On Thursday, Jahlil Okafor’s wish came true when the Philadelphia 76ers traded their beleaguered 2015 No. 3 overall draft choice to Atlantic division rivals the Brooklyn Nets. The deal brings to an end the stalemate that kept Okafor sitting at the end of the 76ers bench for all but two games since the season started. The 76ers received Trevor Booker a forward in exchange for Okafor.
Okafor was once a prized piece of Philadelphia’s future, but he quickly was pushed aside with the rise of Joel Embiid at center. Embiid sent texts to his friend Okafor, wishing him well and to new beginnings.
Philadelphia team president Bryan Colangelo told the press he and another team, which he did not name, had reached a deal for Okafor during last season, but at the last minute the deal fell through. That caused awkwardness in the locker room and on the court, and Okafor did not travel with his teammates during the trade deadline.
During the 2015-2016 season, Okafor was the leading scorer for the Sixers as Embiid, a rookie, was out injured. However, during the 2016-2017 season, the former freshman sensation with Duke played just 55 of 82 games and did not mesh with the team’s franchise center. He began to pile up DNP-CDs (Did Not Play-Coaches Decision) and those continued this season.
Philadelphia head coach Brett Brown when asked about Okafor said the player can now play for another teams.
Stauskas Shipped to Nets As Well
In the trade with the Nets, the 76ers sent Nik Stauskas, who has not played many minutes this season but was the eighth overall pick during the 2014 draft, and a second round pick in the 2019 draft for Nets forward Booker.
Stauskas, who joined Philadelphia in a trade with Sacramento in 2015, is averaging less than one point per game this season. In the 23 games the Sixers have played this season, Stauskas has appeared in just six.
Booker Will Add Depth to Nets Front Line
Booker was picked 23rd overall in the 2010 draft and with Brooklyn has averaged 10.1 points and 6.5 rebounds per game.
Brown expressed excitement in having Booker join the team calling the forward’s versatility and toughness interesting to him and said the player has shown he can play, and acts like a professional when he does not play.
Okafor Started Strong with Sixers
In his first season with the 76ers, Okafor was a member of the All-NBA Rookie first team, but the following season he fell behind Embiid on the team’s depth chart and this season was placed behind both Amir Johnson and Richaun Holmes.
Philadelphia cut Jahlil Okafor from the team’s rotation after the organization declined its option on him for the 2018-2019 season, and representatives of Okafor asked the team for a buyout or trade.
In his career with the 76ers, Okafor started 81 of the 105 games he appeared in averaging 14.6 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 1.2 assists while playing an average of just over 26 minutes per game and shooting 51% from the floor.
Colangelo did not possess any ties to Okafor and did not hide his desire to trade the player. Therefore, when Philadelphia started a franchise renaissance, as the team is loaded with young stars such as Ben Simmons and Embiid, Okafor became expendable.
Embiid told the media he was very happy and excited for Jahlil to have a fresh start, but was clear he would not be easy on his friend and former teammate whenever the two met on the floor against one another.
Nets Eager to Help Okafor and Stauskas
Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson told reporters that he wanted to help the two former first round picks and believes the two are entering a strong locker room.
Sean Marks the general manger for the Nets said the trade provided the team with a solid opportunity to bring in a pair of young players and give them the chance to be successful within the Nets’ system.
Booker has been in the league for seven years after playing college basketball at Clemson. He tweeted thanks to the Nets and the Brooklyn fans Thursday prior to the deal being announced.
Neither the Sixers, nor the Nets announced when their new players would be suiting up for the first time in their new uniforms.
Okafor, the biggest name in this trade, has been given a new lease on his basketball life and that should help him recover any lost confidence he may have suffered while being pushed aside the end of last season and through the first quarter of this season.