The 2016-2017 NBA trade deadline is on February 23 at 3 p.m., and rumors are swirling around the Philadelphia 76ers. While the 76ers are an improved team from last season, they still have to make a few major moves before they have any chance of competing in the Eastern Conference. One such move is trading either Jahlil Okafor or Nerlens Noel. Even though both young centers still have a lot of potential, Philadelphia just has too many big men on their roster at this point.
Joel Embiid is the team’s franchise player, and Ben Simmons is set to return soon. While there could be a spot for Okafor or Noel in the rotation, there are just not enough minutes for both of them. Okafor has a lot of potential on the offensive end of the court and in the post, but his defense leaves a lot to be desired. Noel is strong on the defensive end and as a rim protector, but he is unlikely to ever be a great offensive player.
According to NJ Advance Media, interest in Okafor and Noel from around the league has been increasing in recent weeks. While other teams have shown interest in both players dating back to last year, it appeared as though the offers were not up to par. The 76ers may still not get what they want in return, but the increased interest is a positive sign.
Philadelphia 76ers general manager Bryan Colangelo recently spoke to 97.5 The Fanatic regarding the recent surge in interest for Okafor and Noel.
“They all feel that they deserve to be looked at as a potential starter and be paid as a starter. The phones have been ringing. There has been a lot of conversations. There’s been some activity. Quite a bit actually in recent weeks. It’s not something that’s just come up in recent weeks because it’s something we’ve been looking to address since I got here. I’ve always said that I’m looking to make a good deal for this organization. Not a bad deal. At some point, something’s got to give and we probably have to move in a different direction.”
While Colangelo does not want to make a bad deal, his hands may be tied. Okafor has played more in recent weeks since Embiid’s injury, but he clearly does not have the same role as he did last year. In 2015-2016, Okafor averaged 17.5 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks. Everything pointed to him becoming one of the league’s next best big men, but his role has significantly diminished this season.
In 37 games, Okafor is averaging 11.6 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 1.0 blocks. While much of the decrease can be found in the fact that he is playing fewer minutes this season, the 76ers clearly view him behind Embiid and Noel on the pecking order. At only 21-years-old, Okafor still has a lot of potential, but it just may not be with the 76ers. Since he is playing less, that also means opposing teams are not seeing him as much, which is also decreasing his value.
As ESPN reports, the 76ers and New Orleans Pelicans are still having ongoing discussing regarding a potential deal for Okafor, but nothing has transpired over the course of the past few days. Considering the 76ers used the No. 3 overall pick on Okafor only a few years ago, they are looking to at least get some value for him. Whether or not that happens remains to be seen, but Fansided notes that Okafor’s game may pose the same problems for the Pelicans that it is currently doing for the 76ers.
“The addition of Jahlil Okafor will undoubtedly do the opposite and slow down the team’s pace instead. Because Okafor likes to work out of the painted area, he will force Anthony Davis to play more on the perimeter, as was the case this season when Okafor was paired with 76ers rookie sensation Joel Embiid — which we’ll get into more in a little bit. On the other end of the court, Jahlil Okafor is not a good rebounder and defensively is a liability at best.”
In addition to the Pelicans, both Okafor and Noel have been linked to the Boston Celtics. Considering the Celtics are in the same division as the 76ers, the price may be higher in a potential deal. Regardless, the 76ers need to move one of their young big men, so they may have to end up taking what they can get before the NBA trade deadline on February 23.
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