Jahlil Okafor

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PBT Podcast: Breaking down the Eric Bledsoe trade

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Eric Bledsoe finally has been traded from the Phoenix Suns, landing in Milwaukee for Greg Monroe, an oddly protected first-round pick, and maybe a second round pick.

Who wins? Who loses? What changed that this long-discussed deal finally got done?

Kurt Helin and Dan Feldman from NBC Sports break down why this is a good gamble for the Bucks, and why it’s about as well as the Suns could do considering the situation. There is also some Jahlil Okafor trade talk thrown in.

As always, you can check out the podcast below, listen and subscribe via iTunes at ApplePodcasts.com/PBTonNBC, subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google play, or check out the NBC Sports Podcast homepage and archive at Art19.

Report: Celtics interested in Jahlil Okafor but won’t give up first-round pick

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Jahlil Okafor is a project. The game has moved away from the former No. 3 pick, he doesn’t have much shooting range nor can he defend very well (in space or at the rim). Okafor plays below the rim. But he can get buckets around the rim and out of the post, and there is potential for him in an Al Jefferson/Zach Randolph kind of role (likely off the bench).

The Sixers have given up on that development, Okafor is out of their overstocked front-court rotation. They are trying to trade him to a team that wants to take a chance on that development potential.

The Celtics are one of those teams. What has stalled the deal is Boston will not give up a first-round pick for him, reports Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe.

Philadelphia does not want to buy out his contract and then watch him sign with a conference rival with no compensation. The Celtics have long held interest in Okafor, but as more of a project than an immediate contributor. Boston is also not willing to part with a first-round pick for Okafor.

Boston is in the right here. Sure, Danny Ainge has been a hoarder when it comes to future picks and he has them to spare, plus they have the Gordon Hayward injury exception in which to absorb the salary. But Okafor is a long-term project and Boston is a team that is winning now, plus since the Sixers didn’t pick up his fourth-year option, Okafor is a free agent at the end of the season. How much should Boston really give up?

The Sixers seem to have unrealistic expectations of what Okafor can fetch on the market right now — Okafor himself basically told the Sixers he has no trade value and they need to let him go for less. The Sixers aren’t going to get more than a second-round pick, yet they seem more concerned about the perception of how they look giving up on a former No. 3 pick for basically nothing than doing the right thing (the current Sixers regime seems very concerned about PR after the Sam Hinkie era).

You can be sure that players and agents around the league are taking notice of how the Sixers are treating Okafor right now, and it will factor into future decisions.

Isaiah Thomas: 76ers doing Jahlil Okafor wrong

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When the Celtics traded Isaiah Thomas to the Cavaliers after he played hurt and on a relatively low salary for Boston, many players felt he was done wrong.

Thomas is paying that support forward with Jahlil Okafor, who’s in the final year of his contract, out of the 76ers’ rotation and desperately wants them to trade him or buy him out.

Thomas:

The 76ers missed their optimal window to trade Okafor. They still might be asking for too much. Okafor seems to think they are.

But this is the peril of the NBA’s draft system. Except in rare circumstances, the team that drafts someone in the first round gains control of his salary and where he plays for four years. Philadelphia is exercising those rights for just three. Yet, even that feels like too much.

There’s not much Okafor can do except voice his discontent and hope that pressures the 76ers into a move. It helps to have a star make a rare interjection into an issue between another team and its player.

I doubt players will avoid Philadelphia as a result of Bryan Colangelo’s handling of this situation. They might want to hold a grudge, but whenever offered the best combination of money, playing time and winning, free agents usually come around.

Still, if the 76ers think their handling of Okafor reflects poorly among other players around the league, that could affect the team’s thinking. It’s easier for me to predict Philadelphia won’t feel a fallout from keeping Okafor too long than it is for Colangelo to withstand that threat. So, Thomas tweet nudges the 76ers ever closer toward freeing Okafor.

Report: Jahlil Okafor trade could be based on second-round picks

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Jahlil Okafor wants the 76ers to trade him or buy him out.

76ers president Bryan Colangelo, as relayed by Okafor himself, refuses a buyout. But a trade? That would work for Philadelphia, which just declined Okafor’s fourth-year option.

What do the 76ers want?

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Colangelo has remained determined to find an Okafor trade that will bring the Sixers back an asset, but the Sixers ultimate deal point could be centered on future second-round draft picks, league sources told ESPN.

Okafor reportedly believes the 76ers have passed on viable trades, and if they’re waiting for second-rounders – plural – they probably have. At this point, I’d take the best second-rounder I could get for Okafor, who’s definitely leaving Philadelphia this summer in unrestricted free agency if not traded first. And it’s not as if Okafor – behind Joel Embiid, Amir Johnson and Richaun Holmes (once he gets healthy) in the rotation – will contribute much before then.

Okafor’s flaws – defense, floor-spacing – remain troubling. His trade value was low, even as the 76ers shopped him for more than a year. It got even lower when they declined his option for next season.

If Philadelphia can get a pick for Okafor, it’s time to do it.

(If the 76ers can’t get a pick for Okafor, they should hold him at least through the trade deadline in the hopes a suitable offer emerges. That might grate Okafor, but Philadelphia shouldn’t just dump a potentially positive asset in a buyout.)

NBA Three Things to Know: Is Orlando for real or a mirage?

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Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA. Here’s what you missed while watching Yu Darvish cost the Dodgers a World Series.

