Jahlil Okafor Was Reportedly Benched in Order to Improve Trade Offers for 76ers

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistFebruary 15, 2017

PHILADELPHIA, PA - FEBRUARY 8: Jahlil Okafor #8 of the Philadelphia 76ers looks on against the San Antonio Spurs at the Wells Fargo Center on February 8, 2017 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Spurs defeated the 76ers 111-103. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

The Philadelphia 76ers reportedly benched center Jahlil Okafor in an attempt to generate additional interest on the trade market.

Kevin O'Connor of The Ringer reported Wednesday that league sources believe the Sixers leaked details about his availability with the hope other teams would become involved in the talks. He noted the New Orleans Pelicans were the only franchise making a legitimate push toward a deal.

Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical reported on Feb. 6 that New Orleans and Philadelphia were discussing a potential trade involving Okafor. It's unclear how close the sides came to an agreement, but O'Connor stated nothing else was on the table for Philly to consider.

That update contrasts other comments and reporting in recent days.

Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype reported early Sunday morning the Chicago Bulls, Portland Trail Blazers and Denver Nuggets had all joined the Pelicans in the pursuit of an Okafor trade. He pointed out discussions were still ongoing at that time, although the Nuggets and Trail Blazers agreed later that day to swap centers Jusuf Nurkic and Mason Plumlee.

After keeping Okafor parked on the bench for Philly's victory over the Miami Heat on Saturday, Sixers head coach Brett Brown confirmed he did so due to "trade scenarios," per Jessica Camerato of CSNPhilly.com.

"Jahlil Okafor's situation is transparent," Brown said. "He's in the middle of being discussed in trade scenarios. So I felt that it complicates things to play him the last game, and now clearly this is continuing on. That's the reason he isn't here."

O'Connor reported people around the league see through the Sixers' efforts to drum up more suitors, stating, "No one is buying what [general manager] Bryan Colangelo is selling: a one-dimensional center who can't defend, rebound or pass on a roster loaded with big men."

It's a problematic situation for the Sixers. They used the third overall pick on Okafor in the 2015 draft, but it appears the return in a potential trade wouldn't come close to matching that value, especially if the Pelicans are the only team with true interest.

The 21-year-old Duke product enjoyed a solid rookie campaign, averaging 17.5 points, 7.0 rebounds and 1.2 blocks across 53 games. His role in the rotation and his numbers have both decreased this season, though. He ranks 39th among centers in player efficiency rating, according to ESPN.com.

Going to New Orleans, where Anthony Davis could help cover up his defensive weaknesses, would give Okafor a better chance to succeed. The question is whether Philadelphia is willing to trade him for a significant discount to clear its frontcourt logjam.

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