Jahlil Okafor

Sixers Notes: Embiid, Rotation, Holmes, Okafor

Shortly after finalizing his new five-year extension with the Sixers, Joel Embiid made his 2017 preseason debut with the team in Brooklyn on Wednesday, and the center’s performance in the game likely made 76ers fans a little more comfortable with their team’s big-money commitment. Playing just 15 minutes, Embiid poured in 22 points to go along with seven boards and three assists. He also made 14 of 18 free throws.

Of course, Embiid was one of the NBA’s best players on a per-minute basis last season as well, so his showing on Wednesday night didn’t come as a total surprise. For Embiid, the primary goal is to stay healthy enough to blow past last year’s career high of 31 games played and become a more frequent contributor to Philadelphia’s lineup.

Here’s more on the Sixers:

  • Although Sixers head coach Brett Brown had previously said not to read much into his preseason rotations, Wednesday provided a preview of what the team’s regular season rotation might look like, writes Sarah Todd of Philly.com. Embiid was somewhat limited and Markelle Fultz didn’t play, but otherwise it wouldn’t be a surprise to see everyone in similar roles on opening night.
  • Sixers big man Richaun Holmes confirmed to Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer that his fractured left wrist won’t require surgery, and will heal on its own. The club plans to re-evaluate the injury after about three weeks.
  • Jordan Brenner of SBNation.com has a fascinating and in-depth profile on Jahlil Okafor, who has become the forgotten man in Philadelphia as fans focus on other recent top-three picks Embiid, Fultz, and Ben Simmons. While Okafor says he still respects the organization and wants to succeed with the Sixers, he admits that he’s unsure about whether there’s still a role for him with the club. “Sometimes I do think it would be great to get a fresh start, be on a new team, new surroundings, new teammates,” Okafor said. “I think about that often and I think that’s something that could benefit me.”

Sixers Notes: Embiid, Saric, Covington, Fultz

Joel Embiid‘s teammates believe the Sixers made the right move by rewarding him with a five-year extension, writes Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. Embiid is slated to receive $148MM, but the value could go as high as $178MM if he meets certain criteria. There are also several salary cap protections to guard the organization against further injury for Embiid, who has played just 31 games in three seasons. “Have you seen him play? He’s a beast,” Ben Simmons responded when asked about the extension. “I can’t name one person that can stop him. Honestly, there’s nobody that can compete with him at his position. No one.”

Embiid is still recovering from “minor” surgery in March to fix a torn meniscus in his left knee. The Sixers were hoping to have him ready for the October 18 season opener, but rehab has been going well and Pompey suggests he may play in Friday’s preseason finale. Embiid’s last game before the surgery was January 27.

There’s more this morning out of Philadelphia:

  • Embiid’s cap hit for next summer will be either $25.2MM or $30.3MM, depending on whether he meets the qualifications for the 30% max, according to Derek Bodner of The Athletic. If Embiid is only at the 25% max, Philadelphia will have about $53.34MM in committed salary heading into next year’s free agent sweepstakes. That leaves roughly $47.6MM, but that figure will be reduced by draft picks and option decisions. The Sixers may have two first-rounders if they land the Lakers’ pick, and they have to determine whether to extend rookie-scale contracts for Jahlil Okafor ($6.3MM in 2018/19), Dario Saric ($2.5MM) and Justin Anderson ($2.5MM) by the end of October. Bodner writes that the Sixers are certain to pick up Saric’s option, but Okafor and Anderson are less definite. Philadelphia also has team options on T.J. McConnell and Richaun Holmes valued at $1.6MM each, but those don’t have to be addressed until June 29.
  • The team’s most important remaining salary decision involves Robert Covington, Bodner adds in the same piece. Starting November 15, Covington will be eligible to have his contract renegotiated or extended. He will become a free agent with a $3MM cap hold next summer if nothing is done.
  • Rookie guard Markelle Fultz may still be suffering the effects of a right shoulder injury, Pompey relays in a separate story. The first overall pick had to sit out Friday’s game and is shooting just 29.2% from the floor in the preseason. “I think his shoulder is affecting him more than he lets on,” coach Brett Brown said. “You can tell with his free throw, you know, trying to get that ball up. Its follow from his body. But he’s been working on just trying to get that thing rehabilitated.”

Atlantic Notes: Kanter, Noah, Okafor, Embiid

Enes Kanter, acquired in the deal for Carmelo Anthony, could be the Knicks‘ starting center when the season begins. The former Thunder big man has been an effective scorer and offensive rebounder but his lack of defensive ability could hurt his case, Marc Berman of the New York Post writes.

