Jahlil Okafor knows the Philadelphia 76ers are trying to trade him.
Here’s what he told Basketball Insiders’ Alex Kennedy:
“Well, of course you hear it,” Okafor said of trade rumors. “You hear it because of people texting you and asking you and all of that stuff. There were trade rumors involving me throughout the season. Then, at the All-Star break, there were some more trade rumors. So I talked to my head coach, Brett Brown, and he just told me that as long as I’m in the NBA, that’s going to be part of my life. I try to block it out, but being an NBA player, it’s just something you have to deal with.”
Obviously Okafor knows about the trade rumors. Even if the Sixers have not kept him apprised of their plans, he can read. And he can also do simple math.
Joel Embiid + Nerlens Noel + Jahlil Okafor + Dario Saric + Ben Simmons = Waaaaaaay to many players who stand 6’10” or taller.
Embiid, Noel and Saric specifically are all best off playing the same position: center. That shouldn’t directly impact their decision to draft or pass on Simmons, but they have to play those guys somewhere. At least a fraction of their minutes will spill over into power forward, hence the dilemma with Saric and Simmons.
If the Sixers do nothing, they get themselves in a situation where Saric and Simmons must survive at small forward. The latter is more than capable of playing the 3, and Saric has small forward-like offensive range. But in today’s NBA, they’re power forwards.
Thus, the Sixers need to make a trade. And moving Embiid is almost out of the question. You need to see what you have in him first. Noel is the easiest of the three should-be centers to deal, but he’s also the Sixers’ only known commodity.
That leaves Okafor.
There is no telling right now whether he’ll begin next season in Philly. If the Sixers have their way, probably not. Even if they roll with Brandon Ingram over Simmons (unlikely), they need to clear up this frontcourt logjam.
Of course, this assumes there is even a market for Okafor. The going rate for top-three picks who don’t play defense or shoot jumpers isn’t very high these days. Okafor and the Sixers, in turn, may be stuck with each other.