With a 9-64 record entering Sunday, the Philadelphia 76ers are headed for a third straight season with less than 20 wins. So it’s safe to say the tanking/rebuilding process headed by general manager Sam Hinkie is not going well, or at the very least has stagnated with no real end in sight.
In each of the last three drafts the 76ers have added a big man, with Nerlens Noel (acquired in a draft night trade in 2013) , Joel Embiid (No. 3 overall, 2014) and Jahlil Okafor (No. 3 overall, 2015) coming aboard. How the three would fit together has become a moot point, with Noel missing his entire rookie season with a torn left ACL and Embiid having yet to suit up for an NBA game due to ongoing foot issues.
Okafor is Philadelphia’s leading scorer (17.5 points per game) and second-leading rebounder (7.0 per game) this season, so he has hardly been part of the problem as a rookie. But his season was ended early with a torn meniscus in his right knee, which finally resulted in surgery last week, and now Philly.com has passed along speculation that the 76ers might try to trade Okafor this summer.
Okafor and Noel struggled to fit together this season, as both seem better suited to play center. 76ers’ head coach Brett Brown has rejected the notion that Okafor is strictly a back-to-the-basket offensive player, and while he clearly has work to do defensively, a well-rounded offensive game would theoretically fit better at power forward.
The looming idea that Embiid will be healthy in time for next season further complicates the situation for the 76ers, though that’s hardly something that should be counted on at this point. The 76ers refuted a report around February’s trade deadline suggesting the Boston Celtics had a deal in place to acquire Okafor, but the idea of trading their star rookie is not new based on that rumor alone.
Noel could be put on the trade block if Embiid is making sufficient progress this offseason, but Okafor looks like Philadelphia’s best potential asset and he would surely bring back more in a trade. As hard as it would be to risk seeing him reach his full potential in another uniform, the 76ers can pull their ongoing rebuilding process out of neutral by making Okafor the centerpiece of a big move this summer.