The 2016-2017 NBA trade deadline is on February 23 at 3 p.m. ET, and rumors regarding some of the top players in the league are beginning to heat up. While there have not been any major moves yet, things are only going to pick up from this point forward. Atlanta Hawks power forward Paul Millsap, Chicago Bulls small forward Jimmy Butler, and Philadelphia 76ers center Jahlil Okafor have had their names floated around in various scenarios, and the rumors are unlikely to stop coming out regarding those three players. Here is the latest on each of them.
Paul Millsap — Atlanta Hawks
With a record of 21-16, the Atlanta Hawks currently hold the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference. While the Hawks are likely to make the playoffs in the weak Eastern Conference, they are unlikely to make much noise. They already traded Kyle Korver, and they are apparently looking to load up on draft picks. As ESPN’s Marc Stein reports, any package surrounding Millsap is going to require a quality first-round draft pick back in return.
“Can Atlanta get a future first-round pick of better quality than the first it received for Korver when Millsap is poised to attract so much big-money interest as a free agent come July 1? Teams could well prove hesitant to surrender too much for a primo pending free agent. The Hawks, sources say, want at least one quality first to headline a Millsap deal.”
At 31-years-old, Millsap is still at the top of his game. He is averaging 17.7 points, 8.2 rebounds, and 0.9 blocks. According to NBC Sports, the Denver Nuggets, Philadelphia 76ers, Sacramento Kings, and Toronto Raptors are all possible destinations for the 10-year veteran.
Jimmy Butler — Chicago Bulls
After trading point guard Derrick Rose to the New York Knicks last summer, Jimmy Butler officially became the face of the Bulls’ franchise. The 27-year-old is averaging 25.6 points, 4.5 assists, and 6.9 rebounds. In other words, he is one of the best players in the entire NBA, and some consider him an MVP candidate. While Butler is having a tremendous season, the Bulls are in “NBA purgatory.”
Their record of 19-18 is good for the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference, but they are likely to lose in the first round of a potential playoff series. While it may make sense to unload Butler for draft picks and young assets, the latest report claims the Bulls are not interested in trading him, according to ESPN’s Marc Stein.
“Sources with knowledge of the Bulls’ thinking emphatically deny the notion that All-Star swingman Jimmy Butler is available.”
In addition to Stein’s report, Butler also told reporters after yesterday’s game against the Toronto Raptors that he does not want to let the city of Chicago down, according to Bulls.com’s Sam Smith, via Twitter.
The report by ESPN comes in contrast to a report by Bleacher Report that claimed the Bulls were indeed shopping Butler. Whether or not the Bulls are actually shopping their star player remains to be seen, but do not expect them to come out and publicly say it anytime soon.
Jahlil Okafor — Philadelphia 76ers
With Joel Embiid and Nerlens Noel also on the roster, the 76ers have an abundance of big men. While it never hurts to have talent at the center position, Philadelphia just does not have enough minutes to keep them all happy. Additionally, Okafor’s skill set has not meshed well with Embiid, and he may be the one who is eventually traded.
Since last year, both Okafor and Noel have been involved in numerous trade rumors. Each has been linked to the Boston Celtics, but there are other teams that could use the services of each. While it would be in the 76ers’ best interest to unload Noel or Okafor, they have apparently not been offered any deals that they deem fair.
As Tom Moore of the Bucks County Courier Times reports, 76ers coach Brett Brown sat Okafor against the Boston Celtics last Friday.
“Meanwhile, Okafor didn’t play at all vs. the Celtics, as Brown inserted Noel into the rotation and moved Okafor out, at least temporarily. That marked the first time in Okafor’s 1½-year pro career he was a “DNP-CD (Did Not Play-Coach’s Decision). Okafor needs to be a starter, but that won’t happen with Embiid here. Noel is better than Okafor in a reserve role because of his defensive work.”
In addition to sitting out against the Celtics, Okafor was also sat in today’s game against the Brooklyn Nets, and the reason was again DNP-CD (Did Not Play-Coach’s Decision).
If the 76ers hope to get anything of value in return for Okafor, they are going to have to start playing him. On the other hand, they could be playing Noel more to showcase him to potential suitors. Regardless of which player the 76ers favor, they are going to be almost forced to move one of them by February’s deadline.
[Featured Image by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images]