Kanter, 25, is in a three-man competition for the center job along with Willy Hernangomez and Joakim Noah. But there are only two people competing for the opening night job as Noah will be suspended 12 games due violating the NBA’s drug program. Kanter said he has lost 37 pounds since June to become quicker on defense and coach Jeff Hornacek — who acknowledged Kanter’s defensive shortcomings — believes his new center has shown improvements.

“The game has slowed down for him — I think he’s become better defensively on what teams are trying to do,’’ Hornacek said. “He didn’t play at Kentucky, [so] he was pretty raw his first year. Now he’s been around the league. He’s one of the best [true] centers in this league right now.’’

Kanter said he’s happy in New York and prepared for life after Oklahoma City. The Knicks open the season against the Thunder in OKC on October 19.

Check out other news around the Atlantic Division below:

Sixers Notes: Okafor, Backcourt, Simmons, Embiid

GM Bryan Colangelo told reporters today he is not seeking trade offers for Jahlil Okafor, tweets Jessica Camerato of CSN Philly. A report surfaced last week that the Sixers were planning to call around the league in an effort to find a new home for the 21-year-old center, who has been beset by injuries and off-court problems during his two years in Philadelphia. The third pick in the 2015 draft, Okafor has averaged 14.7 points and 6.0 rebounds, but has appeared in just 103 games. The Sixers had advanced trade talks with the Pelicans and Bulls about Okafor before the deadline in February.

There’s more from media day in Philadelphia:

  • Okafor will probably be limited in camp because of knee problems, Colangelo adds, as will Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, who has tendinitis in his knee (Twitter link).
  • Colangelo also denied that he is working on a deal to thin out the team’s backcourt (Twitter link). The Sixers have a surplus of guards after drafting Markelle Fultz and signing J.J. Redick this summer.
  • After missing all of his rookie season while recovering from a broken foot, Ben Simmons heads into training camp with no medical restrictions, according to Derek Bodner of The Athletic (Twitter link). Simmons had surgery on a Jones fracture he suffered during training camp last year. Although there were reports during the season that he was close to returning, the Sixers decided the wisest move was to give him the entire year to recover. “I’m ready to go. 100%. Ready to play,” Simmons said today (Twitter link).
  • Joel Embiid hasn’t been cleared for five-on-five competition yet, but he is confident he’ll be ready when that happens (Twitter link). Embiid underwent season-ending arthroscopic surgery in March to fix a meniscus tear in his left knee. He said two or three scans have been conducted on the knee since the operation and all have looked perfect. “I feel great,” Embiid said. “The past couple of months since the surgery I’ve been working pretty hard on my rehab.” (Twitter link). He adds that his target date to return is opening night, and he may not play during the preseason unless doctors decide he is fully ready (Twitter link). Embiid said he would like to play a complete season, but “I’ll be honest, I’m not playing 82 games.” (Twitter link). He also denied accusations that he is refusing to take part in five-on-five games until the team gives him an extension on his rookie contract. Embiid admits that he has little leverage because of his injury history, but emphasizes that he wants to play (Twitter link).

Sixers Will Try Again To Trade Jahlil Okafor

The Sixers plan to call around the league again to see what they can get in exchange for third-year center Jahlil Okafor, tweets Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. Coach Brett Brown confirmed that the team will see what sort of return might be available.

The third player taken in the 2015 draft, Okafor hasn’t lived up to expectations in two seasons in Philadelphia. Injuries and off-court issues have gotten in the way as Okafor has played just 103 games over two years.

There are also financial considerations, as the Sixers have yet to make a decision on Okafor’s $6.3MM option for 2018/19. The team may be reluctant to tie up that much cap space with a banner crop of free agents due to hit the market next summer.

Okafor is stuck behind Joel Embiid in the Sixers’ rotation and may never be a full-time starter if he remains in Philadelphia. The team also signed Amir Johnson over the summer and got a promising second season out of Richaun Holmes, so there may not be many minutes left for Okafor if he stys.

The Sixers were reportedly engaged in Okafor trade talks with the Pelicans and Bulls before the February deadline to clear up their logjam at center. However, those deals fell through and they wound up sending Nerlens Noel to the Mavericks instead.

Three Huge Decisions Awaiting Sixers

The Sixers are facing three decisions this fall that will affect the future of the franchise, writes Derek Bodner of The Athletic (subscription site).

