Update (2:30 p.m. PT): Keith Smith of RealGM reports that the New Orleans Pelicans have engaged the 76ers in trade talks for Okafor, though they appear to have stalled for the time being.
Source: PHI/NOP trade is close. Deal is expected to include Ajinca & a protected 1st to PHI and Okafor to NOP. Could be done today.— Keith Smith (@KeithSmithNBA) February 6, 2017
Source: Deal will not complete today. PHI wants to re-engage on bringing Jrue Holiday back to PHI. Trade could expand.— Keith Smith (@KeithSmithNBA) February 6, 2017
Original story follows.
The Trail Blazers’ long-term center options and salary cap situation could have President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey shopping for big men at the February 23 trade deadline. Finding a trade partner willing to part ways with a promising young big man is a tough proposition, but it appears that the 76ers are struggling to drum up interest for both Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor.
Keith Pompey of Philly.com outlines the problems that the Sixers are facing when seeking adequate compensation for their former lottery-chosen big men. With Joel Embiid taking the NBA by storm, Noel and Okafor are somewhat on the outside looking in.
It's no secret that the Sixers have two centers in Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor whom they are willing to unload. Deciding what the right price is, however, is perhaps the biggest question heading into the Feb. 23 trade deadline.
The Sixers want equal value in exchange. Because both were high draft picks, they could be expected to bring a lot in return.
But the opposite is true. Both players have less than desirable trade value at this time.
Noel’s defensive acumen makes him the more desirable of the two, but his contract situation hinders his value to potential suitors. Pompey summarizes the challenges facing GMs looking to add the former Kentucky big man:
As pointed out before, a team that acquires Noel would most likely make him a restricted free agent by extending a qualifying offer at season's end. However, to keep him, that team would have to match any offer another team extends in free agency. If the first team doesn't match the offer, it basically would have traded for an end-of-the-season rental.
Pompey continues dissecting Noel’s future contract situation, and uses a name familiar to Blazers fans in the process:
Think about this. A team could trade for Noel only to have another franchise go hard after him this summer in free agency.
We saw it last summer with the Brooklyn Nets. They threw money at players in attempts to overpay them with the hope that their teams wouldn't match it.
A prime example is Portland Trail Blazers guard Allen Crabbe.
He signed a four-year, $75 million offer sheet to play for the Nets on July 7. The Trail Blazers matched his offer. So he's still in Portland.
With Portland already facing similar difficulties with Mason Plumlee’s future, coupled with the sting of Crabbe’s offer last summer, it is hard to imagine Olshey doubling down on complicated negotiations this offseason. Noel appears to be an obvious fit, but the Blazers already face a litany of questions about their future salary cap situation. Given the grumblings about Portland’s disinterest, a trade seems unlikely.
Okafor’s contract is much more welcoming, but his defensive deficiencies would do little to help Portland’s rim protection void. Pompey lists the reasons hindering the value of the former Duke standout:
In regard to Okafor, there are the right-knee problems, which kept him out of Saturday night's game against the Heat; the defensive woes; and the need for the right system for his old-school style of play.
Even with Okafor’s struggles in mind, Pompey looks to Okafor’s remaining contract as the main reason for other teams to bite:
Okafor will have two seasons left on his rookie deal. That in itself is attractive - knowing that you have seasons to decide on his fate. But he needs the right fit.
The 21-year-old’s low salary and potential should attract buyers, but the biggest question will be if the Sixers are satisfied with the offers on the table. Given Philadelphia’s abundance of cap space, they could lure teams into giving up assets just to offload unwanted salary, in addition to adding Okafor.
With the Sixers in the drivers-seat, it is unclear if a deal can be completed in the coming weeks.