Rumor: Despite big-name dreams, Celtics more likely to land Sixers’ Jahlil Okafor

Associated Press
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The Boston Celtics have been in the middle of the swirling vortex of NBA trade rumors this summer: Danny Ainge has been reaching out to Oklahoma City about Russell Westbrook, the Sacramento Kings about DeMarcus Cousins, the L.A. Clippers about Blake Griffin, and any other star he could pair with just signed Al Horford.

Except, none of those are likely if you talk to people around the league. The Kings are not moving Cousins in the short-term — certainly not before they move into a brand new building, plus they want to make it work and are counting on new coach Dave Joerger to pull the pieces together. The Thunder want to rebuild around Westbrook and bring in another star, they just can’t get him to commit to an extension. The Clippers are a win now team that is only going to move Griffin if they get another star back, someone who will help keep Chris Paul in house next summer when he can opt out.

Despite all their assets, the Celtics do not have the pieces to get those guys right now, despite what some Celtics fans think. The fantastic A. Sherrod Blakely laid out both the reasons and a more likely scenario at CSNNE.com.

“You win with players, not picks,” one assistant GM told CSNNE.com. “Boston has lots of picks and some good players. But there’s not a great player on that roster. And the players you (media) guys keep writing and talking about that they’re interested in, are great players. [Celtics president Danny Ainge] will tell you, it’s not easy making trades. And when it comes to great players, it’s even harder to acquire them no matter how many picks you offer up.”

The consensus among league executives spoken to by CSNNE.com is that the most likely trade for Boston will be one in which they wind up with Philadelphia’s Jahlil Okafor.

“From the moment Philly drafted Ben [Simmons], everyone around the league knew that they would have to trade a big, either Okafor or Nerlens [Noels],” an NBA scout told CSNNE.com. “Okafor is the better scorer; it’s not even close really. But Nerlens has that ability to run the floor and can protect the rim. Those two qualities . . . you can’t have enough guys in the frontcourt who call those two skills, strengths. That’s why Okafor is the more expendable player.”

That potential and rare skill set are why more teams are asking about — and willing to give up more for — Noel.

Does Boston want Okafor? Depends on the price. The Sixers, if they are not blown away by an offer, may go through training camp and into the season with all those bigs (including Joel Embiid, who is expected to play in the fall), put them together in different pairings, and see what works. Then they will trade the guys that don’t fit as well. The Sixers are not under pressure to get a deal done now.

The most likely big name to move before the season starts is Westbrook, but he also can be a free agent next summer. If he’s not going to commit to the team where he’s traded — whether it’s Boston or Los Angeles or anywhere else — then teams are not going to give up too much for a rental. It leaves Oklahoma City in a tight spot, one where they may well choose to go into the season with him, let Westbrook rack up insane scoring numbers, and try to plot a future with him and another major free agent like Griffin.

All of which means, Boston fans still need to be patient. Which suck for fans, but it’s reality.