NBA Trade Rumors: 5 Most Likely Landing Spots for Jahlil Okafor
Before the 2017 NBA trade deadline passes, the Philadelphia 76ers will have dealt away Jahlil Okafor. Just where he’ll be going is still to be determined, though.
At this moment, all signs are pointing to the Philadelphia 76ers trading away big man Jahlil Okafor before the 2017 NBA Trade Deadline. While a deal isn’t necessarily imminent, it appears the 76ers are looking far and wide in search of a trade partner before February 23.
It comes as no surprise, as Philadelphia has been rumored to be looking for a new home for Okafor in the past. The former No. 3 overall pick in 2015 hasn’t quite lived up to the hype, but has shown the ability to make a big impact on offense.
The overall upside in Okafor makes it easy to see why several teams are trying to make a deal happen.
HoopsHype’s Alex Kennedy recently reported that four teams were in the running for Okafor. Those included the Chicago Bulls, Denver Nuggets, New Orleans Pelicans and Portland Trail Blazers. Other teams have also been mentioned as part of the equation.
When it comes down to it, though, the 76ers can only pick one team to send Okafor to. That’s why you’re here reading this–to find out which teams are most likely to trade for him.
So here they are–the five teams I believe are most likely to acquire Okafor before the 2017 NBA Trade Deadline.
5. Denver Nuggets
The first on our list is the Nuggets, who were a surprise mention by Kennedy. Put simply, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense for Denver to be interested in Okafor.
As you may know, the Nuggets recently escaped a difficult decision in the frontcourt. Their rising star, Nikola Jokic, has taken over the starting job and ran with it. Meanwhile, they just got rid of Jusuf Nurkic, who wasn’t satisfied as a backup considering his starting-caliber abilities.
Prior to Sunday’s deal that sent Nurkic to the Portland Trail Blazers, the Nuggets were desperately searching for a way to give the backup big man an opportunity elsewhere.
That’s the exact predicament the 76ers are in with Okafor, who is currently behind Joel Embiid and Nerlens Noel on the center depth chart. A trade would essentially put Okafor in the same position he’s currently in with Philadelphia.
Okafor isn’t going to slide down to the 4, and won’t be any happier behind Jokic on the depth chart. So when all is said and done, a trade to the Nuggets doesn’t make a ton of sense for the former Duke star.
The only reason Denver even made this list is because Kennedy mentioned they were involved in trade talks. Chances are very slim the Nuggets get involved unless it’s as a third team to help facilitate a deal.
4. Los Angeles Lakers
Prior to every NBA trade deadline, the Lakers are seen as serious buyers. However, for much of the 2016-17 season, the team has denied any significant interest in making a move. That’s why you find them here at No. 4 on this list.
Early in the season, GM Mitch Kupchak made it clear he wasn’t interested in making some blockbuster deal. The team was listening to offers and keeping their eyes open for potential opportunities, but actively searching wasn’t a part of the plan. And yet, here we are.
According to Real GM’s Keith Smith, the Lakers recently inquired with the 76ers about a potential Okafor trade.
They’ve long been mentioned as a potential landing spot for the former Blue Devil after they passed on him during the 2015 NBA Draft, but haven’t been seen as serious players for his services.
I still think that’s the case, even after what Smith said on Saturday.
The Lakers aren’t willing to move any of their top prospects, and don’t have many draft assets to work with. Making a deal for Okafor would likely cost more than they’d want to give up. Los Angeles faithful would love to see a big deal come to fruition, but chances seem slim.
3. Portland Trail Blazers
Heading into the weekend, the Portland Trail Blazers were considered one of the top potential landing spots for Okafor. However, after acquiring Nurkic on Sunday, the need for a big man faded a tad.
Still, as Smith pointed out, Portland isn’t quite out of the running. The Trail Blazers could create an interesting front-court duo of Nurkic and Okafor, giving them a young, high-upside combination down low. They could definitely do worse at this point.
It also helps that they now possess three first-round picks heading into the 2017 NBA Draft. That’s more than enough firepower to acquire a talent like Okafor, especially from a Philadelphia team that has an unhealthy obsession with stockpiling first-round picks.
In the end, though, I think the Trail Blazers are the least likely of the top three to acquire Okafor. They couldn’t work something out with the 76ers, and opted instead to turn their attention to Nurkic.
Unless they can come to terms on a reasonable deal for the Duke product, I don’t see them pulling the trigger.
Don’t get discouraged, Philadelphia fans–a trade is still very likely.
2. New Orleans Pelicans
Since the Okafor talks picked back up, the Pelicans have been in the thick of things. From offers of Alexis Ajinca to discussions revolving around Jrue Holiday, the 76ers have gotten to know New Orleans’ shot callers very well.
Unfortunately, it appears talks haven’t gone as well as the Pelicans may have hoped. That’s because, as you can tell, a deal hasn’t yet happened.
Still, the potential is there for talks to continue and an agreement to be made. New Orleans is obviously interested in adding Okafor to their front court to team with Anthony Davis.
The Pelicans’ lineup doesn’t exactly offer a ton of star power or even upside, so it makes sense for them to be interested in the former No. 3 overall pick.
The only problem is they don’t have much to offer the 76ers. Philadelphia is believed to want to bring back Holiday, but the Pelicans aren’t willing to let him go (via Smith). I’m not sure what more the 76ers will actually want in return for their former first-round selection.
If anyone other than the top team on this list will get a deal done, though, it’s New Orleans. It remains to be seen how desperate either side will get leading up to the trade deadline.
1. Chicago Bulls
So here we are–the top contender to land Okafor before the 2017 NBA Trade Deadline.
Following recent events, the trade discussions for the 76ers’ big man have taken a slight detour. Initially, it seemed as though the Pelicans were the top potential landing spot. Now, however, the Bulls have assumed the top spot on this list.
According to Smith, Chicago has “emerged as the favorite” to land Okafor before the deadline. Based on what we know, it makes a lot of sense for the Bulls to be the leading candidates at this point.
First off, Chicago is an ideal place for Okafor considering he grew up there. If there’s anywhere for him to truly thrive as an NBA player, it’s in his former stomping grounds, a place where he could potentially blossom after a rough first couple of seasons.
Second, the Bulls desperately need to change something. There’s been a lot of internal turmoil this season, with several of the team’s top talents calling out teammates after disappointing games.
By trading for Okafor, they could find themselves a young big man to inject some offense into this roster while potentially cutting ties with one of their problem makers.
If Chicago plans on actually making the playoffs this season, they need to shake things up. While trading for Okafor is no solve-all, it could be the change that gets this Bulls team back in gear.