During his rookie season in 2015-2016, Jahlil Okafor showed glimpses of brilliance, averaging 17.5 points, 7.0 rebounds and 1.2 blocks in 30.0 minutes over 53 games played (48 starts).
Taking 14.7 shots per game, Okafor was the focal point of the team’s offense which, at the time, didn't feature many other NBA-caliber players.
Oh, how times have changed.
Due in part to Joel Embiid’s return last season, Okafor instantly took on a lesser role and eventually fell out of coach Brett Brown’s rotation. Trade rumors surrounded the 6’11”, 260-pound center for the better part of the campaign and he ended up averaging 11.8 points and 4.8 rebounds in just 22.7 minutes over 50 contests (33 starts).
After not being able to find a suitor for him this summer, Okafor has logged minutes in just one of the team’s first five games this season. On Saturday October 21, he had 10 points, nine rebounds and two blocks in 22 minutes in a loss to the Toronto Raptors.
Despite that impressive showing, Brown has elected to play veteran Amir Johnson ahead of him. The only reason Okafor played in that one game was because Embiid sat out of the second game of a back-to-back, thus opening up a rotation spot.
“I’m playing Amir (Johnson) ahead of him and that’s just the situation,” Brown told reporters on Friday. “[Okafor] doesn’t let people know. He comes in and his head’s good and his spirit’s good. And he and I talk all the time, but that is the bottom line. He is not in the rotation.”
“I think it’s going to be Amir’s spot to lose,” Brown said. “If I see that there’s a decline in performance, then it’s going to be his spot right now to lose. It’s always competitive, but the competitive nature has shifted toward Amir’s performance."
According to Chris Haynes of ESPN, the Sixers are actively trying to find a trade partner for Okafor.
“With Jahlil Okafor's role further diminishing, his representatives and the Philadelphia 76ers are collaborating to find a suitable trade for the young center, league sources tell ESPN… Okafor, 21, has a fourth-year option of $6.3 million that the Sixers have to make a decision on by Tuesday. According to league sources, whether they pick it up depends on the trade discussions, but it's likely that it's exercised,” Haynes reported.
There is a bit of a time crunch involved, too, as noted above. If no trade is made by Tuesday, Philly has to decide whether or not to pick up their team option on Okafor’s fourth-year contract.
It’s logical to think that at least one team would be interested in the No. 3 pick in the 2015 draft, but the real question becomes what or who the 76ers would be willing to receive for him in the deal.