Jahlil Okafor is not Tim Duncan. And he will probably never be the centerpiece of a championship team. But on the other hand he is not his distant relative, Emeka Okafor. He is likely to fall somewhere in the middle where he could end up with some awards when it is all said and done. Okafor is already a fringe All Star talent and he is still only 20, so most teams would never think about trading him. The Sixers though are in a unique situation. He and Noel are complete opposites. Jahlil is a top notch offensive presence down in the post and where he lacks, defending the basketball, Noel has shown some elite ability, but in contrast has a hard time scoring the ball. And then of course there is the mystery that is Joel Embiid. If he can stay healthy, who knows how good he can be. At this stage of the rebuilding process, the Sixers have good talent, but it is all in the frontcourt, meaning it would be wise to get some value back for one of the three bigs. This has sparked many rumors that Okafor and Noel are being shopped around for a high draft pick. Contrary to the popular opinions of the fans, it would be foolish to trade one of these guys, specifically Okafor.
The Embiid mystery
I am a believer that Joel Embiid will play and stay durable this year. But at this point, I think you have to be positive about the former Kansas big man because he is so vital to the future of the Sixers. Realistically it is tough to be overly confident that Embiid will be on the court all season. Embiid is probably going to be dealing with some type of injury during the season and without having Okafor there as an insurance policy, this team could take a major step back.
Where we stand now, it is very hard to predict whether or not Embiid will remain healthy and for that reason it would be wise to hold on to Okafor. If Embiid is healthy, then you can think about dealing Okafor but as of right now, it would be a huge risk to deal their top big man.
Okafor Is Already a Top Three Low Post Offensive Big
Say what you want about his defense, it is very hard to critique his offensive game. I would say that behind Demarcus Cousins, Okafor is already the second best offensive big man in the NBA. That kind of praise is unheard of for a kid of 20 years old. Yes, it is acknowledged that he needs to work on his defense, but he is an elite offensive talent. In addition, defense is much easier to get better at because it primarily comes from effort. On a team that has something to play for, I guarantee thatyou would see a different Jahlil Okafor on defense. The Sixers would be smart to give the big man another year to see just how good he can be. To give up on that kind of talent after just one year, regardless of the logjam at center, could prove to be a very damaging mistake.
Big Drop-off after Simmons and Ingram
If the Sixers were able to swing a deal involving Okafor that nets them both Ingram and Simmons, then I am all for it, but that is probably not going to happen. There is a huge drop-off after the top two picks. Listening to sports talk radio you hear people clamoring for Jamal Murray or Kris Dunn at the three slot which to me, would be a huge downgrade in talent even though they would be filling a need at the guard position. Think about it this way, if Okafor were in the draft this year, he would be a no doubt top three pick, so if the Sixers were to do a straight swap with the Celtics for three, the Celtics would be huge winners. Plus it would be hard to give a player like Okafor to a team in your division.
Dunn, Murray and Buddy Hield are each nice players, but they do not have the upside that Okafor possesses. Dunn has trouble shooting, Murray is a relatively average athlete, and Hield at 22 might already be a finished product. This draft just is not that deep and it would be foolish to bank on one of these three guards to outperform Okafor.
The Sixers are not Going to be good..at least right away:
Sorry Sixers fans, but the 2016-2017 Sixers are not going to be contenders regardless of who they are able to add or subtract. The possible Nerlens Noel trade for Jeff Teague (one that I am not a very big fan of), would give them some type of legitimacy, but in the end, they are still going to be way too young and inexperienced to make any noise in the Atlantic division. Therefore this upcoming year will be one of development and experimentation, the perfect opportunity to test out these bigs. Embiid will not be able to play 82 games next year and Noel has shown some problems with durability, so there will be plenty of minutes for Okafor to grow into the All Star that many think he can. If at the end of the season they realize that it will not the three-way big man rotation will not work, then you can trade either Noel or Okafor. Why would you go out of your way to give up on a budding talent like Okafor even when you know that this upcoming season is not going to be one of any importance?
This offseason is paramount to the future of the Sixers franchise. One wrong move could derail the entire rebuilding process. In the case of moving Okafor, I believe this could be one of those wrong moves. The front office needs to remain patience and keep the in-house talent even if there are overloaded positions. At this point, Jahlil Okafor is probably the best player on the team and they would be making a huge mistake in getting rid of him.
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