Reports: 76ers-Pelicans Jahlil Okafor trade talks include New Orleans sending 2018 first-rounder, Alexis Ajinca

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The Pelicans are tied for the NBA’s fifth-worst record.

They might be even worse next year.

That also might be someone else’s problem.

So, the rumored Jahlil Okafor trade apparently focus on New Orleans sending the 76ers its 2018, not 2017, first-round pick.

 

Michael Scotto of Basketball Insiders:

Justin Verrier of ESPN:

The 2017 draft is loaded. The Pelicans might dream of Okafor lifting them in the playoff race, but that seems far-fetched. So, it’d be foolish to deal that 2017 first-rounder, at least depending on the protections.

Trading a 2018 first-rounder becomes even more logical for New Orleans when you consider general manager Dell Demps’ seemingly shaky job security. Okafor could help the Pelicans become more respectable in the short term — and if the center doesn’t, Demps might be gone for the 2018 draft.

That’s why the protections on the pick, even if it won’t convey until 2018, will still be so crucial.

As lousy as this season has gone for New Orleans (19-32), next year could be even worse.

Anthony Davis has missed just four games this season. He has never missed fewer than 14 games over a full season. The top members of his supporting cast so far this year, Jrue Holiday and Terrence Jones, head into unrestricted free agency next summer. Meanwhile, underwhelming performers Solomon HillE'Twaun Moore, Langston Galloway, Omer Asik and Alexis Ajinca are locked into long-term contracts. The Pelicans’ clearest path to even reasonable cap space involves Holiday leaving.

Dumping Ajinca (owed $10,247,192 over the next two years) would help New Orleans a bit. He holds negative value (though having him on the books would be less costly for the 76ers, who are under the salary floor and have more cap space in coming years than they know what to do with).

But there are still numerous viable paths to the Pelicans declining — even while adding Okafor. Okafor, a talented interior scorer with majorly concerning defensive limitations, does not justify an all-in move.

If you’re a New Orleans fan looking for good news, Philadelphia coach Brett Brown said Jahlil Okafor would start against the Pistons tonight. If the 76ers thought the trade were close, they’d probably sit Okafor until finalizing it.

Should Okafor escape tonight uninjured and these teams continue exploring the deal tomorrow, keep a close eye on the pick protections.