As we near the one-month mark of the 2017-18 season, the NBA trade winds remain quiet.
While there are some exceptions every year, Dec. 15 is typically the "unofficial" beginning of trade season. That is the first date players who signed with new teams this offseason can be traded and thus liberates general managers who need smaller contracts to facilitate bigger moves.
The leaguewide stasis led to the most surprising bit of news of the season Sunday: Eric Bledsoe is returning to the Phoenix Suns. Kind of.
Shams Charania of The Vertical reported the disgruntled point guard will return to team facilities, where he'll work out under the supervision of Suns staff. This is not a move designed to have Bledsoe eventually return to the court with the Suns. Instead, he'll return to the team in order to stay in game shape for an eventual trade—one that appears nowhere near close to happening.
"We are open to doing a deal whenever the best offer presents itself," Suns general manager Ryan McDonough told Scott Bordow of AZCentral.com. "Any other comments or thoughts from me would be pure speculation at this point."
The Suns are 4-3 without Bledsoe, who was sent home a day after tweeting "I don't wanna be here" on Oct. 22. The team fired coach Earl Watson in an unrelated move within hours of that tweet and then met with Bledsoe the next day, who told McDonough he was at a hair salon at the time. McDonough—and essentially the rest of the world—regarded that as a lie.
The Suns will eventually trade Bledsoe, and Charania reported they already have several offers on the table. Because Bledsoe is under contract through next season, however, there's no real urgency to make the move. Other teams may begin to get a little antsy once Bledsoe is away from game action for months, so bringing him into the facility to keep him in shape is a smart move.
The Philadelphia 76ers are also having trouble finding a trade partner for their disgruntled player, as Jahlil Okafor remains stapled to the bench. Okafor has become increasingly vocal about his displeasure over the last week, especially after the Sixers declined the fourth-year option on his contract.
The 21-year-old, who was a Rookie of the Year contender in 2015-16, saw his minutes decline last season and further evaporate this season. Joel Embiid's emergence as a difference-maker has played the biggest part and led to the trade of Nerlens Noel last season and will lead to Okafor's exit. Okafor said he requested a buyout, which Sixers general manager Bryan Colangelo declined.
Okafor told reporters:
"I tried to do everything the right way. I tried to be professional; I will continue to be professional. But at some point, I have to defend myself, and this is my career. I'm not sure if [Colangelo] cares about that. I think that's evident at this point.
"But at some point, as people, on a personal level, you would hope, let's get Jah out of here. Let him go play somewhere because I'm 21. I'm healthy. I'm trying to get on the right path of my career."
Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe reported the Celtics are interested in trading for Okafor as a reclamation project but are unwilling to give up a first-round pick. The compensation level the Sixers are requiring has not been made public. Okafor insinuated the Sixers have too high a price for him at the moment.
"That's what teams were offering," Okafor said of negotiations. "Me and my agent started getting the hint they weren't going to offer more. So it was whether you were going to make a move on it or not, and you waited too long and now I'm here today."
The Sixers put themselves in this boat, first with former general manager Sam Hinkie overloading the roster with bigs and then Colangelo sitting on his hands rather than making a move. It's gotten to the point where the franchise is actively ruining a 21-year-old's career. It's time to move on.