Jahlil Okafor will eventually get moved by the Philadelphia 76ers, and that has the NBA trade rumors buzzing. Whatever ideas of a deal the Sixers had as far a return for the second-year center took a major hit. Now, because of a blockbuster, a first round pick could be all it takes to acquire Okafor from the Sixers. That is a far cry from the last offseason when the Sixers were demanding a lot for Jahlil Okafor.
It was the night of the NBA All-Star game, and the city of New Orleans was on full display. While superstar power forward Anthony Davis was showcasing his talents, the New Orleans Pelicans were flexing their front office negotiating abilities.
After a 192-182 All-Star game win by the Western Conference, it was announced that the New Orleans Pelicans acquired DeMarcus Cousins from the Sacramento Kings.
Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the Kings and Pelicans agreed to a deal that would keep Cousins, Anthony Davis’ All-Star teammate, in New Orleans. The Kings and Pelicans trade was revealed as Davis was celebrating winning the NBA All-Star game’s MVP award. There were other NBA franchises celebrating as a result of the blockbuster trade.
Teams who were looking at a trade with the Philadelphia 76ers for Jahlil Okafor are also happy. The Pelicans gave up guards Tyreke Evans, Buddy Hield, Langston Galloway, one first round pick, and a second rounder for an All-Star center in his prime. Of what the Kings received for Cousins, neither is slated to be as good of a player as he is. Some analysts have gone as far as giving the Kings low marks for the return from the trade.
ESPN’s Kevin Pelton swiftly gave the Sacramento Kings a trade grade of a D. It comes across as a desperation move by the Kings, as the Pelicans’ front office looks like a savvy bunch. The Kings are not the biggest loser on the outset of the DeMarcus Cousins’ trade.
Buddy Hield could turn into a serviceable NBA player, yet not an All-Star. Langston Galloway is a solid player to have on the bench. And as for Tyreke Evans, his return to Sacramento will likely be short-lived. None of it is enough for DeMarcus Cousins, arguably a top 3 big in the NBA.
Who is not in that hierarchy yet is Jahlil Okafor.
Because the Philadelphia Sixers have held onto Okafor since last May, they are the ones left holding the bag. The Pelicans was one of the teams involved in the trade talks for Okafor as recently as two weeks ago.
One of the NBA trade rumors circulating at the time suggested that the Pelicans offered the Sixers a similar deal for Okafor, without Hield. According to CSN Philly, the Sixers balked. Not allowing themselves to get down from not acquiring Jahlil Okafor, the Pelicans turned their attention to better, more established players.
Pels offered Tyreke Evans, 2017 1st rounder and future pick for Jahlil Okafor. Same package for Cousins, but with Buddy Hield added. BUDDY!— Sean Deveney (@SeanDeveney) February 20, 2017
Watching the DeMarcus Cousins trade happen, it is difficult not to see Jahlil Okafor playing elsewhere also. The question is not if the Sixers trade Okafor, but when and for what?
Jahlil Okafor is not projected to be the type of player DeMarcus Cousins is, and it did not take a lot for the Pelicans to trade for him. Now, the Sixers asking has to come down significantly. If the Sixers’ initial asking price for Okafor was two draft picks and a player, as it was widely rumored, they would be lucky to get a first-round pick now.
Although their low-post games mirror each other, the similarities between Cousins and Okafor end there. Cousins is not only one of the better overall scorers, but he’s also one of the best passers and rebounders at his position. Okafor is not there yet. And because the Pelicans gave up so little to get Cousins, a vastly superior player as a top 5 talent at this stage, it will affect what the Sixers get for Okafor.
The other thought to factor in is the fact that just about every team that had considerable interest in Jahlil Okafor found inside help elsewhere. The Denver Nuggets and Portland Trail Blazers decided to made a trade (courtesy of NBA.com) with each other, fixing their needs. And the Pelicans, the biggest winner of the lot added the second-best player, Jimmy Butler being the top player, involved in NBA trade rumors.
That leaves the Chicago Bulls as the one team left standing that is interested in acquiring Jahlil Okafor. A trade between the Bulls and Sixers has long been rumored to take place. The Bulls, who were also interested in DeMarcus Cousins, had to take notice of what it took for the Pelicans to get the center.
Three of the four teams PHI talked to about a Jahlil Okafor trade have acquired a center (DEN, POR, NOLA). CHI is only team that hasn't.— Alex Kennedy (@AlexKennedyNBA) February 20, 2017
The Sixers may want a player and a draft pick in return for Jahlil Okafor, and it is their right. However, if they receive their ideal return, it will be a marginal player along with the draft selection that could include some protection. That is the Sixers’ penalty for mishandling the Jahlil Okafor trade talks from the beginning.
It started with the Sixers asking for a lot in return for Jahlil Okafor. Believing that a trade was near, the Sixers sat Okafor for two games, only to play him in a game prior to the All-Star break. Doing so jettisoned Okafor’s trade value some. Now, in the wake of the DeMarcus Cousins trade, the Philadelphia 76ers lost all of the bidders for Jahlil Okafor except one — the Chicago Bulls.
Patience when it comes to trades can and does pay off well, but reluctance for the sake of winning a trade will sting.
[Featured Image by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images]