(Photo by Matteo Marchi/Getty Images)
Once upon a time, Jahlil Okafor was traded to the Brooklyn Nets for a bag of basketballs.
… okay, technically, that isn’t true. In actuality, the Philadelphia 76ers traded Okafor to the Nets for Trevor Booker – a player they eventually waived for nothing – but they had to surrender Nik Stauskas and a future second-round pick to get the deal done, so in actuality, a bag of basketballs may have been more valuable longer-term.
Fun fact: That pick the Sixers traded alongside Okafor? It turned into Nicolas Claxton, who is a darn good player and may start at center for the Nets this fall. Boy, talk about a lose-lose.
Why, you may ask, is this particular piece of Sixers history relevant? Well, because Jahlil Okafor was just traded to the Brooklyn Nets yet again for a package centered around second-round picks. Will this time turn out any differently, or will the former third-overall pick find a long-term home back in Brooklyn?
As things presently stand, the Brooklyn Nets have three centers on their active roster: Jahlil Okafor, Nic Claxton, and 2021 first-round pick Day’Ron Sharpe.
On paper, Okafor should have a pretty decent pathway to playing time, as he has the most experience of the three and is by far the most dominant post scorer, but in the modern-day NBA, positional distinctions are about as relevant as mid-range jump shots.
Though they are all technically listed as forwards, Blake Griffin, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Paul Millsap have all played minutes at the five spot over the past few seasons. While none are what you would call elite rim protectors or even particularly effective rebounders, the trio all stand at least 6-foot-8 and could remain positive contributors due to their respective offensive talents.
Even if Okafor has the purest talent with his back to the basket, his athletic limitations both as a rim defender and as a switching defender will limit his ability to play against a variety of lineups across the league… that is, if he’s even in Steve Nash’s rotation at all.
Could Okafor see playing time this fall? Yes, I would be truly shocked if Okafor never returns to the court in a black, grey, and white uniform due to his unique ability to soak up garbage time minutes as a ball-dominant post-up center, but in games that are close, let alone the playoffs, is there any chance the pride of Duke gets minutes?
While Okafor will all but surely make the Nets team this fall, as they waived Alize Johnson to open up a roster spot for his addition, his presence on the team’s books may solely represent matching salary in a future trade, if not a waivable contract come the buyout market.
If that ultimately does come to pass, Okafor will be looking for his sixth team since 2017 and may see the future of his NBA career come into question at the tender age of 26.
Was Sam Hinkie‘s decision to draft Jahlil Okafor as Joel Embiid insurance a good idea? No. That move will, unfortunately, go down as one of the worst of his impressive tenure and will haunt the team for years as players like Devin Booker continue to shine. But hey, what’s done is done. Okafor is now a member of the Brooklyn Nets, again, and hopefully, things work out better for him this time around… but not too much better, for obvious reasons.
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(Photo by Matteo Marchi/Getty Images)