The NBA trade deadline is just over two weeks away, and in the Philadelphia 76ers’ search to solve their front court log jam, it seems as though second-year big man Jahlil Okafor is the most likely piece to move.
Reports on Friday indicated the Chicago Bulls were interested in acquiring his services, but USA Today is indicating the Sixers are now in discussions to send Okafor to the New Orleans Pelicans.
Sixers & Pelicans in talks about sending Jahlil Okafor to New Orleans. Philly pushing for NO 1st rounder. Story coming at @USATODAYsports— Sam Amick (@sam_amick) February 6, 2017
ESPN’s Marc Spears elaborated on Amick’s report, indicating the two sides were in “deep talks”, and Philadelphia would possibly receive center Alexis Ajinca and a first-round pick in exchange for the third overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft.
Sixers could be getting back unhappy center Alexis Ajinca and a future 1st round pick in a Jahlil Okafor trade to New Orleans, a source said— Marc J. Spears (@MarcJSpearsESPN) February 6, 2017
Ajinca, who is currently in his eighth NBA season after beginning his career in France, is currently averaging 4.3 points and 4.3 rebounds in 14.1 minutes per game for the Pelicans.
The crux of this deal falls in the first-round pick the Sixers would receive from New Orleans. They’re currently tied with the Minnesota Timberwolves for the fifth best lottery odds with a record of 19-32, so it’s likely the team will want to protect the pick in some capacity.
If Sixers’ general manager Bryan Colangelo can somehow talk Pelicans’ general manager Dell Demps into not protecting the pick at all, then this deal would be up there with Hinkie’s coup of the Sacramento Kings two years ago. Even if it’s top-five protected, it’s still a fantastic deal. Philadelphia would be able to offload a piece that clearly doesn’t fit, pick up what could potentially be their third lottery pick, and take back minimal salary in the meantime.
The 28-year-old Ajinca signed a four-year, $20 million deal with New Orleans in the summer of 2015, and is due just over $10 million total in the final two years of his deal. Taking on his deal would be a much easier pill to swallow than Omer Asik, who is due nearly $34 million over the next three years. Maybe Ajinca sticks around with the team for the remainder of his deal, but the Sixers could very easily waive him without having any serious financial ramifications, especially when factoring in how much cap space they have.
Although details are still somewhat scarce, this seems like a tremendous deal on the surface for the Sixers, and looks to be progressing quickly.
The Pels have long flirted with putting an offensive-minded big man alongside Anthony Davis. They're trying now to seal this deal for Okafor— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) February 6, 2017
We’ll continue to update this story when more information is available.