6:52pm: The Sixers remain firm about not buying out Okafor, tweets ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. They continue to look for a trade and have found a few interested teams.
11:04am: After having his option for 2018/19 declined by the Sixers, Jahlil Okafor confirmed today that he has asked the team about a buyout, and would like to be traded or bought out as soon as possible (Twitter links via Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer).
Okafor’s comments come in the wake of a report from Marc Stein of The New York Times, who indicated on Tuesday night that the third-year center may push for a buyout in the hopes of finding a new team right away. The Sixers remain below the salary floor, so a buyout wouldn’t hurt them financially. However, it would be a tough pill to swallow less than 30 months after drafting Okafor with the No. 3 overall pick, and it’s not something the team is interested in right now, per Pompey (Twitter link).
Okafor, one of the most highly-regarded prospects of the 2015 draft class, enjoyed a solid rookie season with the Sixers back in 2015/16, averaging 17.5 PPG and 7.0 RPG in 53 games (48 starts). However, he saw his role with the club begin to decrease last season.
Even after Philadelphia traded Nerlens Noel to the Mavericks in February, the 76ers’ depth chart at center remained crowded, with Joel Embiid looking like a franchise player when he was healthy and Richaun Holmes emerging as a viable backup. This season, Amir Johnson and even Dario Saric have earned minutes at center, leaving no room in the rotation for Okafor, despite Holmes being sidelined to start the year.
While few top-three picks have their rookie scale options turned down, Okafor told reporters today that he actually didn’t mind the fact that the Sixers passed on his $6.3MM option for 2018/19, since he doesn’t have a role in Philadelphia.
“Honestly, I didn’t want them to pick up my option,” Okafor said, per Jessica Camerato of NBC Sports Philadelphia (Twitter link). “I’ve been going through a lot since I’ve been here.”
[RELATED: More quotes from Okafor]
Currently, Okafor is on track to reach free agency in the summer of 2018. The Sixers are reportedly working with his camp to try to find a workable trade, but his contract situation may complicate those discussions.
Because Okafor’s fourth-year option was declined, whichever team has him on its roster to finish the 2017/18 season won’t be able to offer him a starting salary higher than what his option was worth ($6.3MM). Okafor will also be an unrestricted free agent, rather than an RFA, meaning he may end up being just a six-month rental if a team trades for him.