An old take that circulated NBA Twitter was the idea that a trade between the Philadelphia 76ers and their gluttony of big-men and the Boston Celtics with their dearth of bigs was destined to happen. We're in January, and it still hasn't happened. Could something still happen? Not extremely likely, but it's not extremely unlikely either. Jahlil Okafor has fallen out of the healthy rotation in Philly, and now the spotlight is shining on Nerlens Noel to showcase himself. The problem is that the 76ers have won three straight games, so they might actually not need to get rid of Noel, especially since he's expressed his content with his current role. Where does that leave Big Jah?
Enter Boston . . . again. Before you groan because of memories of the previous hot takes surrounding Jahlil Okafor and the Celtics, just think of a few things. First of all, the price to acquire Okafor has likely gone down from whenever rumors first started to circulate. Upon his return from injury earlier in the year, Okafor was clearly given a chance to show himself off for potential trades. He did so to the tune of decreased numbers across the board, including 8 less minutes per game. It's tough to really get a chance to shine when Joel Embiid steals the spotlight on and off the court. As a result, Big Jah now only gets time when
"The Process" Embiid has to sit. This can't keep going on; something has to give.
Second of all, lost amid the late-game heroics of Isaiah Thomas (also known as "The Little Guy" and "The King in the Fourth") is the fact that the Celtics have consistently needed late-game heroics from Isaiah Thomas. While the Celtics' offense has been humming as of late, and Marcus Smart has the team posting an even higher offensive rating when he's on the court without Thomas, the offense still stagnates at time with few options to score with the shot clock expiring.
Although the two teams are division rivals, making a deal wouldn't be the worst thing in the world. What would a deal look like?
Jahlil Okafor and Richaun Holmes
Why Philadelphia Pulls the Trigger:
The team wouldn't have to field media questions about juggling all their big-men anymore. From a basketball standpoint, the real gem here is Terry Rozier. In Boston, Rozier has fallen out of the team's healthy rotation (though recently, he's been getting minutes in Avery Bradley's absence) not because of his ability, but because of his fit with Marcus Smart in the second unit. Both Rozier and Smart need the ball in their hands (or to be the point guard, to be blunt) to be at their peak effectiveness. Smart at his peak is better than Rozier at his peak, and playing them together just hasn't worked that well. In Philadelphia, Rozier would be easily their most explosive guard, and his ability to weave through pick-and-rolls with Joel Embiid and Nerlens Noel would help his own development along with pushing the team forward. Although Richaun Holmes is a talented young player, his logging several DNP-CD's of late lend to his availability as filler in an outgoing trade to Boston. Frankly, James Young is filler.
Why Boston Doesn't Say No:
Jahlil Okafor next to Horford wouldn't be the greatest thing on defense, and adjusting to Okafor's retro offensive game would take time. It could be a solid fit, though, because Horford's passing for a big-man is incredible, and Okafor himself has shown an ability to see over defenses to make snappy decisions in moving the ball. Horford's game has evolved to the point where he can leave the paint, so that would allow Okafor space to operate on the low block. While the two of them could work well together, the real place where Okafor would lend his talents would be in the second unit. The second unit frontcourt of Kelly Olynyk and Jonas Jerebko has often failed to produce offense for long stretches, even with Marcus Smart's capable passing. Giving Smart a pick-and-roll partner in Okafor would do wonders for both of them. Admittedly, there would probably need to be a consolidating trade somewhere else to free up minutes for Jerebko and/or Amir Johnson, but with the new CBA coming into effect next season, having Okafor on a team-friendly rookie deal could prove to be more valuable. Philly likely insists on having a first-round pick included, so throwing in the 2019 Grizzlies pick is probably the best the Celtics can do in terms of giving Philly the worst first-rounder they own.
Yes, I know it's not the popular thing to want Jahlil Okafor in Boston, but with the right trade and the right placement in the rotation, Okafor could be a piece that jumpstarts the offense in the second unit. There's something to be said about having a low-post threat who's good for a few jump hooks per game; it's just useful to have when used correctly. While things are quiet on the rumor mill regarding Okafor currently, you never know when it'll suddenly heat up. The next call might be from Philly's neighbors in green.