The Celtics have long been interested in Sixers center Jahlil Okafor, but Boston won’t make a trade for Okafor unless he comes cheap.
Philadelphia is still looking to move the former No. 3 overall pick after declining the fourth-year option on Okafor’s contract, essentially bringing an end to his time with team. Okafor has since made it clear he wants a buyout, but the Sixers refuse to let Okafor walk without receiving something in return.
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The Celtics appear willing to sit down at the negotiating table, but they aren’t ready to offer much, according to Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe:
Philadelphia does not want to buy out [Okafor’s] 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.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise from Boston’s side, as Philadelphia has reduced Okafor’s trade value to almost nothing. Okafor has only played in one game this season, logging 22 minutes in a loss against the Raptors on Oct. 21. The Celtics aren’t handing the Sixers a first-rounder in any trade scenario involving Okafor. It just doesn’t make sense.
Still, Okafor is only 21 and may be re-energized with a fresh start. He averaged 17.5 points per game as a rookie two seasons ago and could give the Celtics a boost as a post-up threat off the bench. Boston is averaging 39.3 points in the paint, the fourth-lowest mark in the NBA, and if nothing else, Okafor knows how to score around the basket.
There is also the issue of Okafor’s contract. He is set to become a free agent at the end of the 2017-18 season, and giving up anything substantial for a rental (who may or may not be useful in the current NBA landscape) is certainly not something Danny Ainge is prepared to do.
Unfortunately for the Sixers, the damage has already been done. They can’t play hardball with the Celtics when Boston’s front office knows Philadelphia is desperate to trade a player making no on-court impact. For now, Okafor will remain on the Sixers’ bench.