This week's mailbag includes a new Jahlil Okafor hypothetical trade, Dario Saric talk, the 2017 NBA draft, and more. You can catch up on previous mailbag installments here.
@shamus_clancy: Give a non-Ryan Anderson trade that involves Jahlil Okafor.
Disclaimer: It's really hard to find a good Okafor trade using ESPN's Trade Machine. I imagine most teams are already content with their front court, and finding a return that's of somewhat fair value for what I think of Okafor is super difficult. This also isn't my way of saying we need to trade Okafor right now. There's plenty of reasons to hold onto him. But anyway...
The Philadelphia 76ers trade Jahlil Okafor, Robert Covington, Oklahoma City's 2016 first-round pick for Markieff Morris, Devin Booker and Phoenix's unprotected 2016 first-round pick.
Why the Sixers do it: Because Okafor clearly isn't a fit within the team's system, and I think this is as close to a fair deal as you might possibly find for him. I'd prefer not to trade Covington because I think he gets out of his slump, but Phoenix is gonna need some help on the wings. Booker has been a lights out shooter so far, and Philly needs someone like him to play next to Ish Smith. Markieff Morris is probably never going to play with his brother again, but bringing him home to Philadelphia might help him get past his separation anxiety from Marcus. When in the right frame of mind, Markieff is a good stretch four and a passable defender who would fit well next to Joel Embiid or Nerlens Noel. He's also on a pretty reasonable contract. Not to mention, with the direction Phoenix is headed in, you'd have another really good shot of snagging Ben Simmons or Brandon Ingram.
Why the Suns do it: First and foremost, you dump the headache Morris has become. Maybe they're not enthralled by this year's draft class, and feel as though Okafor is a guy they can build their team around. Brandon Knight's not great in pick-and-roll situations, so they can focus on having Okafor post up instead of having him help around the perimeter. Covington gives the Suns some extra size, and he'll be a very serviceable two-way player. They still have a first-round pick, albeit a late one, that they can package with other pieces and move up on draft night. Phoenix also cuts about $4.5 million in salary here, which will help as they inevitably try and lower that tax bill.
One complication here might be Tyson Chandler, whose contract and poor play make him an anvil. This deal probably makes a lot more sense if there's a way to get rid of him, but I don't think anyone would want to touch that contract right now.
@DubCatChris: In a vacuum, who do you think deserves to be Rookie of the Year so far this season?
Karl-Anthony Towns, and I don't think it's particularly close. He was the top pick in this year's draft for a reason, and he's been playing like the great two-way player he was advertised to be. Towns is averaging 15.9 points on 52.4% shooting from the field, 9.5 rebounds, and nearly 2 blocks a game. Nobody is really coming close to matching those numbers. I imagine Kristaps Porzingis ends up coming in a close second, mostly because he plays for the Knicks and there's still the shock factor of him not being as terrible out of the gate as most people thought. But despite very similar usage rates, Towns has really blown Porzingis out of the water.
Jahlil Okafor is probably a distant third. He has the gaudy counting stats people tend to look for when deciding on the ROY, but his advanced numbers are pretty bad, and the Sixers are playing better with him on the bench. But the cool thing about the NBA season is that it doesn't end on Jan. 7, and Okafor still has the next three months to make up some ground.
@GFOSoul: Bjelica and Mirotic haven't exactly lit it up. Had spurts, been good but not stellar. Should we temper expectations on Dario?
Depends on the type of impact you think Saric will have. I think, at best, he's probably a really good sixth man. His skill set is probably indicative of someone who will never be a star at the NBA level, but his knowledge of the game and multi-faceted offensive skill set will allow him to be a contributor for a long time.
I do think that there's a large difference between pro ball in Europe and in the NBA, and that's never been more prevalent than this year. Take Sonny Weems, who absolutely lit up the Euroleague for four years, and is now struggling mightily with the Suns. There's also Marcelinho Huertas, who's really failed to make an impact with the Los Angeles Lakers. I think the two main differences (outside of some of the rules) between Europe and the NBA has to do with the athletes and the pace of the game. Some guys are capable of adjusting to that, but a lot can't. Saric isn't an exceptional athlete, but he knows how to play smart, team oriented basketball, and is more than just a shooter. There's certainly a limit to his ceiling, but I see no reason why he can't be a legitimate contributor on this Sixers team for years to come.
Stephen Keller (via email): The talk among experts is the 2016 draft is "weak". That said, would you want the Lakers pick to convey this year or try for the 2017 season?
There are worse things than having to wait until 2017 to get the Lakers pick. Outside of Ben Simmons, Brandon Ingram, and I suppose Dragan Bender, there's nobody in this class that really excites me. I think guys like Jamal Murray, Skal Labissiere, and Jaylen Brown certainly aren't discussed nearly as high as they currently are if placed in the class of 2014 or 2015. Kris Dunn has improved in some areas this season, but he's vaulted from a late lottery pick in last year's draft to a consensus top-five pick this year because nobody is really there to compete with him.
The goal with the Lakers pick is to try and find a superstar to complete your core group, and in 2016 I think you're looking at a lot of role players who are going to be high lottery picks.
Just looking at the incoming freshman class for 2017, guys like Harry Giles, Josh Jackson, Jayson Tatum, Dennis Smith, and Markelle Fultz have legitimate superstar talent. Considering the current outlook of the roster, four of those guys fill immediate holes for the Sixers.
Having the Lakers pick would be nice for the purpose of instant gratification. But we've waited this long, what's one more year?
@jamesregan1: Is Brandon Ingram a better fit than Ben Simmons?
Yes, as the roster currently stands, without a doubt. The only thing that really separates Simmons and Ingram is the fact that the latter can really shoot from the perimeter, and the former doesn't really try (so I assume he cannot). Ingram's potential on both sides of the ball makes me think he can be plugged in anywhere between the two and the four, while I think Simmons is pretty locked in as a power forward in the NBA.
Provided the Sixers get the top pick, I think they have to strongly consider the impact of drafting Simmons and Ingram. With Ingram, you instantly have your go to wing scorer you've been searching for since the rebuild started. Simmons is still the best prospect in this draft class, but selecting him means they're going to shake up the roster. Having Okafor, Nerlens Noel, Joel Embiid, Dario Saric and Ben Simmons all on one roster is not going to work. I don't think Philadelphia is ready to give up on any of these guys, especially without seeing Embiid and Saric suit up in a Sixers uniform. Personally, I think Simmons is the type of guy worth trading guys out of town for, but Ingram allows you to keep those pieces while still filling an area of need. It's a really tough call, but hopefully it's one Jerry Colangelo and Sam Hinkie have the ability to make. Both Simmons and Ingram can really change the trajectory of this team.
Thanks for reading. As always, you can send me your questions on Twitter @JakePavorsky, or email me at email@example.com