Los Angeles Lakers Smart To Avoid Jahlil Okafor

Dec 3, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia 76ers center Jahlil Okafor (8) reacts against the Boston Celtics during the fourth quarter at Wells Fargo Center. The Celtics defeated the 76ers 107-106. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Lakers were smart in skipping out on trading for Philadelphia 76ers center Jahlil Okafor.

Amid trade rumors, the Philadelphia 76ers have brought former third overall pick Jahlil Okafor back into the fold after having him sit out the previous two games while trying working out a trade for the prized big man.

The offers must’ve been poor, as Okafor will join the team with the NBA trade deadline just weeks away.

Among the teams interested in the prized big man, the Pelicans and Blazers were named, but most notably, the Los Angeles Lakers were listed as a team not interested in Okafor, which I believe was a smart move by the franchise.

ESPN’s Chad Ford mentioned in the offseason that the Lakers “loved” Okafor, sparking the idea that they could be interested in him yet again, two years after bypassing him for D’Angelo Russell with the second overall pick in the 2015 NBA draft.

While Okafor makes sense from an age perspective, trading for Okafo–or specifically, giving up assets for Okafor–wouldn’t have made sense for the Lakers.

For starters, Okafor is just a poor young player at this moment in time. His numbers as a rookie — 17.5 points and 7.0 rebounds — have declined to just 11.6 points and 4.8 rebounds. Part of this has to do with the emergence of Joel Embiid.

The other part is Okafor is a horrendous defender, which submarines his offensive value. Per 82games.com, the 76ers are nearly seven points better on offense and seven points better on defense when Okafor is on the bench.

In an era where versatility reigns supreme, Okafor is a traditional center. He can only defend one position and not that well. Gridlocked defensive players like Okafor at least have to defend the rim, and NBA.com’s stats page has Okafor allowing 58 percent on shots less than six feet.

Not good enough for him to anything more than backup center who can attempt to feast on second units.

The Lakers also have several big men already.

Julius Randle is blossoming in his third season, averaging 12.9 points, 8.0 rebounds, and 3.6 assists. He, much like Okafor, has his own defensive issues as a big man who isn’t great at defending on the perimeter or at the rim.

Larry Nance Jr. gives them the best blend of athleticism and defensive ability and Tarik Black has evolved from a fringe player to a solid backup center option. 

They also have Timofey Mozgov with three years left on his four-year contract. Then consider that Brandon Ingram and other small forward options will get some playing time at power forward in small-ball lineups and where is the fit for Okafor?

Unless Los Angeles decided to move some of these players while acquiring Okafor, it makes more sense to keep what you have on the roster and go from there. 

Los Angeles also has their own young big man to be excited about in rookie Ivica Zubac. After numerous shuttles between the main roster and D-League team, Zubac has flashed in his first 22 games.

Per 36 minutes, Zubac is averaging 15.6 points,10.6 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game, making me curious about his future play once he gets more playing time. 

Zubac is another player that fits into the traditional center scheme. He’s best defending centers at the rim, but he also flashed a jumper and good sense of getting into space without the ball. He has a nice touch around the rim, despite shooting just 51 percent at the rim.

He’s also 19 years old and making just $1.08 million next season. Why expend resources for Okafor when you can see what you have in your own young center for considerably less.?

The Lakers could use some help at the deadline andshould consider making a deal that allows them to add more of a defensive presence on the perimeter. That isn’t Okafor.

With several big men on the roster, including two young ones in Randle and Zubac, the Lakers were wise in skipping out on Okafor.

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