December 07, 2017
Leaders of the movement to "Free Jah" can finally rejoice. Jahlil Okafor is on his way out of Philadelphia, and he will get to ply his trade for the Brooklyn Nets starting soon. In return, the Sixers are getting some veteran help.
Originally reported by ESPN's Zach Lowe, a source has confirmed to PhillyVoice that Okafor, guard Nik Stauskas, and a second-round pick are on the verge of being sent to the Nets in exchange for Trevor Booker, an eighth-year forward who will help beef up Philadelphia's rotation. The deal is not yet finalized, but all signs point to it being completed quickly.
Booker's name has been involved in Okafor trade talks previously; a source told PhillyVoice the Sixers had an offer for the center last season which would have involved taking back Booker's contract. At the time, Philadelphia was not interested because it would have impacted their financial maneuvering during the 2017 offseason. Deals for JJ Redick, Amir Johnson, and renegotiate-and-extend for Robert Covington would have been complicated by the additional $9 million on their books in the form of Booker's contract.
Those complications are no longer a concern, and taking back Booker at this juncture allows them to add a useful rotation piece without changing the cap space they have available for the 2018 offseason. As we've reported for months now, Philadelphia's front office has been carrying out their business with an open goal of chasing max free agents next summer.
While Booker isn't going to be a long-term piece in Philadelphia, he is going to provide an immediate lift for the Sixers this season. Philadelphia's bench has been rough so far this season, and Booker will bring a needed defensive edge to the second unit. It feels weird to say this because the Sixers had a lot of defense-first athletes up and down the roster during The Process era, but they are desperate for players who can come in and impact the game on that side of the ball. At the very least, Booker provides them with some steel on that end.
Booker has his weaknesses — he's a career 31-percent shooter from three and will be difficult to play alongside Ben Simmons as a result — but considering the depressed trade value for the outgoing players, you can view this as what is effectively swapping a second-round pick for Booker. That in itself isn't terrible value, though it certainly looks poor compared to what you might have gotten back for Okafor a couple years ago.
And let's talk about those outgoing players for a second. Okafor will once again have the opportunity to be one of the pivotal players on a bad Nets team, and will have every chance to show the league his value. He will get to succeed or fail on his own merits, without the complications of being stuck in a crowded center rotation. In a weird twist of fate, he'll get to play alongside the guard many Sixers fans expected to come to Philadelphia on draft night 2015, D'Angelo Russell. Time will tell if he'll make anything out of it, but this is the chance he has been openly asking for. Stauskas will have a tougher time cracking the rotation with the guard and wing depth ahead of him.
This deal is helpful for the Sixers in the immediate term, but it's also a case study on how holding out for trade value can come back to bite an organization. There were reports the Sixers had an offer on the table for Okafor during his rookie season, which would have sent him to Boston for what ended up becoming the No. 3 pick in the 2016 Draft. The front office was in turmoil at the time and we'll never know who nixed that deal—Danny Ainge, Sam Hinkie, Jerry Colangelo, Sixers owners or a mix of all of the above — but that certainly would have been a much better return than what they ended up seeing.
This is probably best for everyone involved. There will be no more hashtags, no more DNP's, no more daily questions about Okafor's future in Philadelphia. Philadelphia will continue battling for playoff positioning, and Okafor will begin his quest to prove all he ever needed was a bigger opportunity.
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