While the trade deadline might still be a couple of weeks away, questions are already piling up regarding whether or not the Philadelphia Sixers will trade rookie centre Jahlil Okafor.
Despite the fact that the 2015 number-three draft pick has been a revelation since his arrival, there is a feeling that Philadelphia could be tempted to trade one of the best players in the league if returning centre Joel Embiid comes back fully fit from his lengthy time on the sidelines.
The number-three pick in the 2014 draft hasn’t played a game since being signed by the Sixers and his comeback has led some to believe Okafor will be sacrificed in order to help Philadelphia assemble a roster capable of ending this dismal slump.
The theory is that Embiid and last year’s number three pick simply can’t play together. The two big men are clearly very good players, but while Embiid fits into the style of play Philadelphia have been trying to implement, Okafor’s presence has seen the team forced to slow down their offensive tactics. There is, of course, a third piece in the centre puzzle in Nerlens Noel, who has been overlooked somewhat in this whole matter.
The Sixers are clearly looking to get rid of one of their three young centres and Embiid is undoubtedly not a player they are ready to cut their losses on. There is a strong case to suggest that it should be Noel while Okafor and the returning centre are kept at the franchise. It’s not really known what Sixers head coach Brett Brown would prefer, but you’d imagine the Philadelphia board would have consulted the coaching staff before making a decision.
With the Sixers currently enduring another disastrous season, one which has seen them fall to as long as almost 5000/1 odds at http://extra.bet365.com/news/en/US-Sports/NBA when this article was produced, focus is already on next season and getting this franchise back to where their fans expect. This trade window might have little impact on how this season is going to turn out, but finding a way of Okafor and Embiid playing together is perhaps one of the ways the Sixers can end this appalling run of form.
In his one-and-a-half years in Philadelphia, Noel has been a solid if unspectacular member of this offense. While he possesses a decent level of defensive ability, down more to his physical attributes than his skill, there is nothing about the former Kentucky big man that suggests he has what it takes to become the sort of player of the potential of either Embiid or Okafor. There are stronger NBA teams throughout the league that could do with a player of Noel’s standing. Coming off a season in which he earned a place on the NBA’s All Rookie First Team, the 21-year-old has all the tools to be a very good player in the league.
Compared to Okafor, though, Noel is simply on a different level. Averaging 17.4 points this season, the franchise’s top pick in the 2015 draft leads all the rookies in the league and is now up to 36th overall in the league, ranking higher than established superstars such as Nikola Vucevic, Marc Gasol, Kevin Love and LaMarcus Aldridge. His 17-point quarter against the Blazers was evidence of just how much of an impact he can have in the NBA, and the future looks extremely promising. The 20-year-old might be playing in the worst team in the league, but his already stratospheric stock has somehow managed to grow. Okafor may be the man to bring the good times back to Philadelphia.