CHICAGO – Late Thursday evening news began to surface that the Chicago Bulls were looking to be buyers rather than sellers heading into the upcoming NBA trade deadline, with the team showing interest in bringing a former lottery pick back home to Chicago.
Comcast Sports Network‘s Chicago Bulls Insider, Vincent Goodwill reported late on Thursday evening that the Bulls front office is exploring a trade with the Philadelphia 76ers that would bring Chicago native Jahlil Okafor back home to the windy city.
According to Goodwill, “The Bulls have been active with the trade deadline approaching, and they’ve inquired about the availability of Philadelphia 76ers center Jahlil Okafor, multiple league sources tell CSNChicago”.
Okafor, 21, spent one season at Duke University after becoming a highly-touted talent during his playing days at Whitney Young High School in Chicago. Okafor was the consensus number one overall prospect in his college recruiting class. Okafor was selected third overall by the 76ers in the 2015 NBA Draft, and posted excellent numbers during his rookie campaign. In the 2015-2016 season Okafor recorded 17.5 points per game, and 7 rebounds per game over the course of 53 contests during his rookie campaign.
Okafor has spent much of the 2016-2017 NBA season on the 76ers bench due to the emergence of Joel Embiid, and the apparent preference of Nerlens Noel as the back-up center on the big-man heavy Philadelphia squad. While Okafor takes a hit with analysts due to his lack of defensive presence, he has still performed serviceably on the offensive side of the court in limited action this season. Okafor is averaging 11.5 points per game to go along with 4.7 rebounds, and 1.1 assists per game over the course of roughly 23 minutes per contest during the 2016-2017 campaign.
The second-year center would provide the Bulls with another bona fide scoring option, and would immediately become their most prolific scorer in the paint with the team severely lacking consistent offensive production from their big-men this season.
Goodwill points out that the interest at this point is more on the Bulls side than the 76ers side, but reiterates that Okafor is indeed available on the trade block on Philadelphia’s side. The issue with the two sides reaching a deal is that Okafor is still on his rookie deal, earning roughly $4.8 million dollars this season, meaning it would be difficult for the Bulls to meet the 76ers desired return value while staying within that price range.
Doug McDermott is making $2.5 million dollars for the 2016-2017 season, making him a likely return piece in any deal for Okafor. McDermott was the 11th overall selection in the 2014 NBA Draft, and is averaging 10 points, three rebounds, and an assist per game on the campaign. The Bulls could squeeze another player into a package for Okafor with McDermott only making $2.5 million this season, but it would have to be a player making somewhere in the $2 million dollar range.
Denzel Valentine, Jerian Grant, Bobby Portis, Paul Zipser, and Cristiano Felicio would all fit into that price range, but it’s likely that only Valentine would draw the 76ers interest. Even with a package of McDermott and Valentine, would the 76ers be on board with that return? I’m not too sure that would get the job done, unless the Bulls parted ways with Sacramento’s first round draft pick as well.
The Bulls could of course enlist the assistance of a third team to make the deal work if they are close, but not close enough at some point between now and the trade deadline later this month.
Bringing the former lottery selection home to Chicago would be an excellent move for the Bulls who still, even after last weeks debacle, seem determined to advance in their current win now direction. Okafor would give the Bulls a legitimate starting center, and more importantly a third consistent scoring option on a nightly basis.