Since the last offseason, Philadelphia 76ers center Jahlil Okafor has been ignoring every trade rumor surrounding him and frequently said that he’s happy to stay in the City of Brotherly Love. However, Okafor realized that it’s time for him to stop fooling himself and say his heart’s content.
“Sometimes I do think it would be great to get a fresh start, be on a new team, new surroundings, new teammates. I think about that often and I think that’s something that could benefit me,” Okafor said, per SB Nation.
No one can blame Jahlil Okafor for giving such demand. He has been treated worse than a spare tire in Philadelphia since Joel Embiid came into the scene. From an explosive rookie season, Okafor found himself out of the Sixers’ rotation in the following year. In line with his diminishing role, his numbers also started to go down.
In the recent offseason, Okafor made a huge improvement in his physique after undergoing a vegan diet. There has been a noticeable change in his speed but it’s not enough for him to be reconsidered as a starter or even as a primary backup center. The Sixers’ decision to give Embiid a maximum extension shows how they value him as a player who will lead the team in the succeeding years.
“Trust the process” is the phrase that has been ringing around the City of Brotherly Love since the Sixers decided to tank. They have gathered the best players they could get in each year’s draft without considering their fit on their roster. Jahlil Okafor was one of the products of the process, but he doesn’t feel he’s still part of it.
“I’m unsure if I’m still on the team,” Okafor said. “Am I really a part of this process? Am I really a part of this culture? That’s why the guys have been out there on social media, but I’ve just kind of been in the dark. I’ll go to a Sixers event, smile, take pictures with the kids and stuff like that, but I’m still thinking, ‘am I a part of this team?'”
Since the February deadline, there has been a consistent rumor that the Sixers are shopping Okafor. A rival general manager revealed that every team knows the disgruntled big man is on the trading block, but his recurring injury made most NBA teams think twice before making a deal.
Sixers president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo denied that they are actively shopping Okafor. However, Keith Pompey of Philly believes it’s only Colangelo’s way of increasing Okafor’s trade value. The Sixers’ demand might be one of the major reasons why Okafor remains on the team.
With the emergence of small ball, most NBA teams aren’t willing to give up that much for a traditional big man who has defensive issues. One NBA executive, who frequently trashed Okafor’s defense, still believes the big man has a bright future in the league. However, Philadelphia is obviously not the place where Okafor can develop into a superstar.
With his recent statements, it’s crystal clear that Okafor wants his way out of Philadelphia. As of now, it’s for the Sixers to decide whether they will let him start a new journey with another team or sit on their bench for another season. Expect rumors to swirl around Okafor until the February trade deadline.
[Featured Image by Elsa/Getty Images]