It was only a matter of when, not if, the Sixers parted ways with Jahlil Okafor.
That time came on Thursday, 23 games into the season. The Sixers traded Okafor, Nik Stauskas and a 2019 second-round pick to the Nets in exchange for Trevor Booker (see story).
"I think rarely do you find a trade that seemingly works well for both teams. I think this one does," Brett Brown said Thursday night. "I'm happy for Jahlil and I'm happy for Nik. I've been with those guys for a while ... I think it's an excellent opportunity."
The move marks the end of Okafor's tenure with the Sixers that began in 2015 and never really had a clear fit. The team selected Okafor third overall out of Duke, but that high draft position didn't mean he was the best fit at the time. The Sixers were already logjammed with centers and there was no easy way to play Okafor, Nerlens Noel and Joel Embiid together.
The team attempted to move Okafor last season, even holding him back from a road trip when a deal appeared imminent. However, a transaction never came to be. Meanwhile, Okafor continued to battle right knee soreness that stemmed from a torn meniscus suffered during his rookie season. The Sixers stayed transparent with their interest to find a trade partner as well as a situation that would be beneficial for Okafor.
But before that could happen, Okafor ended up out of the rotation completely this season. He requested a buyout or trade in early November after the Sixers declined the option on his contract. Just over a month later, his wish was fulfilled when the Sixers came to an agreement with the Nets.
A package deal seemed the most likely scenario after a trade didn't happen last season. It can be easier to group multiple players, and picks in this case, instead of swapping just one. Stauskas has been the most likely candidate all along because of his expiring contract. Stauskas had been limited to six games this season between lack of a role and a right ankle sprain. It's hard to move an injured player, though, and he returned last week.
Both Okafor and Stauskas stayed ready in spite of their lack of playing time. In fact, hours before the trade, Okafor was the last player on the court after shootaround wrapped up. He was doing conditioning drills and putting up shots, a continuation of his commitment to health after adopting a vegan diet and dropping 20 pounds.
The Sixers are getting a two-way player in return in Booker. The eighth-year power forward is averaging 10.1 points and 6.6 rebounds this season. He gives the Sixers versatility being able to play power forward and small center.
Booker admired the game of Kevin Garnett as he grew up in the same area of South Carolina as the future Hall of Famer. He was motivated by Garnett's success and plays with a competitive nature.
"We're getting a man," Brown said. "I think we're getting a veteran that has been there, done that. There is a level of toughness and versatility that interests me. He's shown that he can play, he can handle not playing, and being just sort of good people and handling himself like a pro."