At first glance, Jahlil Okafor is an extremely coveted player. He’s 21 years old, was the 3rd overall pick, and his numbers suggest he has produced exceptionally well offensively when given the opportunity – in his rookie season, Okafor averaged 17.5 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 50.8% FG, and 30 minutes a game.
He’s still healthy, but now averaging 12.5 minutes a game in his third year.
This has been in large part due to the emergence of Joel “The Goat” Embiid, but it’s evident the Sixers organization aren’t interested in him being in the team’s long-term plans anymore.
This has started the Free Jah campaign, which has mainly been other NBA players voicing their opinions on the situation that would like to see Okafor get a fair opportunity to progress with a team that will give him a chance.
ESPN recently reported a Jahlil quote that summed it up: “I would like for them to just send me somewhere where I can get an opportunity. I’ve done everything they’ve asked of me.”
He has a fair point.
Although there are some valid concerns, such as his knee surgery to end the 2015-16’ season, liability on defense, and reliance on a post-game in an evolving, perimeter-oriented NBA, the cost to acquire him is more than low enough to warrant a rebuilding team to take a flyer.
The Sixers asking price for the young big-man has drastically dropped, going from what was originally two first-round picks to now only a second-round pick.
With that being said, here are 5 potential trades that would #FreeJah (Shoutout ESPN Trade Machine):
Suns get: Jahlil Okafor, Jerryd Bayless
Sixers get: Greg Monroe, second-round pick
Suns get another project with a high-ceiling in terms of their potential in Okafor. He would complement the young front-court of Bender, Chriss, and Len. They have also been in rumors involving Tyson Chandler, which would free up even more minutes for Okafor.
Sixers get an expiring deal in Greg Monroe which would give them more cap room to help keep their young core together. They also get the Suns’ second-round pick that they have reportedly been requesting in exchange for Okafor.
Hawks get: Jahlil Okafor
Sixers get: Taurean Prince, Malcolm Delaney
The Hawks are in desperate need of a rebuild, and Jah’ would help them in that department. A future core of Schroder, Collins, and Okafor has a lot of potential. Especially for a relatively low asking price, this makes a lot of sense for the Hawks.
For the Sixers, Prince is a nice backup for Covington, who they just locked into a long-term deal. He’s only 23, is on a cheap 3-year deal, and has responded well to his increased role this season – averaging 12.6 ppg, 5.1 rpg, and 2.5 apg on 43.6% FG.
Bulls get: Jahlil Okafor
Sixers get: Bobby Portis
Lauri and Okafor in the frontcourt could be a very intriguing pairing offensively with Markannen’s ability to stretch the floor and Okafor’s preference to post-up (let’s focus on the good things here and not talk about the defensive side of things – Bulls fans need some optimism).
A core of LaVine, Dunn, Lauri, and Okafor would have one of the widest deviations in terms of how we see them progressing, but the potential is appealing. They also will likely have a top-3 pick in this upcoming draft, which would be a nice restart for their organization after getting rid of Jimmy Butler.
The Sixers actually get another solid, young player in this trade as well. Bobby Portis is a hard-nosed big that could come off the bench for Saric to give them more energy. He’s only 22 and is averaging 12.8 ppg and 7.5rpg on only 22.9 mpg. Not to mention, it would probably be for the best if Mirotic and Portis weren’t on the same team anymore because of that whole hitting him in the face and breaking his bones thing.
Lakers get: Jahlil Okafor
Sixers get: Corey Brewer, second-round pick
The only reason the Lakers have for not trying to get Okafor would be their cap situation; if they’re seriously planning on luring two star free-agents in the offseason, this may not be in their best interest. But, in my opinion, the odds that they get those free agents are slimmer than most people think.
The Lakers are so young that it would require a couple years to legitimately compete with the Warriors, and I don’t think these star players (specifically LeBron) are patient enough to go through those growing pains while their window for being in their prime is slowly starting to close.
The most realistic move for the Lakers might actually be to rebuild through their youth, and adding Okafor to that young core will give them another high draft-pick that has shown promise. Ball, Kuzma, Ingram, Nance, Okafor, Randle, Clarkson, Caldwell-Pope, and Hart are all 25 or younger and are talented enough to compete in the playoffs 5 years from now.
For the Sixers, the second-round pick will be high and Corey Brewer is on a one-year deal. If they can’t get more than this, it’s not a bad option.
Celtics get: Jahlil Okafor
Sixers get: Guerschon Yabusele, Abdel Nader, second-round pick
The only glaring weakness the Celtics have is their front-court depth. Baynes has actually been playing well this season, but is also 30 years old; Okafor would be a nice addition for the promising future the Celtics have been building. They are also extremely sound defensively, which would mitigate some of the concerns with playing Okafor. Although he may not play as many minutes compared to if he went elsewhere, this is a great fit for the Celtics.
Sixers take on a interesting project in Yabusele, who was drafted 16th overall by Boston in the 2016 draft. He’s from France, meaning there is certainly a learning curve when transitioning into the NBA – the Sixers would be a good fit as they have demonstrated in the past that they don’t mind being patient with players – Saric was still playing overseas, Embiid was injured when they drafted him, etc.
Which is ironic because they sort of gave up on developing Okafor.
Okafor’s career has already been an interesting, confusing development. He came in right when teams were transitioning away from the traditional bigs playing on the block, which is where he thrived in college. He averaged 17.5 points per game his rookie year, was drafted 3rd overall, and is only 21, yet the asking price for him is essentially the NBA equivalent to a sack of potatoes.
It’s also crazy to think how much more excited Sixers fans were about drafting Okafor than Knicks fans were to draft Kristaps right after at 4.
The fact that the Sixers gave up on him so easily suggests that there’s some glaring holes in his game (or injury concerns) that would prevent him from being part of their future plans. But for such an insignificant asking price, why not take a flyer and find out.
By: Reese Kunz
*Featured photo credit: FiveThirtyEight