As David Griffin, the former Cavaliers GM said on NBA TV this weekend, “I think this is one of the rare trades in the league where I would say unequivocally that this helps both teams.”
The pundits agree. In grading the trade that brought Jahlil Okafor, Nik Stauskas and the 2019 Knicks second rounder to Brooklyn, they’ve given both the Nets and 76ers high grades, almost all A’s and B’s.
Here’s the grades ... and some excerpts of the analysis.
—Brooklyn : B
Brooklyn always stood out as a logical Okafor destination.
The Nets have one of the league's weakest center rotations, with only rookie Jarrett Allen as a potential long-term option at the position. Timofey Mozgov, whose contract was part of the price of getting D'Angelo Russell, has seen action in just two games since Nov. 14. Tyler Zeller, signed for the veteran's minimum as a free agent over the summer, has started seven games at center.
Though he's played well offensively, Zeller shouldn't prevent Okafor from getting minutes in Brooklyn. So now the question is whether Okafor can make good on his second chance.
Despite making the occasional 3-pointer now, Booker is more or less the same player he's always been -- a decent reserve who's overexposed in a larger role. He's a strong rebounder who blocks a few shots and scores with average efficiency. That doesn't fill a huge need for the 76ers, who have given their power forward minutes to Dario Saric and Ben Simmons, but Philadelphia didn't have another good option at the 4 if either of those players were to miss time. So this might be a slight boost to the Sixers' playoff hopes.
Booker is a good player, but let's be honest -- the Nets have nothing to lose here. They get Okafor, the 2015 No. 3 overall pick who averaged 17.5 points, 7.0 rebounds and 1.2 blocks as a rookie, and they'll have four months to see whether he's someone they think could be part of their future plans. People were talking about Okafor as the second-best prospect in his draft class before he fell into oblivion, so it's worth the gamble for a bad Nets team with no potential NBA superstars outside of possibly D'Angelo Russell.
Booker is a mobile big man who can switch on screens, pull down rebounds and get out on the break for a team with the fourth-highest pace in the NBA. But mostly this pickup is about the intangibles -- Booker will add toughness, hustle and a veteran presence to the young Sixers core. It will also allow the team more flexibility to allow Dario Saric to come off the bench if that's what coach Brett Brown decides to do.
Okafor's trade value had decreased considerably since both he and the Sixers made it clear that he wasn't going to be in Philly for much longer, but it still stings a bit to only get a mid-level forward in exchange for the No. 3 pick in the draft.
This is a no-risk deal for the Nets. There’s really nothing bad about it for Brooklyn. While it feels like an eternity since he led Duke to a national title, Okafor turns 22 years old next week and remains one of the league’s more talented post scorers. While his defensive problems have rightfully called into doubt his ability to anchor a quality team on the inside, he’s gotten nothing close to a fair shake in Philadelphia over the last couple years. Okafor averaged 17.5 points per game and made the All-Rookie first team in 2015–16 before injuries and a lack of opportunity hampered his case for playing time.
Obviously, this isn’t a home run for Philly, but trading what amounts to spare parts for a solid veteran player in Booker to augment a youthful team that looks playoff-credible at this stage is still a win. Certainly, they may have been able to get more for Okafor two years ago given some foresight, but the uncertainty with Joel Embiid’s health, the presence of Nerlens Noel and an overall mixed direction post- Sam Hinkie made things complicated.
Despite the 76ers giving up on him, there might still be a productive player in there somewhere. As a rookie, Okafor averaged 17.5 points and seven rebounds per game in 30 minutes per game over 48 starts. He shot over 50 percent as a rookie and, in spite of some poor defense overall, he blocked 1.2 shots a game. In his second year, playing behind Embiid for part of the year, Okafor still scored 11.8 points per game on over 51 percent shooting.
The Nets will give Okafor the best chance he’s going to get to prove he’s an NBA-caliber player. Once he’s up to speed, he’ll likely split time with Jarrett Allen in the middle.
In his eighth season, Booker is averaging a career-best 10.1 points per game. He’s also rebounding as well as he ever has. Booker essentially defines the term “rugged defender”, as he’s more than capable of banging inside, often with bigger players. He’ll be a backup 4/5 with Philadelphia, while also bringing another layer of professionalism to the locker room.
To his credit, Okafor hadn’t become a distraction for the 76ers. He made it clear he wanted to play, but otherwise kept his head down and stayed quiet.
With the Nets, he’ll get a desperately needed fresh start. Rookie Jarrett Allen has shown early flashes in limited minutes, but Okafor should be the starter from day one over him, Timofey Mozgov and Tyler Zeller.
This gives him time to proof his worth to the Nets before unrestricted free agency this summer, but that also represents a risk for Brooklyn. If he plays well and lives up to the Nets’ highest expectations to make this move a slam dunk, will they be able to convince him to re-sign him this summer?
First things first: As sneaky good of a pickup as Trevor Booker will be for the Sixers’ frontcourt, they don’t get a pass for drafting Okafor in the first place, adding him to a three-man pile of injured and disappointing centers and then having to abandon ship for such an underwhelming return.
Joel Embiid‘s emergence mitigates the loss of trading him (along with Stauskas and a future second round pick) for a mere rotation player, but we can’t overlook that Philly essentially used its third overall pick to add a 30-year-old Trevor Booker — especially when Kristaps Porzingis was taken with the very next pick in that year’s draft.
There’s a lot about Nik Stauskas as well, with analysis much the same as Okafor: a once promising player with a second chance. The Nets will introduce the two players Monday afternoon at HSS Training Center.