1) Are the Orlando Magic for real? Wednesday night saw the battle of the surprise starts: Orlando vs. Memphis. Both teams were projected to miss the playoffs by most (myself included), and both teams had started out 5-2, which had people re-thinking what the postseason might look like. The Grizzlies were without Mike Conley (out with a sore Achilles, which is concerning considering his injury history) while the Magic still had Aaron Gordon. Ballgame.

Orlando is off to a 6-2 start… but are they for real? Or, is this an illusion of great basketball, much like the illusions that draw millions to the city each year?

Orlando has the second-best offense in the NBA so far this season, averaging 109.9 points per 100 possessions. However, they are doing that via the jump shot mostly — they are 26th in the NBA in percentage of shots at the rim with just 29.5 percent of their attempts from there (stats via Cleaning The Glass, which eliminates garbage time from their stats). In the modern NBA the goal is to get efficient shots, which are the ones at the rim or from three (ideally corner threes, but good defenses are better at taking that away now). Orlando is 20th in the league in the number of corner threes taken and 15th in threes overall, but they take the ninth most midrange shots.

What the Magic are doing so far is hitting those jumpers — Orlando is shooting a 41.8 percent from the midrange overall, and a very good 48.4 percent on long two pointers (second in the league). Plus they lead the NBA shooting 45.3 percent from three (again stats via Cleaning the Glass, so no garbage time in there).

When you ask if Orlando’s offense is sustainable, the question becomes: Can they keep hitting jumpers at that rate? Probably not. Last season the Magic did shoot 40.8 percent from the midrange overall, but the best team in the NBA hit just 45 percent on long twos (Warriors). Also, the best three-point shooting team in the NBA last season hit 39.3 percent (Spurs). The Warriors hit 37.9 percent from three. I like Evan Fournier and Aaron Gordon, but they are no Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson from deep. The Magic will return to earth with those jumpers, they will not keep falling at this rate.

A lot of the basis of this note was done better by Ben Falk earlier this week. He is the guy behind Cleaning the Glass, and he noted that defensively the Magic are doing a good job defending the arc but are giving up a lot of shots at the rim, teams are just not hitting those shots at a high rate. That likely changes, too.

Are the Orlando Magic for real? Define real. Are they going to stay at the top of the East all season? No. The jumpers will stop falling as much, opposing teams will start to shoot better, and things will return to earth a little. But are they a playoff team in the East? Very possibly. Frank Vogel has gotten the pieces on this team to fit much better, Gordon is far better playing the four, Fournier has found more space, Jonathan Simmons has been fantastic, and the Magic are starting to put it together. This is a good team — maybe not as good as their start has looked, but a good one nonetheless.

2) Now it is time for our daily “what the heck is wrong with the Cavaliers?” segment. Turns out, a team “clear the air” meeting was not the only thing the Cavaliers needed.

The Cavaliers have now dropped four in a row after falling to the pesky Indiana Pacers 124-107.

Indiana carved up a Cleveland defense that is now second worst in the NBA overall allowing 111.3 points per 100 possessions — and the Cavs are worst overall if you take garbage time out of the equation. Cleveland is terrible in transition, plus they are doing a poor job running teams off the three-point line (and teams are knocking down those threes, shooting 43.8 percent against the Cavs from deep this season). Indiana did that to Cleveland Wednesday, hitting 16-of-26 from three (61.5 percent). The Pacers moved the ball and got the looks they wanted, and they carved up the Cavaliers with the pick-and-roll in the halfcourt and forcing rotations Cleveland was slow to make. As has been the pattern all season.

On offense, the Cavaliers were not moving the ball and were just trying to beat guys one-on-one.

It’s hard to say how serious the Cavaliers’ problems really are right now because they just don’t care yet. Call it a Finals hangover after having gone three years in a row, blame the injury to Isaiah Thomas, heck blame Donald Trump if you want, the answer is the same — until the Cavaliers not named LeBron James (who has been phenomenal this season) start to show up and perform, it doesn’t matter. Yes, there are serious questions about this team, it’s defense, and it’s playoff rotations (can they survive with Thomas and Derrick Rose defending at the point against good teams?) That’s not the issue yet. Brian Windhorst of ESPN had a great point on the Lowe Post podcast — the Cavaliers right now cared more about their Halloween costumes for LeBron’s annual bash than they did the games on either side of it. The team meeting didn’t change Cleveland’s focus, so we continue to wait on them. Eventually, they will wake up, but who knows when.

3) Jahlil Okafor and Sixers still at odds over future. Jahlil Okafor wants out of Philadelphia — “It could be a buyout, it could be a trade. I just want something to happen rather quickly.”

The Sixers, however, are not going to rush things. They shot down the idea of a buyout because they still think there is a trade for him to be made. Okafor’s camp thinks a reasonable trade offer has already been made, but Byran Colangelo and the Sixers front office don’t see it that way, and they have the hammer. At this point, what kind of offer can the Sixers really expect beyond a second round pick or two? They didn’t pick up his fourth-year option, so Okafor can be a free agent next summer. That killed any trade value. There are rumors Boston would like to bring in Okafor but they are willing to wait until he’s a free agent. Why give up an asset for him when you know he’s going to walk in July?

So Okafor sits on the Philly bench, out of the rotation, and just wanting a chance somewhere. It’s going to be interesting to see if he can reshape his career somewhere else — he can still get buckets around the paint. The game has moved away from his skill set — Okafor doesn’t space the floor and doesn’t defend well — but as a poor man’s Zach Randolph as a sixth man, he could carve out a nice career. There is a place for him in the NBA on some teams.

The only question is when we will get to see him try to find that niche in another uniform. It could be a while.