Tag Archives: Jahlil Okafor

Are We There Yet? Ben Simmons Saga Sets Sixers Rebuild Back Yet Again

For the past five years, being a fan of the Philadelphia 76ers has felt a lot like being stuck in traffic on I-95 on the way to Six Flags. The end of the journey holds so much promise, a young core with so much potential, yet injuries, stubborn European teams and overprotective agents have set the project back to a slow, crawling pace.

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Once again, the Sixers have met with a most unfortunate circumstance; Ben Simmons has undergone surgery to repair a Jones fracture in his right foot. The injury is particularly hard to swallow, as it occurred just before the start of preseason. Furthermore, there are now rumors circulating that Simmons’ agent Rich Paul wants to keep him off the court for the entire 2016-17 season. This would be a huge loss for a team that was expected to finally take a leap forward in their rebuilding process.

The bulk of the 76ers rebuild began back in 2013, when the Sixers acquired Nerlens Noel and a 2014 first-round pick for Jrue Holiday and Pierre Jackson. Noel’s 2013-14 season was the first of many disappointments in the 76ers rebuild; he missed the entire year recovering from knee surgery.

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In the 2014 draft, the 76ers took Joel Embiid, a seven-footer out of Kansas. Since then, he’s sat on the bench eating onion rings and hasn’t seen any game action whatsoever. Supposedly, he’s fully healthy and ready to play this year, but I won’t believe it until I see it. Perhaps the worst thing about Embiid, however, is just because he is now fully healthy, doesn’t mean he’s going to be any good. This guy has very little basketball experience, and early reports from 76ers scrimmages indicate that he appears rusty. Just because a guy is seven feet tall and played well in college doesn’t mean he can play in the NBA, heck, Greg Oden got cut by the Jiangsu Dragons of the Chinese Basketball Association earlier this year.

In that same draft, the Sixers traded for another rookie who has yet to see an NBA Court, Dario Saric. Another big man, Saric stands at 6’10”, and comes to Philadelphia from Turkey. Because of the aforementioned Simmons injury, Saric could be in line for big minutes in the first half of the season. It’s difficult to project the impact Saric can have in the NBA, but the silver lining is that he isn’t coming off two years of inactivity like Embiid. Rather, Saric has been waiting for this moment for several years now, and with the Simmons injury, Brett Brown will really be able to get a good look at the young prospect.

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Then, there’s Jahlil Okafor. Heading into the 2015-16 season, Okafor seemed like the Sixers’ savior. As the season progressed, it seemed as though Okafor regressed and began to blend in with the other flawed young prospects on the 76ers roster. Heaping onto the other concerns about Okafor, its almost impossible to bring his name up without trade talks, and one has to wonder how long he will even be playing in a Sixers’ uniform.

Finally, there’s Ben Simmons. Coming into the league with comparisons to none other than King James himself, Simmons was going to be the butane that finally ignited the Sixers. Nope. While the possibility of that still exists for the future, the injury, surgery, and agent rumors have delayed Philly’s next ray of hope yet another year.

The onslaught of setbacks suffered by all of these players highlight a fatal flaw in the 76ers’ rebuilding plan: are we even sure any of these guys are good? It’s one thing to trade for Al Horford or DeMarcus Cousins, those are known commodities. The 76ers are banking their entire future on players that haven’t even proven they can make an NBA roster, and there is no veteran presence to man the ship among the turbulent tides. Andre Igoudala? Gone. With a ring, by the way. Jrue Holiday? Traded to the Pelicans for the confusing and occasionally underwhelming Nerlins Noel. Even Michael-Carter Williams, a player who would be considered a young guy on most NBA rosters, could’ve been valuable leadership through the 76ers’ horrific 2014-15 and 15-16 seasons. While other rebuilding teams like the Celtics solidified their roster with veteran players while building a young core, the 76ers let Sam Hinkie perform the NBA version of Honey, I Shrunk the Kids and systematically screw everything up year after year.

As a 76ers fan, I will watch the beginning of this season hoping, no, pleading that Joel Embiid and Dario Saric somehow become the great players that they were prognosticated to be, while also knowing in the back of my head that we’re in for another year of “next year”.

 

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Shamrock Shakeup: Celtics Hunt For Major Trade

If you believed every trade rumor you heard, you would think the Boston Celtics were the basketball equivalent of The Avengers.

The Celtics have been linked to almost every major free agent this offseason, and Danny Ainge has been making more phone calls than a creepy drunk ex-boyfriend. Beginning with Kevin Durant, Dwight Howard, and the successful courting of Al Horford, Ainge has now reportedly moved on to two new potential signees: Russell Westbrook and Blake Griffin.
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So, why are we all of a sudden seeing so many players linked to the Celtics? The first part of that is an aggressive free agent strategy. Ainge realizes that the Celtics are one or two players away from becoming worthy adversaries to the Cavaliers, so he has been recruiting like we’ve never quite seen before. This hard work is what allowed the Celtics to sign Al Horford, a move that escalated them into a new tier of NBA teams. Rather than viewing the Celtics as a team that will tread water in the Eastern Conference, a.k.a every team besides Cleveland, players now view it as a favorable situation with an organization that has perhaps the richest history in all of the NBA. Horford was the first domino to fall, now the question is if he made enough of a shockwave for others to fall as well.

The chances of Westbrook leaving Oklahoma City this off-season are slim, but even the mere possibility of a player of his caliber leaving for another city is headline news. Additionally, given the crazy moves we’ve seen so far this off-season, nothing, and I mean nothing, can be ruled out. It has been rumored time and time again that Los Angeles is Westbrook’s premier landing spot, but a lot of this was reported before the Celtics suddenly became such an attractive destination. Also, thanks to some mild stalking by SB Nation and other media outlets, it was confirmed that Westbrook, Ainge, and Isaiah Thomas were all in San Diego at the same time. Something tells me they weren’t all there to see a Padres game.

While Westbrook is a reach as far as 2016-17 is concerned, the Celtics are set up to be major players in the Westbrook free-agency scramble next off-season. If Ainge has his sights set on getting the best player available, that might be the best move here. Westbrook doesn’t necessarily fit into Brad Stevens’ offense as well as other potential recruits do, but he is by far the most talented.

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The other major player the Celtics are reportedly targeting, Blake Griffin, is perhaps even more intriguing. Though he is not the prolific offensive threat that Westbrook is, Griffin compliments what the Celtics are trying to do much better. Horford is a great shooter, so that allows Griffin to do his thing in the paint, an area that has been his wheelhouse thus far in his pro career. Recent incidents aside, (hang in there, Celtics equipment managers), Griffin would have great chemistry in Boston. There wouldn’t be any particular player that is viewed as “the guy”, whereas with Westbrook it would be his show.

Finally, there is one more rumor that must be included in the realm of possibility. Ainge said he plans to make a big move, so if all else fails, Jahlil Okafor may be fair game. It might not be the first choice for the Celtics, but it certainly would be a big move. Nerlins Noel has also been floated as a possibility, but that would hardly be seen as a big move. Okafor, though he may not have blown anyone away in his rookie season, still has enormous star potential and with a roster that includes Joel Embiid, Jahlil Okafor, Nerlins Noel and Ben Simmons, it just seems like someone has to be the odd man out there.

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