The Philadelphia 76ers have a surplus of big men at their disposal, featuring the likes of Nerlens Noel, Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor. Depth on the roster, let alone one specific position, has not been a strong suit for a Sixers team that has unabashedly tanked its previous three seasons. But after a change at the general manager post (Bryan Colangelo replaced Sam Hinkie in April) and arrival of the number one pick Ben Simmons, the team is finally ready to move forward.
One of the few remaining issues facing the Sixers, however, is their roster imbalance. While Noel, Embiid and Okafor present a formidable front court, they’re extremely thin at the guard position. And besides, only two of those three big bodies can be on the floor at the same time, with the NBA transitioning to a wide-open guard and wing driven league more and more. And therein lies the problem.
The logical next step in Philly is to trade one of their big-bodied assets in exchange for a guard, or at least a shooter who can help spread the floor. Embiid’s injury history (he hasn’t played a single game since being drafted two years ago) has teams understandably reluctant. And between Jahlil Okafor and Nerlens Noel, the prevailing notion in NBA circles remains that Okafor will provide the Sixers with the best haul in return. And in other words, recent free-agent acquisitions Jerryd Bayless and Gerald Henderson are not long-term solutions.
So, with Sixer fans and Philly radio stations clamoring for a winner, speculation has swirled around that very notion of trading one of their interior players, most notably, Okafor. And in recent report, CSN Phillyhighlighted a Twitter rant from Okafor on Sunday night, sparking a heated argument between the player and a Sixers beat reporter. Apparently, the former Duke star has had enough of the rumor mill, as you can see in the collection of tweets below.
From the moment the 76ers selected Okafor with the third overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, rumors swirled about his unhappiness about landing in Philadelphia. They were still clearly in tank mode, and already had Embiid and Noel on the roster. But the desired guards in both the 2014 and 2015 drafts (Andrew Wiggins and D’Angelo Russell) went before the Sixers picked so they operated under the “best player available” strategy.
Now with Simmons and Croatian import Dario Saric ready to help right the ship, the trade rumors have picked up even more steam, and may have been at their peak during draft night last month. Both new GM Colangelo and head coach Brett Brown recently admitted that they’d find it hard to believe that all three Embiid, Noel, and Okafor would be with the team when the season started, especially now that Embiid finally appears to be on a track towards suiting up.
Sixers beat reporter Tom Moore reiterated what most Philly fans were already speculating, that Okafor would be shipped elsewhere. He reported that the team has already tried to trade him, resulting in Okafor getting upset, and thus the rant on social media. Moore went on 94 WIP to tell his side of the story, as reported by CBS Philly.
“I was told that the Sixers quote, ‘tried like hell to trade Okafor,’ unquote. And that as a result of trying and it is not happening that he is quote, ‘Upset and his people are upset.’ Closed quote.”
As far as why a deal has yet to be made, Moore said he believes that either other teams are undervaluing Noel and Okafor, or the Sixers are overvaluing them. But as for Okafor’s tweets, Moore had some clarifying to do.
“Well, the last thing he said, I don’t know if I ever said the one. I said upset about trade rumors, but I’m not sure about being upset in Philly. I’m not sure exactly where that — if that’s another report, or what that is. But I mean, athletes tend to not be thrilled if they find out their team is looking to trade them especially when you’re a high draft pick and appear to be a cornerstone of the future. And maybe, like a knee jerk reaction was to respond that and perhaps now realizing that it looks like there’s a much better chance that one of the big guys won’t be traded than there was less than three weeks ago. You know, the reality of it. Perhaps that’s part of it. I’m not sure.”
[Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images]