February 19, 2017
The NBA rumor mill is in full swing with just a few days remaining before the trade deadline and the value of Sixers point guard T.J. McConnell on the open market is not likely to get much higher than it is right now. Sure, the second-year player was denied a spot in Friday night's Rising Stars Challenge, but he's been turning heads around the league since moving into the starting lineup full-time back on Dec. 30.
In his 24 games since, McConnell is averaging 8.9 points, 8 assists, and 3.9 rebounds in 31.4 minutes. More importantly, the Sixers are 13-11 in those games – they're 14-11 overall in games he's started, compared to 7-24 in games he hasn't – and that record would likely be even better had rookie center Joel Embiid not gone down with a knee injury nearly a month ago. Prior to his injury, they were 7-2 in McConnell's first nine games as the regular starter.
Then there's the case of Dario Saric, who has played extremely well in Embiid's absence while making a case that he, and not his 7-foot-2 teammate many consider the clear frontrunner for the award, should be the NBA's rookie of the year. Prior to a strong showing at all-star weekend, Saric had posted averages of 16.1 PPG and 6.7 RPG in his last 10 games, well above his season averages of 10.8 PPG and 5.9 RPG.
His value, like McConnell's, is also tipping at just the right time for Bryan Colangelo and the Sixers.
But with all the recent trade rumors surrounding odd-man-out Jahlil Okafor, why am I starting this post by talking about two players who haven't been nearly as involved in said rumors?
Two reasons: First, Colangelo hasn't been able to move Okafor, despite reportedly coming close at least once. Second, it should be noted that just because they're not as involved in what we're hearing, they can be -- and apparently are -- on the trading block.
And so are (almost) all of their teammates. At least that's what Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders is reporting:
Was told 76ers still very active on almost anyone not named Embiid or Simmons https://t.co/xrUkE4vHql— Steve Kyler (@stevekylerNBA) February 16, 2017
Keep in mind, however, that just because the Sixers are entertaining offers doesn't mean they're trying to get rid of these guys. But if a rival GM blows Colangelo away with an offer, it would make sense for the Sixers to strongly consider it, especially when it comes to McConnell.
Once first-overall pick Ben Simmons returns from his broken foot -- even if that's not until next season -- McConnell would still serve a purpose as the team's backup point guard with Simmons taking over the majority of the ball-handling. Given what he's shown to this point, the 24-year-old Arizona product would do well in that spot. But because of the starting role he's taken over and thrived in this season, other teams could value him more than the backup role to which he'll eventually be relegated.
And if that's the case, someone could make Colangelo an offer he can't refuse.
With that being said, the majority of Sixers rumors at the trade deadline continue to involve Okafor, with some potential suitors emerging. Here's what they're saying:
Tom Moore | Burlington County Times
To trade, or not to trade? That is the question ringing repeatedly in Colangelo's head, likely alongside the sound of a clock ticking down to the NBA trade deadline. While most fans seem ready to move on from Okafor, the Sixers need to make sure they don't give him away for practically nothing. But with time running out and potential suitors finding partners elsewhere, Colangelo is going to need to make a decision soon.
So where does Colangelo go from here? He'd undoubtedly prefer to move Okafor by Thursday, but would he be willing to do so if he only gets, say, 50 cents on the dollar after insisting he won't make a bad deal for this organization?
Keeping Okafor could mean the Sixers carry four centers (Joel Embiid, Nerlens Noel, Richaun Holmes and Okafor) for the remaining 7½ weeks of the season. Knowing two of them won't be able to get regular minutes would make Brown's life more difficult, in addition to possibly adding a disgruntled player to the equation.
As for Colangelo, the source said "Bryan always overvalues his assets and that makes (it hard to get equal value) with any trade package. He usually wants to win the trade, (which is) not always appreciated around the league." [burlingtoncountytimes.com]
Winning trades is great. But sometimes, you have to take a small loss in order to do what's best for the team overall.
[NOTE: Tom also mentioned the possibility of Ersan Ilyasova or Nerlens Noel being moved before the deadline. If I had to bet one one or the other, it would be Noel, but that's just an educated guess based on no inside information at all.]
Keith Pompey | The Philadelphia Inquirer
It seems there's one thing on which Embiid and Sixers fans disagree. And If Colangelo listens to his best player's opinion, Okafor may not be going anywhere at all.
Embiid would like the team to find a way to use Okafor as opposed to trading him before the NBA trade deadline Thursday.
"We got a lot of talent, and I feel we can use everybody if we want to get to where we want to," the rookie center said. "Obviously the playoffs are right there even if we don't get the opportunity to make it this year. I think next year is our goal ...
"We have a lot of talent. Anytime you have that type of talent, you got to find ways to make it work." [philly.com]
Don't worry, though, no one tells Bryan Colangelo what to do. Well, except for maybe his dad.
Keith Pompey | The Philadelphia Inquirer
But perhaps it was the last line of Keith's blog post, almost a nonchalant throwaway line likely to be missed by those too short on attention - or too excited to get to the next trade rumor story - that was the most interesting.
But [Okafor] has been the subject of trade talks with 10 to 11 teams, including the Chicago Bulls, New Orleans Pelicans, Denver Nuggets and Portland Trail Blazers. [philly.com]
And, yet, Okafor remains in a weird purgatory between knowing for certain that he'll be a Sixer for at least a few more months and constantly wondering where he'll be living next week. That's a tough spot to be in, especially less than two years removed from being the No. 3 pick in the draft.
Sean Deveney | Sporting News
I didn't even have to put my Sherlock Holmes hat on to deduce that one of the six or seven teams that Keith left off his above is ... the Dallas Mavericks.
Still, when it comes to Okafor, the Pelicans are in a better position to offer a worthwhile pick than Okafor’s hometown Bulls, who would have to lure Philadelphia with some combination of a pick and young talent. Additionally, there could be darkhorse teams involved in the pursuit of Okafor. A source said that the Mavericks had previously inquired about Okafor, and could revisit those talks as the deadline nears. [sportingnews.com]
So would Okafor fit in Dallas? Perhaps.
This comes courtesy of Paul Hudrick of CSN Philly:
Okafor could make sense for Dallas. With offseason acquisition Andrew Bogut banged up for most of the season, the Mavericks have been using 38-year-old Dirk Nowitzki at center. Along with Harrison Barnes, Okafor could help start a youth movement while also helping Dallas forge a playoff push this season.
The question then becomes, what do the Mavericks have to offer? Their roster has a lot of miles on it. The only appealing players would be swingmen Wesley Matthews and Justin Anderson, and guard Seth Curry. [csnphilly.com]
Here's why the Sixers kept Okafor out of those two games last week in anticipation of him being dealt before the break.
The 76ers pulled Jahlil Okafor from their lineup last week b/c a deal w/Portland for the center was close to happening, per league sources.— David Aldridge (@daldridgetnt) February 18, 2017
Follow Matt on Twitter: @matt_mullin