player Philadelphia wants to just give up for nothing, even if the club doesn’t have room for him its rotation. So buyout conversations aren’t happening right now, as the Sixers continue to explore trade possibilities.

The Celtics are one obvious suitor, with an $8.4MM disabled player exception available to use on Okafor, but the Sixers seem unenthusiastic about sending the big man to a division rival. The Bulls and Hawks have been mentioned as possible landing spots, and it makes sense that rebuilding teams like those would be willing to take a shot on a player with Okafor’s pedigree. The Suns – another rebuilding club – reportedly has some interest in Okafor too. And the Bucks look like an ideal fit — they just traded Greg Monroe, and they’re armed with a $5MM trade exception that is the perfect size for Okafor’s $4,995,120 salary.

What do you think? Which team would be the best fit for Okafor, in terms of his potential for on-court success? Which team would be the best fit for the Sixers as a potential trade partner? Where do you expect Okafor to ultimately end up?

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