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February 20, 2017

2017 NBA Trade Deadline: Latest Okafor rumors, and how Cousins deal impacts Sixers

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The NBA trade deadline is less than three days away, and the biggest splash of the year — at least to this point — likely left the majority of the league soaking wet and re-evaluating their strategy moving forward.

On Sunday night, the Sacramento Kings dealt star big man DeMarcus Cousins (and Omri Casspi) to the New Orleans Pelicans in exchange for Buddy Hield, Tyreke Evans, Langston Galloway, and a pair of picks. And while that move already has draft implications for the Sixers, that may be just the start of how this deal will impact Bryan Colangelo’s ability to move one of his big men prior to Thursday afternoon’s deadline.

Not only does it take a potential suitor off the market in New Orleans, but it may also cause other teams to reconsider whether or not they’re actually contenders.

"You can rest assured Philly's going to spend the next three-plus days trying to find a trade home for Jahlil Okafor because once the prospect of a trade has gone that far it's kind of hard to pretend it didn't happen," Marc Stein said on ESPN Radio Monday. "But at this point, as we stand, Philadelphia doesn't have an Okafor deal. And obviously another (option in) New Orleans, now that's not going to happen."

Sure, it was reportedly a potential deal with the Blazers that caused Colangelo to hold Okafor out of a pair of games last week, but according to ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne, the Sixers were also close to a deal with the Pelicans (albeit one without Buddy Hield). 

And according to Bob Cooney, Chester native Tyreke Evans was also not a part of the deal (although Shelburne said the offer was similar, Cousins makes three times as much money as Okafor), making you wonder who/what the Sixers would’ve gotten in return.

Ultimately, however, it was disagreement over draft-pick protection that caused it to fall through.

You can forget about those talks ever heating back up. Now, it becomes about which teams still have interest in Okafor, and if Colangelo can move him — or one of his other big men — prior to Thursday afternoon.

On top of that, other players may become available as teams make deals and need to free up roster space. In Sacramento, for example:


RELATED: Sixers Beat: Reacting to Cousins deal, previewing trade deadline


So what does all this mean for the Sixers? 

Here’s a look at the latest NBA trade rumors involving Okafor, and others that, like the Cousins deal, may have a big impact on what the team is trying to accomplish at the deadline.

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If we assume Okafor wasn’t making numbers up when he recently said there had been trade talks with as many as 10 or 11 teams, how many are remaining after the recent deals made around the league? And, more importantly, who are they?

"Okafor is kind of still there," Stein said on Mike and Mike. "He's been so out there that you tend to think Philadelphia will find something in the next three days where they move him."

BOSTON CELTICS/CHICAGO BULLS

"I've heard that Boston has still given [Okafor] some consideration. Chicago's another team that's been said to have shown some Okafor interest."
-- Marc Stein, ESPN

Would an Okafor-to-Boston deal make sense?

Here's what Jay King of masslive.com wrote:

Okafor would not cure the Celtics defensive deficiencies or lift them from the bottom of the rebounding rankings, but the team could still debate whether to acquire the former No. 3 overall pick if the price is right.  Despite the obvious flaws in key categories, he's two years removed from being the top prospect in college basketball and months removed from averaging 17.5 points as a rookie. The interior scoring talent is there.

The rest of Okafor's game needs work, though, which is partly why the 76ers have decided to move in a different direction. In Boston, the center's lack of shooting ability would be troublesome -- team president of basketball operations Danny Ainge recently explained how critical a skilled frontcourt has been to the Celtics success.  [masslive.com]

According to ESPN’s Ric Bucher, Boston was in on Boogie Cousins but Danny Ainge was apparently too busy trying to get a deal done for Bulls forward Jimmy Butler.

What this means for Sixers: It's great for the Sixers that Boston didn't land Cousins, given that they're also going after Jimmy Butler. Already in possession of Brooklyn's first round pick in 2017, the Celtics are setting themselves up to be the Sixers stiffest Eastern Conference competition moving forward. They could be hesitant to make a move on Okafor, however, until they know for sure if they'll be able to land Butler; they'd be wise to keep as many assets as possible for use in the more-costly trade. 

Furthermore, a Butler-to-Boston deal would prevent Colangelo from going after the highly-coveted (and highly-paid) forward himself. Basically, Sixers fans should be terrified by the prospect of the Celtics landing Butler. 

SACRAMENTO KINGS

"Sacramento is determined to restock the franchise with assets" 
-- Chris Mannix, The Vertical

What if the Kings, after just giving up an offensively-gifted center in a move indicative of a team headed towards a rebuild, were interested in Okafor? 

According to Chris Mannix of The Vertical, this may only be the beginning for Sacramento, who is apparently interested in acquiring what the Sixers have in spades.

The Kings excised Cousins, and there are strong indications they are not done dealing, either. Sacramento is determined to restock the franchise with assets, and will be targeting rookie-deal players and draft picks in the coming days, sources told The Vertical. Free agents-to-be Ben McLemore and Darren Collison are available, sources said, as is Arron Afflalo, a solid bench scorer with a manageable contract.  [sports.yahoo.com]

What this means for the Sixers: The Sixers already own the right to swap picks with the Kings in June, but if there's one thing Colangelo has plenty of, it's assets -- he can thank Sam Hinkie for that. Okafor is on the second year of his rookie contract, and if the Sixers need to throw in a second-round pick to make the deal work, well they have plenty of those as well. The hurdle here would likely be what the Sixers could get back for Okafor. They don't have much use for free-agents-to-be since they're not contending this season, so perhaps a sign-and-trade would be a better option, but that's only if Colangelo wants either of the two players Mannix mentions. 

The difficult thing here is that the Kings commitment to a rebuild suggests that both they and the Sixers will be trying to acquire similar types of pieces ahead of the deadline. 

OTHERS IN THE MIX

Let's quickly revisit that Bucher tweet about the other teams interested in acquiring Cousins. In addition to Boston and Chicago, he also mentioned the Orlando Magic and the Phoenix Suns.

MAGIC: Orlando previously dealt starting power forward Serge Ibaka to the Raptors in exchange for small forward Terrence Ross, so it would make sense that they're in the market for a big man. And although they already have a pair of centers in place (Nikola Vucevic and Bismack Biyombo), neither is as skilled as Okafor is offensively. Furthermore, both of those players would help make up for Okafor's lack of defense (Biyombo) and rebounding (Vucevic). Orlando may actually make more sense than most teams when you look at it in terms of how Okafor would actually fit on a roster. What remains to be seen is what they would be willing to give up in exchange.

SUNS: Colangelo should want Brandon Knight included a deal involving Okafor – although that desire may become secondary to the desire to simply move on from Okafor – since the Sixers are desperately in need of some backcourt scoring. And since the Kings reportedly said they didn't want him, that suggests Pheonix is still shopping the 25-year-old guard out of Kentucky. This also seems to make sense for both teams in terms what they'd actually be giving up: a former lottery pick who doesn't quite fit on his current team, but if used correctly can improve the other one. Knight, who has three years left on his contract and will cost an average of about $14.5 million/year, is averaging just 11 points and 2.4 assists in 21 minutes per game, all career lows. Both his cost and production will need to be weighed heavily by the Sixers before any potential deals are made.

Stay tuned as the clock ticks down to the deadline.


Follow Matt on Twitter: @matt_mullin

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