By Lewis Gould
If you read the lame-ass Philly media, you might think that soon-to-be-soph Jahlil Okafor is a load who must be unloaded.
Excuse me, but when do you not need the only proven scorer on your team?
Okafor showed some good parts to his game as a rookie before the knee injury caused him to finish his initial campaign at just 53 games. But he didn’t look like the franchise-changing center that he was touted as in high school and after his one championship season at Duke. The fact that he didn’t look as impressive as guys like Towns or Kristaps Porzingis colors the way we view his potential, but that might be a little premature, too.
Ultimately, the potential to have a presence inside who can score and possibly build a symbiotic relationship with perimeter threats is there with Okafor, so if you believe you can surround him with enough weapons to have a balanced inside-out attack, there’s plenty of reason to trade for him.
The trickiest part of this discussion in trying to figure out if you trade Okafor or Nerlens Noel is finding a team that definitely wants a post presence like Okafor in a league heading more toward the perimeter. And if they do, what are they willing to give back to the Sixers in the form of perimeter production, which the Sixers would clearly be targeting?
There’s one team that really makes sense:
The Los Angeles Lakers
Maybe this is the best option — to approach the Lakers, the team that passed on Okafor with the No. 2 pick a year ago, and see if there is interest in pairing him with D’Angelo Russell and Brandon Ingram moving forward. Immediately, you realize that the Lakers just gave $64 million to Timofey Mozgov, but a couple of teams gave big contracts to big men who may end up being backups or even third bigs in the rotation.
After all, Ian Mahinmi went to the Washington Wizards for four years and $64 million despite Marcin Gortat being the starting center. Bismack Biyombo signed for four years and roughly $72 million to currently be the backup to Nikola Vucevic with the Orlando Magic. So ending up with Okafor as your starting center and Mozgov as your expensive backup isn’t the end of the world.
The only way you start getting proper value back in return is getting Jordan Clarkson in the deal. The Lakers just re-signed him to a four-year, $50 million and he can’t be traded until December 14, but that would have to be the starting point. Then maybe the Lakers part with Julius Randle, Lou Williams and a protected first-round pick. That would probably be enough value for the Sixers to feel good about letting Okafor go.