NEW ORLEANS – Sixers big man Jahlil Okafor stepped out of St. Lawrence, a hip, dimly lit restaurant on North Peters Street here in the French Quarter and looked around at the cloud-soaked city. There was a black SUV and a crush of traffic waiting for him, but he still wondered, “Wait, where are we going?”
Pardon Okafor his confusion, he has not spent much time in New Orleans. But he is aware that could change soon. The Pelicans have been among the top teams pursuing an Okafor trade as the deadline closes in next Thursday.
“There’s a bunch of trade rumors,” Okafor said on Friday. “New Orleans. Chicago. Ten different teams. So, I said it before, I just have to do whatever I can control. The rumors are going to continue to come out. As far as I know, I am still a Sixer and happy to be a Sixer. I am going to keep working hard every day.”
New Orleans has been desperate to find help for star forward Anthony Davis. While the Pelicans need shooting, their assets are limited. The bevy of available big men on the market—they have had discussions with the Nets on Brook Lopez and the Magic on Nikola Vucevic, among others—tilts the simple supply-and-demand angle toward acquiring a new center to pair with Davis. The Pelicans are hoping to only give up one first-round pick, and perhaps another player, to land a big man by Thursday.
Okafor is only 21, which makes him an attractive piece for the Pelicans. But he is not a perimeter shooter (Lopez is), and there is concern that having both Okafor and Davis in the middle will clog up the paint for the Pelicans.
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.
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In the eye of this storm sits Okafor, who has been here in New Orleans all weekend, and could well be back on a more permanent basis next weekend. He is only in his second season, and points out that he has been the subject of trade rumors since his arrival in the league.
“This is not something I was not expecting,” Okafor said. “Everyone with the organization has been up front with me, so I know what is going on and what I can tell my family. I have been dealing with trade rumors my whole time in the NBA, so this is not something new. I am good, I understand it, it is part of being a professional athlete. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens.”
Source : http://www.sportingnews.com/nba/news/nba-trade-rumors-jahlil-okafor-new-orleans-pelicans-bulls-mavericks/14xpkixlkas8017wqz20l8ieel