Happy end of Daylight Savings time, Jahlil Okafor is still here. I wholly expect to say this on Thanksgiving and Christmas, but that is a bridge we’ll cross (quickly) when we get to it. I already made my position on the Okafor mess very clear - in short, buy him out - but according to David Aldridge, Bryan Colangelo is still looking for a deal that he can make.
League sources indicate the Chicago Bulls and Atlanta Hawks are the most likely destinations for Okafor. But the Sixers are still holding out for at least a Draft pick, and could still opt to keep Okafor either as insurance against further injury to Embiid, or as a potential expiring contract to aggregate as the trade deadline nears.
Of course there are bumps in the road. Why would anyone give up anything for Okafor at this point? Play aside, you get him for only a couple of months (and unless he can help you win now, which he can’t, that narrows down the suitors immensely) and then you could lose him to unrestricted free agency. So why pay a 2nd round pick or foreign rights player or cash for 5 months of Jah. Even if I wanted him, I know he wants out and Sixers want him out so I wouldn’t give up anything on principle alone.
Aldridge pitches some more possible landing spots:
So, where can Philly send him? The Sixers are reluctant to just cut Okafor loose, knowing it will take Celtics boss Danny Ainge about 30 seconds to scarf him up and put him into the injured player exception Boston has for Gordon Hayward. (The two teams haven’t been able to come together on a trade.) Okafor’s knee is sound and he’s in the best shape of his young career.
Some have trotted out the usual suspects: Phoenix and New York and other rebuilding teams. But those teams have their own problems and their own young frontcourt players (Marquese Chriss and Dragan Bender for the Suns; Porzingis and Enes Kanter with the Knicks) who’ll need all the minutes they can get to further develop. That is also, it says here, selling Okafor short -- that all he can be is a stats hunter on a bad team...
And, if it doesn’t work with Chicago or Atlanta, there aren’t a lot of obvious other places the Sixers could send him. A lot of solid and/or promising teams like Charlotte, New Orleans (which had interest in the past in Okafor) and Detrtoit are over the cap and perilously close to the tax threshold, and no one is going to go over it to take a chance that Okafor might be better than he showed in Philly. And good teams already paying the tax this season are obviously not in the mix.
I know GM-ing is a position where a lot of ego comes into play. It comes with the power. But why, oh why, would Bryan Colangelo care if a player not good enough to crack his rotation ended up in Boston? Unless you just think Ainge is a smug jackass and want to keep him from getting anything, which I totally get.
Essentially, that large blockquote is Aldridge using a lot of words to say one simple thing: Teams don’t want Okafor, and if they do, they don’t want to give anything up for him. And if that’s the way it is now, barring an injury that Jah can fill a whole for, his value will only continue to drop. As each day passes, teams move on with one fewer day of guaranteed Okafor they’d be getting in a deal. Unless Jah can hitch a ride on a three-team deal at the deadline or someone just says “screw it, here’s a top-45 protected pick,” I can’t see a deal happening. The next question then becomes, do they hold Jah all the way until the deadline just in case a deal happens, or do they - after getting no nibbles for weeks - just cut bait.