Philadelphia hasn’t posted a winning record since going 35-31 in the lockout-shortened 2011/12 season, but years of acquiring draft picks and other assets seem ready to pay off. The Sixers appear to have the talent on hand to be perennial playoff contenders, but Bodner identifies three immediate issues that must be resolved.

  • Will Robert Covington receive an extension? Covington started all 67 games he played last season and is expected to keep that role at small forward for 2017/18. The team’s best perimeter defender and a career .354 shooter from 3-point range, Covington will make less than $1.6MM in his fifth NBA season. Headed for free agency next summer, he is in a unique situation that lets him either extend his current contract or renegotiate the entire thing, including the upcoming season. Bodner speculates that Philadelphia may use some of its $15MM in remaining cap money to boost Covington’s salary for 2017/18 and save on the rest of the contract. Nothing can happen until November 15, the three-year anniversary of when Covington signed his current deal, and sources tell Bodner there is interest in a long-term relationship.
  • Will Joel Embiid receive an extension? Embiid posted massive numbers during his rookie season, although the team played him in just 31 games with limited minutes so there wouldn’t be a repeat of the injuries that wiped out his first two NBA seasons. Without an extension, Embiid will be a restricted free agent next summer, but the injury risks make it a difficult decision as Bodner notes that Embiid hasn’t been cleared for five-on-five activity at camp. Bodner speculates that 60 games of being healthy could be enough for Embiid to land a maximum offer. He adds that Embiid will have an $18.3MM cap hold next summer, which will affect the Sixers’ plans in free agency. Bodner suggests a compromise where the Sixers commit to a max yearly average with only part of it guaranteed. He relays that the front office has talked to Embiid’s representatives about an extension and there appears to be mutual interest.
  • Will Jahlil Okafor‘s option be picked up? The third pick in the 2015 draft has been a disappointment in his first two seasons, although injuries have been a factor. Okafor would make more than $6.3MM in 2018/19 if the team exercises its option, which could cut into its ability to make a max offer to free agents. Also, Embiid is clearly the center of the future if he stays healthy, so it’s hard to envision a significant role for Okafor. The Sixers could elect to pick up the option and try to rebuild Okafor’s trade value, but Bodner sees that as a risky strategy.

Atlantic Notes: Ntilikina, Okafor, London

While the plan has always been to bring rookie point guard Frank Ntilikina along slowly, the fact that the Knicks failed to land a notable veteran at the position this offseason gives the first-year player an opportunity to sneak into the starting lineup.

Of course [I want to start],” Ntilikina told Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News, before stressing that he’s a team player more concerned with simply improving over the course of his first campaign with the Knicks.

The Knicks added Ramon Sessions over the summer but while Sessions brings a source of veteran leadership, he hasn’t been a consistent starter previously in his 10-year career.

Regardless of where he ends up in the rotation, the Knicks’ eighth-overall pick acknowledges a need to work on his body and brace for the physical challenges of stepping into the NBA.

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Although his name has frequently come up in trade rumors, Sixers big man Jahlil Okafor “couldn’t be happier” in Philadelphia. The center spoke with Tom Moore of the Bucks County Courier Times about the idea of suiting up for another squad.
  • The Celtics aren’t about to plan their offseason around what the Cavaliers are doing. “We have our own problems and our own challenges and trying to put players together that can win and compete in the league today is very difficult,Danny Ainge said recently on the Dan Patrick Show (via CSN New England).
  • The Celtics and Sixers will take their talents to the United Kingdom this season, an NBA.com press release reveals. The two division rivals will square off in NBA London Games 2018 on January 11.

Sixers Sign Amir Johnson

JULY 8, 6:57pm: Johnson’s signing is official, the Sixers announced in an email.

JULY 1, 6:25pm: The Sixers and Celtics discussed a sign-and-trade involving Jahlil Okafor for Johnson, but the deal never materialized, Wojnarowski said on ESPN’s televised coverage of free agency.

5:09pm: Amir Johnson will join the Sixers on a one-year, $11MM deal contract, tweets Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.com.

The 11-year veteran started 77 games for the Celtics this season, averaging 6.5 points and 4.6 rebounds per night. He made $12MM this year in the final season of a two-year contract.

There had been rumors that the Celtics were interested in a sign-and-trade with the Sixers involving Johnson, but this appears to be a straight free-agent signing.

The Bulls, Raptors and Rockets also expressed interest in Johnson, and all three teams had meetings with him scheduled for today.

