The Philadelphia 76ers seemed primed to make a deal before the trade deadline, but Jahlil Okafor has dropped his value significantly.
With the emergence of Joel Embiid, the need for the Philadelphia 76ers to trade away one — if not both — of their excess big men has been well-documented. Brett Brown has tried rolling out tall ball rotations which have failed to function and the disparity in frontcourt playing time has been controversial in a number of ways.
While the entire spectacle of this logjam has been interesting, Jahlil Okafor’s case is quickly becoming the most intriguing. His lack of defensive prowess and questionable conditioning have made him the butt of countless critiques, and Nerlens Noel is already overtaking his playing time on the court — not long after the head coach stated Noel was out of the rotation entirely.
This Is Your Stop, Jah
In the process, Noel’s stellar performance as the go-to reserve has negated Okafor’s value to a great extent, with the team going on a bona fide win streak as Jah racks up DNP’s en route to the third overall pick from 2015 experiencing an incredible fall during his second campaign in the league.
He’s someone the Sixers clearly need to offload, and is — almost without question — the ideal piece to ship elsewhere. His value, however, is making that a difficult task.
Okafor’s lack of playing time is diminishing his stock.
Perhaps the most clear detriment to Okafor’s status as a trade asset is his time spent on the bench. While there will always been the natural value of being the third overall pick just a season ago, most teams — regardless of how talented a player is — are going to be hesitant to pull the trigger on a third string big man for anything above a modest price.
That means it’s becoming more and more difficult to squeeze a quality first round pick out of Jah, if not a first rounder in general. He has had his oft-mentioned weaknesses, and compiling that with no playing time on a 12-win team is a severe non-starter for a number of squads — especially contenders who may be willing to offload a decent asset for interior scoring.
Not to mention, the majority of this falls on Okafor’s shoulders. He failed to improve the aspects of his game which hurt him the most and has thus been unable to establish himself as somebody worth playing time on a team that is beginning to show some very real improvement.
Okafor defensive and rebounding woes are detrimental in today’s NBA.
Speaking of weaknesses, that failure to improve is another bad sign for teams venturing into trade conversations. With today’s league being so reliant on spacing, a weak interior defender who lacks mobility or any real presence on the boards is a considerable hole to try and cover up.
That, combined with the fact that he has shown almost no improvement whatsoever over the course of a season, is a bad look. Teams looking into Okafor are going to want a young piece they can — ideally — build around moving forward. A lack of linear growth over the from year one to year two doesn’t bode well for his chances of improving in the future, and his lack of a two-way presence doesn’t really make him a applicable role player in many scenarios.
He gets lost on the defensive end and commits foolish penalties that can really hold back a team on that side of the ball. You have to plan around his weakness and his reliance on isolation is a hindrance in it’s own right offensively.
This is a new era of basketball, and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to see where Okafor fits in. Bryan Colangelo has emphasized in the past that he won’t make a “bad” trade with one of the Sixers’ bigs. The only fallacy there, though, is that Okafor’s trade value now doesn’t boast much stock regardless. Holding out for a trade that might never come only hurts the team moving forward.
No progression, major weaknesses, and a lack of playing time is a tough item to market.
His offensive limitations shine through as well.
Okafor’s calling card coming into the league was offense. He was a throwback big, one who was going to restore relevancy to and old era’s style of play in some minds. He also had some uncanny Tim Duncan-esque moments at Duke, which only helped reaffirm his stock heading into draft night.
His offensive brilliance, however, has fallen somewhat short at the NBA level. He clearly has some quality moves on the low block, and can finish with some fundamentally-sound execution at the basket — but it’s his lack of prowess elsewhere that hurts him.
Back To The Rim
Okafor scores primarily (almost solely) with his back to the basket in some form, using jump hooks, rolls to the rim, or drives off of face-up plays at the elbow to attack the defense. What he doesn’t do is space the floor, nor does he consistently make good reads in the passing lanes or create room for others to operate around him.
He’s someone that essentially needs sole possession of the ball to be effective, and a lot of teams probably won’t be willing to sell high for him based on that premise as well. He doesn’t make other players around him better — at all, really — and struggles immensely to get much going within the flow of, well, anything.
His isolation-heavy game can throw an offense out of rhythm when shots aren’t falling, and he hasn’t been able to get them to fall enough to warrant a major investment.
What’s a reasonable trade value at this point?
Due to all the aforementioned reasons, determining just what the Sixers could field in an Okafor trade is rather difficult. Hopes of the Nets’ pick or some high-end guard play are no longer within the realm of possibility, and anything of substantial value is becoming hard to picture.
There is, of course, the inherent value of being the third overall pick not too long ago. As mentioned before, that alone is something that is bound to garner some fringe interest. He’s someone who has gained a lot of hype ever since his days in high school and has a few very good traits — like scoring in the post — that gives some sliver of optimism towards him becoming an effective piece in the future.
Lambada, How Low Will It Go
That requires a solid developmental team and a considerable amount of work on his part though, neither of which are guarantees with the majority of teams looking into him. He’s a risk who likely won’t be worth the money he’ll ask for in a couple of years, and his two-year regression isn’t a positive note to kick of trade talks.
I feel like the Sixers will get something done, but the return may not be what some Philadelphia fans have been avidly anticipating. A decent backup at the point guard spot, or perhaps a solid package of second round picks isn’t out of the question; maybe even a late first rounder isn’t quite off the table.
That, however, is pretty much the extent of Okafor’s trade value at this point, which highlights the disappointing decline we’ve seen in his first year-and-a-half in the NBA. I told you guys that Kristaps kid was good.