Technically, the Sixers don't have to trade any of their myriad of big men just yet. Nerlens Noel, Jahlil Okafor and Joel Embiid are all under contract. The organization can take its time evaluating which pieces should lay the foundation for the post-process era.
That being said, we already know Noel and Okafor don't work well together at all, at least they did not complement one another their first year together. And with Embiid perhaps finally ready to hit the floor in 2016, the Sixers are about to have an even bigger cluster on their hands in trying to rotate three centers.
With that in mind, NBA insider Chad Ford doesn't think the Sixers will wait. In fact, in an interview for 97.3 ESPN, the veteran reporter went on to describe the possibility of either Okafor or Noel being traded before the 2016-17 season as likely.
I think that there's a very high likelihood, that whether it's to move up in the draft or use them to grab a free agent in a sign and trade or just to a trade, that you will not see the Nerlens Noel-Jahlil Okafor pairing at the start of next season. I think that they'll gauge the interest of both players. I think that there might be a slight preference for Noel, to keep him around with the Sixers, and I think you might be right, there might be a slight, better value for Okafor out on the market, but I think everyone agrees that that combination of those two players doesn't necessarily work.
The Sixers needs to pick up assets, especially if they're gonna go ahead and do a Ben Simmons or Brandon Ingram with the first pick in the draft. Then they're gonna need those assets to start to fill out their backcourt, because the 24th pick and [the 26th pick], you're not finding starters. I'm not even sure that you're necessarily finding rotation players at that back end of the draft that are gonna make big impact, so they're gonna have to do that via free agency or via trade, and I think either Okafor or Noel — I don't think they'll trade both — but one of those two is probably their best trade chip.
The idea the Sixers would make a move to break up Okafor and Noel isn't exactly fresh. There was doubt they could coexist from the beginning, and already by the trade deadline, rumors the club was at least fielding calls.
What might be a little surprising, however, is Ford's sense the Sixers might prefer Noel of the two. We can come up with a whole host of reasons why that could be — in fact, we did, from Okafor's attitude and off-court behavior, to his skill set being too similar to that of Joel Embiid, to name a few. But at the end of the day, most feel Okafor has the much higher upside.
As for whether Ford would do the deal for the Boston Celtics' third-overall pick in this year's draft, as has been hinted at by numerous reporters, he says, "Absolutely."
If I was Philadelphia, it would be done tomorrow. I don't know if Boston would do it, but for Philadelphia, 100 percent. That would allow them to actually I think bring in another guard, an elite guard, whether that's Kris Dunn or Jamal Murray, and suddenly now you've got a very, very bright future. I think that's an easy call for the Sixers if Boston would do it.
But the biggest takeaway here is Ford anticipates one or the other is gone this offseason. Again, he's far from alone in thinking that, but it's one thing to suggest a trade makes sense, and quite another to say there's "a very high likelihood" it goes down.
Ford also takes on a number of other topics in the interview, from his preference for Simmons over Ingram to the Sixers' plans for this offseason and beyond.