Despite the NBA trade deadline still a few months away, trade rumors abound around the league these days. From Philadelphia 76ers’ big man Jahlil Okafor in the East to one of the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Big Three in Paul George out West, the rumblings seem to be escalating as the NBA enters a critical midseason for contending teams.
Warriors Support Okafor’s Case to Leave Philly
Okafor is closer and closer to becoming a forgotten man in Philadelphia as the Sixers appeared to have almost forgotten their 2015 third overall pick. The former Duke standout has only played 25 minutes in the team’s 15 games this season, which is clearly an indication that he is not in the plans of head coach Brett Brown.
Okafor played only once in the Sixers’ last eight games, a three-minute side job in a 104-97 road win over the Utah Jazz. He has only played two times this season.
With Joel Embiid fixed at starting center, some believed that Okafor would be the first choice off the bench to spell Embiid. However, Okafor has been overtaken by veteran Amir Johnson and fellow third-year player Richaun Holmes as Embiid’s primary substitutes. It should be noted that Holmes was picked 37th overall in the second round of the same draft that saw Okafor get picked at no. 3.
Okafor had been vocal about his intention to leave Philly and is reportedly requesting a trade. There seems to be no movement on the part of the Sixers’ management at the moment, and even his dad, Chukwudi, is trying to express his desire to get traded.
In the game against the Golden State Warriors on Saturday, Chukwudi wore a shirt printed with “Free Jah” at the back. It presumably referred to Okafor’s trade request and the current zero-playing time hole he is in.
Okafor went on to have another no-show night in the 135-114 loss to Golden State. After the match, several Warriors players, particularly Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, and Steph Curry, were seen posing with Chukwudi, pointing at the message on his back.
It remains to be seen what would be the management’s decision regarding the Okafor case. Bleacher Report recently noted that Phoenix might be interested in the former Duke standout as the Suns are reportedly trying to clear off salary space.
Paul George to the Lakers Next Season?
There are whispers regarding the possibility of George joining the Los Angeles Lakers next season. George is set to become an unrestricted free agent next summer via player option and his desire to join his hometown squad has always been public.
With the Thunder struggling at 7-8, Metro‘s Matt Burke believed that there is “little proof” that the Big Three of George, Carmelo Anthony, and Russell Westbrook poses a “legit threat” to the defending champions in the West. The young Lakers are actually not far behind at 7-10 without any legitimate superstar in their fold.
Despite OKC’s struggles, George continues to produce All-Star-like numbers as he is currently averaging 21.6 points, 5.9 rebounds, 2.7 assists, and 2.4 steals in 36.7 minutes per night. Burke said that if George eventually figures out that it is “too difficult to play with two ball-dominant players” in Oklahoma, then he could “absolutely” consider going elsewhere in July.
However, Burke pointed out that George’s decision will depend on the Lakers’ performance this season, particularly rookie Lonzo Ball, who is being branded as a pass-first, championship-caliber point guard that can take the team deep in the playoffs.
So far, Ball is displaying some hints of greatness with a second triple-double in his raw, 16-game career. His shots are not yet falling, but Lakers president Magic Johnson said that the coaches will work on it after the season if Ball continues to struggle on the court.
Other Lakers Rumors
Speaking of the Lakers, veteran wingman Luol Deng is reportedly on the trading block, according to Hoops Habit. However, Deng’s three-year $54 million price tag is hindering any potential deal. Apparently, only a few teams have the salary cap space to accommodate the Briton right now and he is not drawing enough interest. The report said that “a buyout seems more likely.”
Another Laker who is rumored to be on the block is Julius Randle. The Lakers management is said to be “dead set” on freeing enough cap space to potentially sign George, or even LeBron James, next summer. The report said that similar to the Timofey Mozgov-D’Angelo Russell move to Brooklyn, the Lakers could also use Randle as an incentive to take Deng’s giant contract.
[Featured Image by David Zalubowski/AP Images]