Trading for Jahlil Okafor would be a grave mistake, Bulls
The Chicago Bulls have been linked to rumors surrounding Philadelphia 76ers center Jahlil Okafor with the NBA’s trade deadline approaching soon. Here’s why the Bulls should stay as far away from a deal as possible.
Jahlil Okafor is just 21 years old.
He’s not even two full seasons into his NBA career and is criticized about as much as any young player in the league on one of the league’s worst franchises in recent years.
The Sixers have a conundrum on their hands with Okafor. This season, Joel Embiid finally took the floor and has become an instant sensation on and off the court. Despite some tension early in the season because of his unknown future with the Sixers, Nerlens Noel is one of the most effective players on the defensive end in the NBA.
That leaves Okafor as the odd man out in Philadelphia in the front court rotation for the Sixers, and with Okafor being in just his sophomore season, there’s still potential for Okafor to become a big man that can join the likes of the young front court unicorns across the Association such as Karl-Anthony Towns, Nikola Jokic, Myles Turner and Kristaps Porzingis.
The Bulls have already shown interest in acquiring Okafor, and yeah, it makes sense.
Okafor played at one of college basketball’s blue-blooded schools in Duke during his lone season and won a national title. He was the No. 3 overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, so yes, he fits the “younger and more athletic” mantra that was labeled by Gar Forman and John Paxson before this strange season began for the Bulls.
Plus, like Dwyane Wade being from nearby Robbins, IL, Okafor is a local product, starring at Whitney Young High School in the famed Chicago Public League before heading to Duke.
He’s got the potential to be a talented player inside the arc and on the blocks at times with his strong 275-pound frame and footwork, which probably intrigues the Bulls because of how much they play through Taj Gibson and Robin Lopez at times offensively when it’s not the Wade and Jimmy Butler tandem taking over ballgames.
The problem with Okafor is that he’s basically a dinosaur for the fact that he’s not just a giant human being; he’s a player with a skill set you just don’t see from centers these days in the NBA. It’s almost like the game is passing him by.
What do I mean?
His less-than-impressive shot chart has no attempts from 3-point range this season and for his year-plus career, he’s taken just six shots from beyond the arc with the Sixers. Those four young big men I mentioned earlier — all of whom are in their second NBA seasons like Okafor — have all taken at least 80 3-pointers at this point in the season. Those four have become centerpieces for their franchises (no pun intended) with their versatility.
The point is, the Bulls already have a front court rotation that are struggling to shoot from the perimeter (and a whole roster this season for that matter). Adding Okafor sets them back even further if they look to acquire him.
The Bulls are the worst 3-point shooting team in the league and adding a slow-footed big man that can’t shoot from long range would feel like such a Forman/Paxson move, but they have to keep that finger off the trigger with the deadline approaching.
(Another reason why: apparently the Sixers want a first-round pick in a potential Okafor trade, which should lead to the Bulls hanging up the phone quickly after hearing that.)
It’s not just Okafor not being a new-school big man offensively either. The only player with a worse defensive rating on the Sixers than Okafor’s 111.0 rating is Chasson Randle, a point guard that’s spent most of this year in the D-League.
Okafor’s -16.3 net rating (the worst on the roster) does have something to do with who he plays with in Philly’s second unit, but it’s not like Embiid has been playing night in and night out. He’s a huge body, but he moves like he’s in concrete on the defensive end. The Bulls are already sluggish in terms of their athleticism on defense and Okafor would only make matters worse than they already are.
It’s not so much about what the Bulls would give up.
It’s more about obtaining a piece that not only doesn’t make sense, but making matters even worse for a franchise without any kind of direction to begin with.
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