NBA trade rumors out of Philadelphia are ramping up amidst news that Jahlil Okafor is no longer traveling with the team.
The 21-year-old center, who has been the subject of strong trade rumors for most of this season, has played a disappointing average of just 23 minutes, earning just around 11 points per game in 37 games since falling behind the red-hot Joel Embiid on the Sixers’ depth chart.
With Embiid going down to a torn meniscus on January 20, however, it could not be any more clear that Okafor is no longer in the Sixers’ plans.
Jahlil’s NBA trade rumors were all-but-confirmed, when, per the Intelligencer, Philly head coach Brett Brown told the press following the Sixers’ Saturday game against Miami that “If you see me not play him, that’s probably going to be the reason.”
Okafor was a healthy scratch in the team’s 117-109 win over the Heat.
Now, the 20-34 Sixers have announced that Jahlil will not be traveling to Charlotte with his teammates for the franchise’s tilt tonight against the Hornets, a common practice for NBA teams hoping to avoid injury by a player set to be dealt.
In fact, an anonymous league source told the Intelligencer that the Sixers are “working on” a trade involving Okafor as soon as possible.
HoopsHype, meanwhile, pointed to NBA trade rumors involving the Chicago Bulls, New Orleans Pelicans, Portland Trail Blazers, and Denver Nuggets, although the Blazers-Nuggets trade involving Mason Plumlee and Jusuf Nurkic on Sunday likely takes both teams out of the running.
Although the Bulls’ believed February 3 trade proposal was never released, HoopsHype did note that Okafor is a Chicago native. Meanwhile, the Intelligencer noted that the Sixers and Pelicans have had discussions about center Alexis Ajinca and a protected first-round pick coming to Philadelphia for Okafor.
Jahlil Okafor changed his Twitter location to Chicago. He's a native of the Chi, but Bulls are reportedly leading team to land the C #sixers
— Dennis Chambers (@DennisChambers_) February 12, 2017
Either way, Jahlil’s teammates in Philadelphia have gone on record as saying they’d be sad to see him go.
“It’d be tough,” said Nerlens Noel, who was drafted by the Pelicans in 2013 but moved to the Sixers, according to the Intelligencer. “Jah is most definitely one of the nicest kids I know. He’s in a situation like I am, like I have been. I think it’s going to be tough to see anybody go.”
Separating NBA trade rumors from facts, however, can be difficult to discern.
“You never know what’s going to happen,” added Noel. “If something does happen, it does. Life goes on.”
Coach Brown, meanwhile, said that the NBA trade rumors left him feeling “tremendously conflicted.”
“You’ve spent a lot of time with these guys and they’re very young,” he continued. “You’re trying to coach them and educate them and make them aware that this will always be part of your NBA life and it’s many times no reflection on the part of the individual — it’s just the normal drumbeat of an NBA season. You’re not going to find many people that stay with one team their whole career.”
In line with other media outlets’ speculation regarding Kahlil Okafor’s NBA trade rumors, ESPN is reporting that the center has likely played his last game as a 76er, noting “The Sixers will play their final game before the extended All-Star break against the Boston Celtics on Wednesday. There is a good chance Okafor will sit out that game, too, if he’s not traded by that time.”
With the NBA’s February 23 trade deadline immediately following the All-Star break, it seems more safe than ever to say that Jahlil Okafor has played his last game as a member of the Sixers organization.
A fresh start, of course, would likely benefit not just Okafor, but both teams involved in the trade of the former 2015 first round, No. 3 overall pick by the Sixers.
And in Okafor’s case, that change may be just what he needs to jump-start his career once again.
[Featured Image by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images]