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February 22, 2017

2017 NBA Trade Deadline: Latest Okafor, Sixers rumors heading into home stretch

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Before getting into the latest NBA trade rumors involving the Sixers, there's a bit of actual news we should take of first. If you're not sitting down, I suggest doing so now.

Ready? Are you sure you're sitting? ... Good.

The Sixers actually made a trade. And it involves one of the 47 big men, just not the one everyone has been expecting to get dealt before the NBA Trade Deadline.

According to reports, the Sixers are sending Ersan Ilyasova to Atlanta in exchange for Tiago Splitter (expiring contract), a second-round pick (via Miami) and a separate second-round pick swap.

But that hardly means Bryan Colangelo is done dealing ahead of Thursday's 3 p.m. deadline. Here's the latest:

BULLISH ON OKAFOR

Adrian Wojnarowski of the Vertical, who was also the first to report the Ilyasova-to-Atlanta trade, followed that news with an update on the guy we've all been anticipating would be dealt, Jahlil Okafor.

What it means for the Sixers: Obviously, the prized return in any deal with the Bulls would be Jimmy Butler, but it's hard to imagine what kind of package Colangelo would be able to put together to make something like that happen. That being said, there were reportedly talks between the Sixers and Celtics, one the teams most likely to land Butler should he be traded, and perhaps there's a way for the Bulls to bring in Boston and work out a three-way swap.

PACING BACK AND FORTH

Larry Bird and the Indiana Pacers can't quite figure out what to do with Paul George, who will be a free agent in 2018. They've been hesitant to build around him because he could opt to leave after next season, with his hometown Lakers being the ideal destination. Instead, they could opt to deal George, and focus their rebuilding efforts around Myles Turner. 

And if that's the case, as we mentioned on Tuesday, the Sixers are one of the teams reportedly engaged with the Pacers in trade talks. Here's more from Sam Amick of USA Today:

[Larry] Bird is known to be searching for options that would ease George's concerns, inquiring about players like Philadelphia’s Jahlil Okafor, the Sacramento Kings’ Arron Afflalo, Portland’s Allen Crabbe and Ed Davis. Yet if he can’t make significant moves, and if the Pacers (29-28, sixth in the Eastern Conference) seem destined to tread water while George ponders the notion of heading West, then maybe it's time for Bird to turn the page on the Paul George era.  [usatoday.com]

What it means for the Sixers: Another team rumored to be showing interest in George is Boston. Again, the Sixers could be part of a three-team deal here, but given the Bulls' reported strong interest in Okafor, there's a better chance of that happening with Chicago. Because George only has a year and a half left on his contract – as opposed to Butler, who won't hit free agency until the summer of 2020 – the asking price will likely be less. And if that's the case, there's an outside chance that Colangelo can put together a package enticing enough to lure George away from Bird and the Pacers.

NOT IF, BUT WHEN?

At this point, with hours, not days remaining before the deadline, even the "when" seems like a foregone conclusion. But according to Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype.com, there's a belief around the league that Colangelo will pull the trigger on an Okafor deal before 3 p.m. on Thursday. 

Rival general managers believe that the Philadelphia 76ers will trade Jahlil Okafor prior to Thursday’s trade deadline.

The Portland Trail Blazers, Chicago Bulls, Indiana Pacers, Boston Celtics and Sacramento Kings are among the teams that have been linked to Okafor, according to sources. The belief among executives is that Philadelphia is just weighing the different trade offers at this point and will execute a deal soon.  [hoopshype.com]

What if means for the Sixers: Kennedy also said that Colangelo is looking for "a significant return" and that the team could hold on to the 21-year-old center with an eye on trading him in the summer when they feel there may be better offers. It should comfort Sixers fans that Colangelo doesn't seem to be making a deal just for the sake of making a deal. Whether or not he actually gets the kind of return he's hoping for, we'll have to wait and see. 

That being said, the report does end with the phrase, "will execute a deal soon." Could that mean the rival execs who spoke to Kennedy believe the right offer(s) already exists? We'll see soon enough.

THE YOUNG (CALDWELL)-POPE

One of the teams not mentioned by Kennedy is the Detroit Pistons. Earlier on Wednesday, we pointed out that Kentavious Caldwell-Pope may be off the market, according to The Detroit Free Press. But it wasn't for a lack of interest from other teams:

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is the player drawing the most interest as the trade deadline approaches, but he still appears to be a major part of the Pistons’ future, a source told the Free Press.  [freep.com]

However, it seems "off the market" may be a little strong. While they're not actively shopping him, the Pistons are open to offers, which makes sense given he's in the final year of his rookie deal.

As it turns out, one of the teams that reportedly looked into the Pistons guard ahead of the deadline was ... the Sixers. 

What it means for the Sixers: Caldwell-Pope was the eighth pick in the 2013 NBA Draft, two years prior to the Sixers selecting Okafor third overall. And while the 24-year-old fits a need for the Sixers (shooting guard), it's not exactly like he'd be a perfect fit in Philly.

KCP is in the final year of his rookie deal and will become a restricted free agent after the season. And thanks in part to his ability to defend the perimeter, he could be in line for a max deal this summer, meaning the whole "restricted" part of restricted free agent won't matter a bit unless Colangelo is prepared to commit a large chunk of that salary cap space they've done so well hoarding. Even then, Caldwell-Pope could decide to take his talents elsewhere should a max offer present itself.

Either way, it looks like Stan Van Gundy is planning on keeping KCP around beyond this year. Otherwise, they'd be more open to dealing the pending free agent.

BOGDAN IS COMING

There was another deal made Wednesday that will impact the Sixers, but probably not until right after the trade deadline.

What it means for the Sixers: The Sixers will play their first game since the All-Star Break on Friday night. They'll be hosting the Wizards, who added Bogdanovic and McCullough to prepare for a postseason run as the enter the season's second half with the third-best record in the Eastern Conference.


Follow Matt on Twitter: @matt_mullin

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