Storyline: Jahlil Okafor Trade?

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Jahlil Okafor’s days as a 76er have been numbered since his rookie season, so it’s not surprising that the Sixers talk openly about their intent to resume trade decisions involving the third-year veteran. “Bryan’s going to do his job,” coach Brett Brown said of team president Bryan Colangelo, who is looking for a trade partner. “I’m going to coach him, and we are going to see what goes on with the rest of the league in relation to whatever else is out there. But I’m coaching him like he’s mine.”

With that in mind and coming off of a frustrating second pro campaign, Okafor, the No. 3 pick in the 2015 draft, admitted he has thought about the possibility of being in another city. “I have,” Okafor said. “I hear trade rumors and stuff like that. I realize that having a new scenario, you think it might be better than it is right now. But when it comes to the NBA, all I know is wearing a Sixers uniform. … I couldn’t be happier.” Okafor credited his teammates and Brown for helping him get through a difficult 2016-17 season. “Without them, I might have lost my mind,” he said.

Appearing on NBA TV Tuesday night, NBA.com’s David Aldridge said Okafor “will get moved by Thursday.” Aldridge, who said the Sixers have “a lot of offers to sift through,” mentioned the Pacers and Kings as potential landing spots. Following the DeMarcus Cousins trade, Sacramento is left with Kosta Koufos and Willie Cauley-Stein, who aren’t offensive bigs. Koufos is averaging 6.1 points in 57 games this season, while Cauley-Stein is scoring 5.8 per game in his second NBA season. “[The Kings] can offer more minutes and more opportunities for [Okafor] now,” Aldridge said.

The Feb. 23 trade deadline is a just over week away, and the Sixers still could find a partner for Okafor if one makes sense for both player and team. On Monday, Brown said Okafor would be embraced by the Sixers if a trade does not transpire. “He’ll come back in and he will be welcomed with open arms with teammates that like him and respect him,” Brown said. “They are friends. He’ll come back into a coaching staff that likes him and respects him because we care for him. He still is ours until somebody tells us he isn’t.”

Okafor didn’t play for a second consecutive game because the Sixers were engaged in trade talks involving the second-year center. He didn’t make the trip to Charlotte with the team to face the Hornets. “Jahlil Okafor’s situation is transparent,” Sixers coach Brett Brown told reporters at the morning shootaround in Charlotte. “He’s in the middle of being discussed in trade scenarios and so I felt that it complicates things to play him. Now this is continuing on and that’s the reason he isn’t here.”

The Sixers appear to be getting closer to moving their third overall pick in the 2015 draft. He did not play in Saturday night’s victory over the Miami at Wells Fargo Center. Teams usually don’t play trade targets when a deal is about to happen for fear that player getting injured. A league source said that nothing was imminent, but that talks were progressing. There’s a chance that Okafor will sit out the remaining two games – at Charlotte on Monday and at Boston on Wednesday – prior to the all-star break if need be.

According to Sixers general manager Bryan Colangelo, the team is receiving increased interested in both of the big men in recent weeks. “We’ve got three talented bigs,” Colangelo said Thursday on 97.5 The Fanatic. “They all feel that they deserve to be looked at as a potential starter and be paid as a starter. The phones have been ringing. There has been a lot of conversations. There’s been some activity. Quite a bit actually in recent weeks. It’s not something that’s just come up in recent weeks because it’s something we’ve been looking to address since I got here.

“He has been a star,” Brown said of Okafor following Monday’s 113-96 setback to the Detroit Pistons. Brown’s level of respect has a lot to do with how well Okafor has handled his situation. Okafor has remained a good teammate and continued to work hard on his game despite the trade talk. And he continues to hold his head high. “We remind him, ‘Go read your resume,’ ” Brown said. ” ‘You go have a look at who you are.’ And he’s got a lot to be proud of on the court.”
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