Sixers hurting Jahlil Okafor's trade value by not playing him

Sixers hurting Jahlil Okafor's trade value by not playing him

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.


"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. 


Jaylen Brown plays 1-on-1 with Tracy McGrady

Jaylen Brown plays 1-on-1 with Tracy McGrady

As the Celtics continue their offseason and Summer League playoff run, Jaylen Brown has been working out with a newly inducted member of the Basketball Hall of Fame in Tracy McGrady. 

The young star is coming off a sophomore campaign where he was second on the team in scoring in both the regular season (14.5) and playoffs (18.0). On Sunday, a video sufaced of Brown and McGrady playing a game of 1-on-1 with no dribbling. 

McGrady averaged over 20 points per game from 2000-2008, and seems to still have an innate ability to score. 

Brown was a key factor in the injury-riddled Celtics coming within one win of an NBA Finals appearance. The main storyline heading into the 2018-19 season for the Celtics will be the return of Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward, but let's not forget about the growth of Brown and Jayson Tatum.



Jabari Bird works hard . . . and plays well

File photo

Jabari Bird works hard . . . and plays well

During Las Vegas Summer League play, the Celtics' Jabari Bird has been a human highlight reel-in-waiting every time he's stepped on the floor.

But while people may see Bird's breakout performances, they haven't seen what led to them: The 6 a.m. workouts near San Francisco that he would drive an hour to attend earlier this summer, and the film sessions breaking down the 400 or so shots he would take -- and make -- per workout.

There is an under-the-radar, stealth-like grind about Bird that has helped him stand out as one of the top players for Boston’s Summer League team . . . and, just as important, better secure a place for himself in the NBA next season.


“Everybody here at Summer League has to be impressed by the way he’s playing,” Celtics assistant and Summer League coach Jay Larranaga told reporters recently.

Bird will look to continue his strong play tonight in the Celtics' Summer League playoff matchup against the Portland Trail Blazers at 8 p.m. He was given a rest and didn't play in yesterday's 74-72 win over Miami, so will take team-high averages of 16.8 point and 6.0 rebounds into tonight's game. He's also shooting 57.1 percent from the field and is second on the C's in steals (1.8 per game).

The numbers are strong, clearly. But Bird’s work ethic, more than the eye-popping moves on the floor, is what has allowed him to stand out in Las Vegas.

Player development trainer Packie Turner of Unlimited Potential Basketball has worked with Bird dating back to his junior season at Cal and has been pleased with how the 24-year-old has made the most of his opportunity this summer.

“He’s built for today’s game,” said Turner who has worked with two-time league MVP Stephen Curry, his brother Seth Curry, and Sacramento’s Skal Labissiere, among others. “[Bird] can defend, he can shoot,  he can score. Three-and-D (defense) guys are everywhere now.”

And it is that versatility that promtped Boston to take Bird with the 56th overall pick in last year’s NBA draft, and later sign him to a two-way contract.

Bird had an injury-riddled first season shuffling back and forth between the Celtics and their Gatorade League affiliate, the Maine Red Claws. But after the C' shad secured the second-best record in the East, with no shot at moving up to the top spot, Bird was among the players to see extensive playing time late in the season.

And to his credit, he didn’t disappoint.

He played so well that there was a swelling level of interest among Celtics fans who wanted to see Boston carve out a spot on the playoff roster for Bird. (However, players signed to two-way contracts are ineligible to be on their respective team’s playoff roster.)

Bird had a taste of being active on an NBA roster, and he clearly wanted more.

Turner could sense something was different with Bird shortly after his rookie season had ended and he returned to the Bay Area, setting up workouts with an earlier-than-usual start time of 6 a.m.

“He has always wanted to be in the gym,” Turner told NBC Sports Boston. “But you could tell, he could see how close he was and came in committed to doing everything he could to make it happen, now.”

Bird, a prep All-American before choosing the Cal Bears over a bevy of college suitors, was a high-flyer from the jump. But Turner wanted to see him expand that athleticism beyond playing above the rim.


“I thought back then he used [his athleticism] vertically, but didn’t use it laterally,” Turner said. “He’s gotten a lot better laterally using his athleticism. That’s an area we can get better with as far as how he attacks side-to-side . . . just big explosive movements and not getting upright in those moments. He knows how to do it around the rim, a lot of put-backs; he’s active around the glass. I want him to use that same athleticism on a step-back, or a move to clear space.”

We have seen more of that in Summer League, which has made Bird a more versatile, more attractive target for teams. The Celtics made him a qualifying offer earlier this summer, making him a restricted free agent.
Bird has shrugged off talk surrounding his basketball fate beyond this summer, aware that thinking too much about it can do no good.
“I’m not too concerned with what’s going on as far as my future and things like that,” Bird told NBC Sports Boston near the end of the regular season when he got his first opportunity to play decent minutes. “I’m trying to control what I can control, and that’s going out and play hard every game."

Bird added: “I’m just trying to show everyone in this organization that I’m a good ballplayer.”

Jaylen Brown, a teammate of Bird’s at Cal, was among the first to put folks on alert that Bird had NBA-caliber talent.

“I’m telling you, he’s a really, really good player,” Brown told NBC Sports Boston. “When he gets his chance, and he’ll get it, he’ll show everyone. You’ll see.”