Could the Chicago Bulls be hoping to strike gold again with another kid from Chicago?
Reports are circulating that the Bulls are interested in acquiring Philadelphia 76ers forward/center Jahlil Okafor, as reported by Bulls insider Vincent Goodwill.
— NBC Sports Chicago (@NBCSChicago) February 3, 2017
Talks remain tepid for now, with the Bulls showing more interest in getting Okafor than the 76ers are in giving him up, but there’s still plenty of time between now and the trade deadline (February 23).
Okafor, the 76ers’ 3rd overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, was originally a product of Whitney M. Young Magnet School in Chicago before entering the NBA after one year at Duke, where was ACC Player of the Year, a unanimous first-team All-American, and a 2015 National Champion.
For his career (87 games), Okafor is averaging 27.3 minutes a game, with 15.1 points per game on 51% from the field, 6.2 rebounds a game, and 1.1 blocks per contest. So far this season, his numbers have been trending downward (23.1 mpg, 11.4 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 1.0 blkpg) due to the emergence, and relative health, of 2014 3rd overall pick Joel Embiid.
While this is all just talk at this point, such a move would be an interesting route for the Bulls in the midst of a disappointing season, though it could still be classified as a bit of a reach.
For one, it would show real commitment to a process of getting “younger and more athletic,” which the Bulls desperately need to do.
Also, though Okafor is still a young, relatively unproven player, his potential as an offensive player in the frontcourt is enticing for a team that could badly use some consistent offense from people not named Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade. Okafor is playing nearly 5 mpg less than Robin Lopez right now and still scoring almost two points more per game, for perspective.
All this being said, Bulls fans shouldn’t expect the second-coming of Derrick Rose if this trade does get pulled off. While Okafor did finish 5th in Rookie of the Year voting and was named to the All-Rookie first team last year, he won’t be a superstar of a prime Rose’s caliber.
It is also worth noting that Okafor has a history of off-court problems—he was suspended by Philadelphia for two games last season following multiple reports of fights with hecklers—which the Bulls should take into account given the current climate of their locker room, but perhaps the expectation is that being at home would be a welcome change for the youngster.
And, while Okafor is a talented post scorer, he’s not exactly a dominant rebounder or defender. He also doesn’t stretch the floor or run the break the way a Fred Hoiberg-led offense hopes for (though let’s be real, Hoiberg’s probably not going to be here next year. Besides, the front office hasn’t cared about what kinds of players he likes at any point. Why start now?)
I wouldn’t exactly bet my hopes and dreams on Okafor, nor would I go crazy and trade away, say, Cristiano Felicio for him (don’t even mention Butler in this deal). But if the price isn’t too steep, who knows? Maybe some more young, homegrown talent is a step in the right direction for the Bulls.