A Philadelphia 76ers trade appeared to be in the books a few days ago when the basketball world was stunned by reports stating that center Jahlil Okafor was targeted by the New Orleans Pelicans. Now, the chances of him leaving might be decreasing as he provides impressive performances in the absence of rookie star Joel Embiid.
Earlier this week, the 76ers discussed with the Pelicans a trade that would see them finally part ways with Okafor. They would send him to New Orleans and in return receive the veteran Alexis Ajinca plus a future first-round pick. In a report by NBA.com, Ajinca was even willing for a trade to materialize as long as it granted him significant playing time. The 28-year-old is struggling to be part of Alvin Gentry’s main rotation. He is signed to a four-year deal that expires in 2019.
The news had hype when it first came out but as the week progressed, no agreement was reached by both teams. This may have worked in favor of Okafor since it gave him a chance to prove his worth to the 76ers. In the team’s past seven games, Embiid has been out due to a bruised bone in his left knee.
Taking over the majority of starting duties for Embiid is Okafor and he is doing a splendid job. The former third overall pick had five starts and in four of them, he scored in double-digits. Coach Brett Brown praised him for his performance and his attitude, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Okafor’s latest work took place Wednesday when the 76ers hosted the San Antonio Spurs. Facing the Western Conference powerhouse, he scored 20 points, grabbed eight boards, and blocked two shots in 25 minutes of action. Unfortunately, they failed to seize home court advantage and came up short, 111-103.
Following the game, CSN Philly reported that Okafor spoke about the recent issue and downplayed the potential trade. His mindset is similar to the one he had in the offseason when all his focus was on the 76ers. Ahead of the 2016-17 NBA season, he and fellow center Nerlens Noel were linked to several organizations but they stayed in Philadelphia.
Up next on the 76ers’ schedule is a road game against the Orlando Magic and it is expected that Embiid will also sit this one out as he continues to recover from injury. If given the minutes, this is again an opportunity for Okafor to perhaps change the mind of the 76ers when it comes to a trade.
Unlike in the off-season, the 76ers are silent when it comes to possible deals that could help them with their rebuilding process. The ascension of Embiid is a major factor to this. But if they still aim to complete a trade before the February 23 deadline, it has been suggested in the past that they should go for a point guard. As of this moment, Philadelphia only has two legitimate playmakers in T.J. McConnell and Sergio Rodriguez. Jerryd Bayless was signed in July but he is out for the remainder of the season after undergoing wrist surgery. Nik Stauskas can do the task of ball-handling, although most of the time he is used as a shooting guard.
If the 76ers pursue trade talks with the Pelicans in the coming days, Sixers Sense mentioned the name of Jrue Holiday. The 26-year-old is undoubtedly a starter in the league and is someone who already suited up for Philadelphia. He is capable of bringing experience to the team’s backcourt and young core. The only factor that might be a problem is his existing deal which makes him an unrestricted free agent this summer.
[Featured Image by Matt Slocum/AP Images]