With just eight days remaining before the NBA trade deadline, Jahlil Okafor has rejoined the Philadelphia 76ers, but for how long remains anyone’s guess.
Philly.com reports the second-year center is expected to be in uniform and ready for action when the Sixers face the host Boston Celtics Wednesday night.
Ironically, the game could be a precursor to where Okafor may be spending the next phase of his NBA career.
The Celtics are one of several teams rumored to still be in talks with Philly about acquiring Okafor, made expendable in Philadelphia by the Sixers’ glut of talented big men such as Joel Embiid and Nerlens Noel.
At one point, the Sixers seemed so close to dealing the former Duke star they held him out of uniform as they tried to hammer home the fine points of a proposed deal.
Okafor did not travel with the team for Monday’s game at Charlotte and also received a DNP Coach’s Decision Saturday night at home against Miami.
Okafor is reported to have spent the time off in his hometown of Chicago, another rumored possible destination for him.
Besides the Bulls and Celtics, other teams that have shown interest include the Denver Nuggets, Portland Trailblazers, and New Orleans Pelicans, where Okafor would be teamed with fellow Chicagoan Anthony Davis.
During his time with the Sixers, Okafor has been productive enough, averaging 15 points and six assists. But the No. 3 pick in the 2015 draft has seemingly been in play from the time he landed in Philadelphia.
He was the subject of trade talks soon after Philly selected him, and several media outlets reported around last year’s trade deadline that the team again came close to dealing him to Boston.
Okafor’s bad right knee and limited defensive ability have emerged as drawbacks for teams otherwise interested in acquiring him, but his hometown Bulls have consistently shown an interest.
Word is the offensively-challenged Bulls envision Okafor providing scoring punch from inside, complementing the slashing styles of veterans Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade.
While the Bulls have promoted the idea of including a third team to make the deal work, the Sixers could be interested in some combination of Nikola Mirotic, Doug McDermott, Denzel Valentine and a draft pick.
Like Okafor, Mirotic was recently held out of the Bulls’ game in Minnesota against former longtime coach Tom Thibodeau, fueling even more speculation. The team officially listed the cause of his absence as back spasms.
The New Orleans’ rumors have also been frequently highlighted, with the Pelicans reportedly dangling center Alexis Ajinca and a 2018 first-round pick as compensation for Okafor.
With Embiid finally somewhat healthy for most of this season, the Sixers and coach Brett Brown are suddenly loaded in the frontcourt. In 31 games and on an average of just 25 minutes a night, Embiid has averaged a team-leading 20 points and eight rebounds.
He also leads the team in blocks at 2.45 and is fourth in steals at nearly one per game.
Meanwhile, the defensive-minded Noel is averaging nine points, five rebounds, and a steal and block per night. For his career, he’s at 10 points, eight rebounds, and two blocks.
At some point and time, the Sixers will also be adding talented swingman and 2016 top draft pick Ben Simmons to the mix.
ESPN reports it’s uncertain if Simmons will make it back this season from surgery for a right foot injury he suffered during the preseason, but there are still rumblings it could happen sometime over the second half of the season.
Whenever it does, Philly is expected to build its offense around the former LSU star and Embiid, making Okafor’s strengths as a scorer all the more unneeded.
[Featured Image by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images]