Third-year forward Jahlil Okafor is clearly not a part of the Philadelphia 76ers’ future plans.
Playing in just one of the team’s first nine games, it seems obvious that he’s on his way out the door. The Sixers declined his fourth-year option, making him an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. Coach Brett Brown has also made it clear that he is not only behind Joel Embiid on the depth chart, but he’s also behind Richaun Holmes and even veteran Amir Johnson.
The third overall pick in the 2015 Draft also made it clear that he doesn’t want to be in Philly anymore, recently saying that he wants either a buyout or a trade from the organization in order to receive a better opportunity.
"I didn't expect Nov. 1 to hit [and] I would be here,” he told the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Keith Pompey recently. “That's why these past few weeks when [reporters] ask me questions about the rotation and stuff like that, I've been calm because I didn't think I would still be here today. I didn't think that [general manager Bryan Colangelo] would keep me, honestly. But here I am Nov. 1. I'm still here and looking to play somewhere. I'm 21, I'm healthy, and I'm trying to get on the court.”
The team was quick to dismiss the idea of a buyout, but a trade seems realistic.
On Monday, Turner Sports analyst David Aldridge reported that the Sixers hope to land a draft pick in exchange for Okafor, and may decide to wait until closer to the Februrary 8 deadline in order to get the best deal.
Aldridge also indicated who the two frontrunners to land Okafor are.
"League sources indicate the Chicago Bulls and Atlanta Hawks are the most likely destinations for Okafor. But the Sixers are still holding out for at least a Draft pick, and could still opt to keep Okafor either as insurance against further injury to Embiid, or as a potential expiring contract to aggregate as the trade deadline nears,” he wrote on NBA.com.
The fit with the Bulls would be an obvious one for Okafor. As a Chicago native, he’d likely be embraced with open arms by the fan base. Also, since the team is in the midst of a rebuild, he could become the center of the future alongside rookie Lauri Markkanen, who has established himself as one of the most consistent offensive power forwards in the entire NBA already.
Atlanta also would be a logical destination. There, he’d be able to immediately step in and likely start for the rebuilding club. Like in Chicago, he’d represent half of a potentially dominant frontcourt in the future alongside rookie John Collins who has shown an ability to post double-doubles off the bench so far this season.
Regardless of where he ends up and what or who he gets traded for, it will be beneficial for the 21-year-old big man to gain a fresh start.