NBA trade rumors sending Jahlil Okafor to the Pelicans went up in flames this week following the announcement that New Orleans had acquired the Kings’ highly-touted big man DeMarcus Cousins in a big-money deal.
The Sixers, who had been quite vocal about shopping the 21-year-old center to the highest bidder — presumably the Pelicans — had just last week prevented him from traveling with his teammates until a trade was finalized.
While most NBA trade rumors centered around Okafor landing in New Orleans, FanSided did note that the Pelicans were far from Jahlil’s only suitor.
“It has been a rough few weeks for Jahlil Okafor,” noted FanSided. “Consistently being in trade rumors must be tough, especially for a second year player…. Before Febraruy 13, there were reportedly up to 10 teams interested in the 76ers center.”
Now, only the Bulls, Mavericks, and Celtics seem to remain.
NBA trade rumors of Okafor returning to his hometown of Chicago had died down in recent weeks amidst speculation of the New Orleans deal. The Bulls, however, seem to be the most likely scenario should the Sixers pull the trigger.
While Okafor is unlikely to fetch a first-round pick, FanSided noted that Chicago has young roster members such as 25-year-old small forward Doug McDermott and 23-year-old shooting guard Denzel Valentine that could really appeal to the Sixers’ youth-oriented mindset.
The trade would also alleviate some of the pressure faced by Philadelphia’s starters with three high-profile centers — Joel Embiid, Nerlens Noel, and Okafor — the latter two of which buried on the depth chart.
Also per FanSided, NBA trade rumors pointing to Okafor being Dallas-bound make a lot of sense, with Dallas looking to improve its defensive presence and the Sixers being able to receive one or two draft picks in addition to 23-year-old small forward and shooting guard Justin Anderson.
Regardless of the potential scenario that could send Okafor to “Beantown,” some believe that the Celtics might have the most to offer Philly in return.
The second-seeded, 37-20 Celtics could offer any number of potential young players in return for Okafor, although the team’s current Eastern Conference second-seed standing and need to keep pace with the Cavaliers — rather than rebuild — could be prohibitive to the Sixers getting a draft pick in return.
Most experts agree that likely trade candidates from Boston would include 22-year-old guard Terry Rozier or 20-year-old small forward Jaylen Brown.
NBA trade rumors concerning either player, coincidentally, would help immediately upgrade the Sixers’ talent level while cutting down on the franchise’s log-jam at center.
Another of the NBA trade rumors floating around is that Okafor could become a key cog in a huge three- or four-team deal involving Chicago’s Jimmy Butler. According to Fansided, both the Celtics and Indiana Pacers have a massive interest in this on-the-outs player, and either team would consider working the Sixers’ Okafor into a multi-team transaction to make that happen.
For now, however, Philadelphia appears content to stay put with Jahlil Okafor on the roster.
With just two days to go until the NBA’s February 23 trade deadline — and given that the Sixers recently reactivated the struggling player to the team’s roster — that possibility does seem the most likely.
Okafor — who has averaged just 23 minutes of playing time in 38 games, mostly in relief of Embiid — is averaging just 4.7 points per game and seems unlikely to improve on that stat-line while sitting on the bench.
“The prospect of a trade has gone [so] far it’s kind of hard to pretend it didn’t happen,” said ESPN’s Marc Stein on ESPN Radio. “But at this point, as we stand, Philadelphia doesn’t have an Okafor deal.”
The wild card in Okafor’s future, sadly, is the uber-conservative-minded Sixers, who have proven oftentimes in the past willing to stay put until they find a deal that they feel best benefits them.
Jahlil Okafor, most speculate, will be staying put this season on the bench.
[Featured Image by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images]