Philadelphia 76ers big man Jahlil Okafor has been among the league's most impressive rookies all season long, but the team reportedly explored his value before the NBA trade deadline on Thursday.
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Celtics Reportedly Made Push for Okafor
Friday, Feb. 19
Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald reported the Boston Celtics targeted Okafor prior to the deadline, according to a source.
Sixers Reportedly Looked for Mega Offer
Thursday, Feb. 18
Marc Stein of ESPN, citing sources, reported that the Sixers "indeed have listened to pitches this week" but added that they were "not looking to trade any of their bigs unless it's a motherlode offer."
Sixers Guaged Interest in Okafor
Wednesday, Feb. 17
Tom Moore of Calkins Media reported the news with less than 24 hours to go until the trade deadline.
"Unless it's a deal that is a no-brainer and makes absolute sense, they'll wait and see how (injured center Joel) Embiid comes along and what happens in the draft," a source said, per Moore.
The Miami Herald's Barry Jackson also reported the Miami Heat had previously expressed interest in Okafor, but talks didn't go anywhere.
Moore's report doesn't seem to indicate the Sixers are doing anything more than due diligence at this stage, but recent history suggests general manager Sam Hinkie and Co. aren't averse to making risky moves at the deadline.
Okafor, Noel Creating Frontcourt Logjam for Sixers
Last year, the Sixers moved Michael Carter-Williams in a last-second blockbuster that sent Isaiah Thomas to the Celtics, Brandon Knight to the Phoenix Suns and a coveted pick from the Los Angeles Lakers that's top-three protected this season to the City of Brotherly Love.
Despite encountering a slightly rocky start to his rookie season, Okafor has improved by leaps and bounds from an efficiency standpoint. For instance, after averaging 17 points on 44.5 percent shooting from the field in December, Okafor averaged 17.2 points while drilling 60.9 percent of his total shots in January.
But despite flashing improved mid-range touch and beautiful low-post footwork throughout his first professional campaign, concerns have lingered regarding Okafor's ability to play next to Nerlens Noel.
"We're trying some things with Jahlil, seeing if he can guard perimeter, four-men type and let Nerlens block shots," Brown said, per the Philadelphia Daily News' Bob Cooney. "It's not something that I regret. That's our job, we have to see how to pair those two up. We're trying different things."
Although Brown has made valiant efforts to put Okafor and Noel in better positions next to each other, the pairing simply hasn't produced results.
According to NBA.com's stats database, the Sixers have posted a net rating of minus-19.3 points per 100 possessions when Okafor and Noel have shared the floor this season. And while the defense has been subpar when they've both patrolled the paint, the offense has been worse.
Spacing is hard to come by since Noel's range is limited and Okafor's not a consistent mid-range threat just yet. The lane becomes more clogged when the two are both operating below the free-throw line.
The Sixers are also facing the general problem of a big-man logjam with Joel Embiid on track to make his long-awaited debut next season and European stash Dario Saric reportedly intent on joining the club this summer, per a Croatian report by Vecernji list (h/t PhillyMag's Derek Bodner).