If there was any question there’s not anymore: the 76ers and Jahlil Okafor are in the midst of a breakup.
Philly has decided not to exercise Okafor’s option year. Okafor, who has only played in one game this year, is frustrated and asked Philly to buy out his contract. Philly, hoping to still get something for the former Duke big man, declined.
The trade deadline is still a long ways off - February 8th this season - so there’s still time to make a deal.
However, each day that goes by means Philly’s chances of getting what it wants goes down.
Boston has been interested for a long time but hasn’t been able to strike a deal and understandably, Philly doesn’t want to cut him loose for nothing so he can join the Celtics where Brad Stevens will know how to use him.
Boston has a lot of talent but their big guys currently are Aron Baynes, Al Horford and Marcus Morris.
Those three guys, along with Gordon Hayward (out for the season after an ugly injury in the first game), are the only Celtics over 25. At 21, Okafor would give them a guy they could build around in the post for a decade.
Stevens, aside from his obvious genius for the game on the floor, is one of the rising masters of analytics and data. Okafor’s inside game would be really interesting there when you surround him with Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Hayward, Kyrie Irving, and others.
Boston still has draft picks stockpiled like a prepper getting ready for Armageddon so they can do what they want, really.
A lot depends on how teams finish and what that does to the deals they cut with Boston GM Danny Ainge, but no matter how you look at it, this is almost too much.
As much as they may want Okafor, Ainge is unlikely to burn these picks on him when Philly is in a bind that gets worse every day.
At some point though Ainge is going to have to deal with the fact that nobody wants a team exclusively made up of first rounds picks because first of all, they’ll all expect to play, and secondly, the luxury tax will be insane.
But Boston has a bit of a problem too, although with a longer timeline than Philly’s: there are only a handful of players in the league who are worth a blockbuster deal and several are either a bit old for that or in situations that are already great and won’t be leaving.
Arguably the only three players who are young enough and great enough to currently justify that level of investment are Anthony Davis, Kawhi Leonard and Giannis Antetokounmpo and getting any of them won’t be easy.