Sixers Notes: Redick, Draft, Colangelo, Okafor

Clippers free agent J.J. Redick will get a lot of interest from the Eastern Conference, and the Sixers may be the leading contender, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical. In a video posted on the Vertical website, several analysts offer their visions of the future for Philadelphia after winding up with the third pick in next month’s draft. Wojnarowski believes the Sixers will make a strong play for Redick, an 11-year veteran who would fill a position of need at shooting guard while bringing leadership to the locker room. Redick will probably receive offers starting at $16MM to $17MM annually, Wojnarowski predicts, and Philly’s strongest competition for him will come from the Nets, as well as the Knicks if they can clear enough cap room.

There’s more tonight out of Philadelphia:

  • The Sixers may try to trade down in the draft, suggests The Vertical’s Bobby Marks in the same video, because there isn’t a perfect fit for them at No. 3. They are believed to have interest in Kentucky guard Malik Monk, who could be available a few picks later. Marks says the Kings, who own picks No. 5 and No. 10, might emerge as a trading partner. He adds that Philadelphia also owns an unprotected Lakers pick next season, an unprotected Kings pick in 2019 and a pick from the Thunder in 2020 that is top-20 protected, all of which could be used as trade assets.
  • President of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo was planning a “measured, organic growth path” if the Sixers came away from Tuesday’s lottery with two picks, relays Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. Instead, the Lakers landed in the top three and got to keep their selection for another year, which leads Colangelo to a more aggressive approach that will involve seeking veteran help through trades and free agency. “We are going to have both opportunities available to us now,” he said. “We are going to look at all those alternatives, all those options.” Pompey lists Redick, Kyle Lowry, Otto Porter, Danilo Gallinari and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope as free agents the team might target.
  • Jahlil Okafor is an obvious candidate to be used as a trade chip, writes Jessica Camerato of CSNPhilly. The second-year center has been a poor fit in Philadelphia since being drafted in 2015. Many observers expected him to be dealt at the February deadline, but Nerlens Noel was shipped to Dallas instead. “I want to find a situation that’s great for us and great for Jahlil, and if that means him staying here then that’s great,” Colangelo said. “He’s a great kid and a great player and we’re going to see how he fits with this group.”

Sixers Notes: Okafor, Brown, Colangelo, Embiid

Center Jahlil Okafor wasn’t among the players identified as “keepers” for next season by Sixers coach Brett Brown in a news conference today. Brown listed Ben Simmons, Joel EmbiidTimothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, Richaun Holmes, Robert CovingtonDario Saric, Nik Stauskas and T.J. McConnell, tweets Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Okafor was the subject of numerous trade rumors prior to February’s deadline. and his future with the organization remains uncertain. Brown said Okafor understands this is an important offseason for him (Twitter link), adding, “Our mission this summer is to get his body right.” (Twitter link). GM Bryan Colangelo, who also spoke to reporters today, didn’t say that trading Okafor will be a priority, but he noted, “If a deal comes along that makes sense for both, we’ll listen.” (Twitter link).

There’s more today out of Philadelphia:

  • Brown and Colangelo both identified shooting as the Sixers’ most pressing offseason need. Brown said the team also needs to find a backup power forward, sign some veterans, assess Simmons’ abilities as a point guard and find the right shooting guard to play alongside him, tweets Jessica Camerato of CSNPhilly.
  • Brown added that early-season injuries to Simmons and Jerryd Bayless were the biggest obstacles the Sixers faced in their 28-54 season (Twitter link). Simmons fractured a bone in his right foot during training camp and missed the entire year. Bayless, who signed a three-year, $27MM deal last offseason, tore a ligament in his left wrist during camp and was limited to three games. “You felt like you just blew out your backcourt in about a week,” Brown said.
  • The Sixers are expecting a much healthier version of Embiid next season, Pompey tweets. After missing his first two NBA seasons, Embiid was limited to 31 games in his rookie year. Although he played spectacularly, averaging 20.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game, Embiid was on a minutes restriction and Philadelphia’s medical staff was very cautious about his availability. “I don’t think back-to-backs will be an issue” for Embiid next season, Colangelo said.
  • Colangelo promises an aggressive approach in free agency, saying, “If there is the right free agent to spend money on, we will.” (Twitter link). The Sixers will enter the July bidding with more than $50MM available under the salary cap. Colangelo also vowed to be “prudent and wise” with any signings (Twitter link).
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