For Jahlil Okafor, his trip to New Orleans this weekend as part of the NBA All-Star break may be a preview to the next city he’ll be playing in. The Sixers have openly shopped Okafor in recent weeks, engaging in serious dialogue with several teams on a potential deal involving the 21-year-old Duke product. Among them, the New Orleans Pelicans.
Now, according to a new report from the Sporting News’ Sean Deveney, another team that has expressed some interest in Okafor is the Dallas Mavericks. Deveney, in his report, also included info on what’s potentially been holding up a deal between the Pelicans and Sixers.
According to a source, part of the issue the Pelicans have had in finding a new center has been the insistence on protecting the pick they send out. That would not be an issue if the Pelicans make the playoffs, a realistic possibility given that they are only 2.5 games out of the eighth seed. But they’re part of a horde of six teams with a chance at that spot.
If the Pelicans fail to make the playoffs, they’ll be in the lottery. They don’t want to give up their pick if they get lucky and it lands in the Top 3. But teams like the Sixers, Nets and Magic don’t want to give the Pelicans protection in that case.
Still, when it comes to Okafor, the Pelicans are in a better position to offer a worthwhile pick than Okafor’s hometown Bulls, who would have to lure Philadelphia with some combination of a pick and young talent. Additionally, there could be darkhorse teams involved in the pursuit of Okafor. A source said that the Mavericks had previously inquired about Okafor, and could revisit those talks as the deadline nears.
A Jahlil Okafor trade before Thursday’s deadline certainly isn’t, and never has been, imminent. Still, Okafor is one of several names with a high chance of being traded this week. At just 21 years old, Okafor is a young commodity coveted by teams that hope to acquire young talent before the Feb. 23 deadline.
For Dallas, with Mark Cuban openly admitting this week that the team has entered a rebuilding phase, trading for Okafor could jumpstart the franchise’s new plan of getting younger.
Okafor re-joined the Sixers in Boston on Wednesday after being forced to sit two games because of trade rumors.
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