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Sixers Mailbag: What is Jahlil Okafor’s trade value?

Plus Simmons/Fultz positional stuff, Sixers trade thoughts, and more.

NBA: Philadelphia 76ers at Oklahoma City Thunder Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Happy Friday everybody! It is my duty as the leader of this here blog to make sure you’re aware we might bring on some new people to help out with the site, and if you’re interested, you can find more information here.

If you’re just here to read, good news! Readers had a few mailbag questions to ask, so I selected a few to answer before I hop on a flight in a few minutes. As always, if you have any particularly burning questions, you’re welcome to ask me for the next edition.

I don’t think any possible friction between Markelle Fultz and Ben Simmons would be derived from definition of their position. Both guys are going to start, both guys are going to play heavy minutes, and both guys are going to play a big part in the team’s future.

From my read of the situation, Philadelphia’s valuation of Fultz stemmed from a variety of factors, and one of those is versatility. I don’t think they’re concerned about Fultz’s ability to play alongside damn near anyone, let alone next to an unselfish, intelligent player like Simmons. Part of the reason they paid a premium to move up and get him—beyond the obvious talent—is tied to the flexibility he gives them in building the roster.

To illustrate what I mean—if the Sixers do not pursue another commitment to Redick after this season, and the best player on the market they can obtain is suited to play and guard the traditional “1” spot, I do not believe they’d be uncomfortable playing Fultz as a nominal two long-term. I don’t think that’s where they’d invest their resources in one of the next few offseasons, but when Bryan Colangelo says he’s not worried about traditional position labels for these guys, I’m inclined to believe him.

Of course, I’ve raised the concern previously that ego clashing could be the primary concern within their triumvirate of top three picks. But if the Sixers reach that point, it’s a rich man’s problem, rather than something to obsess over or worry about too much this far in advance.

Let’s bundle these questions together, because it’s an unwritten rule to compare the two players any and every time we have a chance.

Here’s what I would say—the Sixers, as illustrated by their attempt to trade him at the deadline, would like to move on from Jahlil Okafor. I do not think it would take much to obtain him, but there are forces hurting the center market more broadly beyond Okafor’s own shortcomings.

The Sixers have talked to no shortage of teams about potential Okafor trades. But look at how sharply the league has changed over the last few years, with small ball more prevalent than ever, and look at how quickly some deals from last offseason—particularly big man deals—went south. Unless you’re a potential impact player at center, many teams aren’t interested in investing a lot of money there.

You also need to consider some of Philadelphia’s other moves this summer. Their two primary signings were on one-year deals, maintaining long-term cap space they can use how they wish. They’re as aware as you are that these next few years are precious regarding their ability to bring in elite role players—and ideally, other stars/superstars—to surround their core three. Once extensions come up for Fultz, Simmons, and Joel Embiid, their ability to land a big fish on the open market is reduced significantly.

They are not going to take on longer-term money in order to be able to get any sort of return for Okafor, and that inherently limits the trade market. And if teams aren’t willing to offer much within that context, it does not look rosy for his free agency future, though I have no doubt some team will inevitably take a chance on him.

There are a couple follow-ups related to some of the above:

If there is a scenario where the Sixers can land a marquee talent without giving up much, they of course will take that risk, provided it doesn’t ruin their flexibility moving forward. That’s simply unlikely to happen.

I think the Sixers are primarily interested in being able to sell a free agent outright on the progress of their program. They know who they are—they’re a young team with a lot to prove, but a young team whose core parts are potentially a major attraction if things go well this year. They believe in the pieces in place, and would like to be able to make sales pitches to other players directly, rather than giving anything up for what could end up being a rental.

This isn’t an ordinary group of rookies. Simmons is working out with LeBron James in the summer. Embiid is already one of the most well-known figures in the league, and a naturally outgoing guy who has not shied away from recruiting, jokingly or otherwise. This provides the Sixers with a level of confidence a similar franchise would not have, and lets them be more patient relative to peers.

If they’re on track for a 5-6 seed—man, that would be great—I think that’s just another part of their eventual sales pitch to free agents. They won’t ignore the trade market, but my guess is they will be cautious.

Holmes will be the primary backup to Joel Embiid. If Embiid gets hurt or has nights off, I can see a scenario where Okafor gets showcased, but so long as things are heading in the path the team hopes, they are playing Holmes more.

This question also assumes Okafor is on the team to start the season, which is still far from a guarantee. Even if he is, the above holds.

If I had to guess, I suppose I would bet my money on Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot.

The logic here is simple—he’s the player I would feel most confident in not being played off one end of the floor in an eventual playoff series. Nik Stauskas’ defensive concerns are well-known, Furkan Korkmaz has even bigger questions at the moment because of his frame, and I don’t believe in Justin Anderson’s jumper, nor am I convinced he’s a good defensive player, either.

TLC isn’t exactly a sharpshooter yet, but I think he’s the player who is easiest to project as a contributor on both ends, or at least as someone who teams won’t pick on at either end of the court. Eventually, I think he settles in as an average to above-average shooter, and he has the athleticism and frame to be a solid defender, provided his reads get sharper.

Of course, if you believe Embiid is going to clean up all the defensive misdeeds, betting one of the shooters to be a microwave guy isn’t crazy either. In the right scenario, I could see Stauskas or Korkmaz coming up huge with a lights out shooting night in the playoffs. The question is whether they would give it right back at the other end.

We’ve been over this before: He’s never coming over.

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