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February 21, 2017

Report: Pacers pursuing Jahlil Okafor before the trade deadline

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Since the DeMarcus Cousins trade likely took one of Jahlil Okafor’s main suitors (New Orleans) off the board before Thursday’s NBA Trade Deadline, the status of the Sixers second-year center became more of a question mark.

Well, thanks to a report from ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne, we know that another team is throwing their hat into the ring: The Indiana Pacers.

Indiana seems to be one of the more active teams right now as they try to get Paul George some help. One name Jeff Goodman, Chris Haynes and I have all heard they're pursuing: Jahlil Okafor.

Pacers star Paul George had been in some trade rumors over the past month, but mostly because his team is hovering around .500. It was always going to take a Godfather offer to lure away one of the NBA’s best two-way wings. All of the reporting lately is indicating that Larry Bird and the Pacers front office are going the other way and trying to build around George.

Just a few days ago, the Pacers made their first-round pick available in a trade according to Chris Haynes:

In an attempt to secure help for All-Star forward Paul George, the Indiana Pacers have made their 2017 first-round pick available in a trade, league sources said.

In what is considered to be a deep draft, the Pacers are hoping that such an asset would translate to the addition of either an established wing or an established frontline player, according to sources.

Now that Okafor is linked to Indiana, the question is if he qualifies as an established frontcourt player after 1.5 up-and-down seasons with the Sixers. Even if the Pacers were to place lottery protection on the pick, it’s unlikely that Indiana’s 2017 draft pick falls any lower than 20th.

Losers of six in a row heading into the NBA All-Star break, the Pacers sit only three games ahead of the lottery. With Myles Turner (who looks very promising) and Thaddeus Young penciled into the starting lineup, Indiana has given most of its backup big man minutes to Al Jefferson, Lavoy Allen, and Kevin Seraphin so far this season.

We will keep you posted on any of the latest Okafor rumors.

Follow Rich on Twitter: @rich_hofmann