BOSTON – The Boston Celtics are no different than the handful of teams that have expressed interest in Philadelphia’s Jahlil Okafor.
They like him for the right price which as it stands now, is too high for every team that’s considered a possible landing spot – that includes the Celtics.
Okafor is looking for the quickest exit out of Philadelphia now that the Sixers have made it abundantly clear that he is not in their plans for the present or the future.
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"A buyout or a trade," Okafor told reporters in Philadelphia on Wednesday. "A buyout's not the only option. It's just, I want to get on the court. That's not happening here. It could be a buyout, it could be a trade. I just want something to happen rather quickly."
He has been a healthy scratch in all but one game this season in addition to the Sixers declining to pick up the fourth-year option on his contract worth about $6.3 million which rarely happens to a player selected as high as Okafor (No. 3 overall) was in 2015.
A league source told NBC Sports Boston that the issue at hand, Okafor’s future, has been made unclear because of two factors.
The Sixers overvalued Okafor’s value in the eyes of other teams, presuming that because he was a high draft pick that they can expect comparable compensation in return.
Also, they underestimated how not playing him would significantly lessen his value in the eyes of potential trade partners, which includes the Celtics.
“This isn’t rocket science,” a league executive texted NBC Sports Boston. “You have a player you want to get rid of, you need to get rid of. So … you don’t play him? That makes absolutely no sense in the world.”
One of the knocks on Okafor has been his inability to keep his weight at a manageable. With a mostly vegan diet, he lost about 30 pounds during the offseason and looked to be in the best shape of his basketball career.
But that career is very much up in the air with the Sixers, a team that has no interest in playing him now or motivated to trade him elsewhere.
The Celtics were recently awarded an $8.4 million disabled player exception in relation to the left leg/ankle injury suffered by Gordon Hayward that’s expected to keep him sidelined for the rest of the season.
If Okafor gets a buyout, the Celtics would be well-positioned to sign him which would provide another big body who is at his best scoring around the post in half court sets – a strength that would set him apart from most of the current Celtics.
And while Boston has entertained the idea of trading for Okafor, Boston isn’t interested in giving up assets other than a possible second-round pick for Okafor.
It's not a matter of whether they think he's worth it.
Boston is willing to gamble that the Sixers will ultimately buy him out which would allow them to sign him for the remainder of the season, providing the kind of depth that could be just what they need to move beyond last season's success and represent the East in the NBA Finals.