Zach Lowe, the ESPN reporter who broke the story of this weeks’s big trade — Jahlil Okafor, Nik Stauskas and a 2019 pick for Trevor Booker — said on his podcast Friday he thinks that the pick is what most appealed to Sean Marks ... not the 6’11” center.
“I don’t think the Nets make this trade for Jahlil Okafor. I think they make it for the second round pick,” said Lowe on his podcast. “Okafor is fine; it's a flyer. Due to weird NBA rules, other teams are actually able to outbid the Nets for Okafor in free agency.”
It is true that Marks has gone out of his way to add second rounders to his war chest.
Billy King not only left the Nets bereft of first rounders, he also traded away virtally all their second rounders. When Marks arrived, Nets had no control over their own first round picks through 2018 and no second round picks through 2020.
Since then, Marks traded for a first rounder that became Jarrett Allen, and traded into the second in the 2016 (Isaiah Whitehead) draft. He has also acquired three others: one in the Pacers trade, one in Raptors trade and now one in the 76ers trade. Furthermore, consider that he used a second rounder to draft-and-stash Aleksandar Vezenkov, acquired from the Celtics. He seems to value second rounders, and why not?
The NBA has found a number of valuable second rounders in the last few years. Malcolm Brogdan became the first second rounder to win the Rookie of the Year last season. The Nets have four former second rounders in their rotation: Spencer Dinwiddie, Allen Crabbe, Quincy Acy and Joe Harris.
Still, an argument can be made that Okafor himself is what you might call a “pick equivalent.” Turning 22 next week, Okafor is younger than 22 of the 60 players drafted in the 2017 NBA Draft (D’Angelo Russell is younger than 29 of the 60). If he hadn’t come out after his freshman year, he’d be a senior at Duke.
Lowe described the pick as likely no higher than 40th. It’s the Knicks 2019 pick, traded to Philly in 2014 as compensation for the Sixers taking on Travis Outlaw’s contract in a salary dump.
“One of the best things about the NBA is when you have a random 2019 second round pick. The Knicks are okay this year. They're around .500,” Lowe said. “They'll probably be okay next year to one degree or another. That could be pretty good next year. So this could be the 40th pick, could be the 50th pick the 48th pick, but that's what the Nets wanted
“I think that’s the reason the Nets did the trade, more than Okafor.”
Marks referred to the pick when speaking to reporters on Thursday, noting the need to “replenish” draft assets.
“We get the opportunity to look at two young guys. We get a pick! Replenish some of the assets that we need and move forward with these guys,” he told the reporters.
Lowe also said that he thinks that the odd rule that limits the Nets to signing Okafor to a one-year deal for $6.2 million shouldn’t be an issue for the Nets. He said he believes the chances that Okafor will be a Net next season is 50-50 but again said he believes the pick is the thing.
“Actually, I don't think that's going to be a problem for them because I don't think any team is going to break the bank for Jahlil Okafor unless he goes absolutely bananas in the last 50+ games of the season. I think they wanted that pick!”
ESPN analyst Kevin Arnowitz, Lowe’s guest, said he believes Trevor Booker is the key piece in the deal in that it represents a “win now move for the Sixers.” He also is down about Okafor’s prospects in the changing NBA, essentially agreeing with Lowe.
“I actually think Booker is the best player in the trade. It prompts the question: What can you do with a big man that doesn’t have profound range, and doesn’t defend, and you know is good for a few post ups here and there, and I think the answer is in the modern NBA, that role is Greg Monroe now.
“What can you do with Okafor? And that’s not to bag on Okafor, I mean he’s got some skills, 15 years ago he would have been a far more useful player than he is today, but I’m just kind of overcome and this season it’s been hit home even harder. What do you do with that guy? Is that a guy who can play a meaningful minute in a playoff series against any team that has an inclination to play faster and smaller?”
Lowe said there’s a way for Okafor to prove his worth, comparing his game to that of Enes Kanter of the Knicks.
“He’s a beast, and Okafor has to be a beast. He has to get offensive rebounds and he has to just get to the basket all the time. And actually when he first got the league, his back-to-the basket game wasn’t the most interesting part of his game to me, it was his face-up game. He had this little proto-Demarcus Cousins-like gimme-the-ball at the nail or even the three point and I can drive, kind of bully-ball my way to the rim.”
Of course, no one has really seen Okafor since the middle of last March. So it’s hard to tell if he’s made any progress with his game, become more mature in his attitude to the game and life.
But Lowe and Arnowitz are right. Whether Okafor is in Brooklyn next season, the pick Philly gave up will be. Stay tuned.