Where Will Eric Bledsoe And Jahlil Okafor Be Traded?

By Isaac Gutierrez

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Just over two weeks into the new NBA season, we have seen many players thrive on new teams and several players who are in desperate need of a new situation themselves. For two very different reasons, Phoenix Sun’s guard, Eric Bledsoe, and Philadelphia 76ers center, Jahlil Okafor, both seem to be on the way out of their respective cities.


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In Bledsoe’s case, he made it very clear that he wants out of Phoenix with his infamous, “I Dont wanna be here,” tweet. This tweet was sent on Oct. 22, and the team decided that Bledsoe would no longer play for the team the next day. Now, two weeks later, Bledsoe has still not been traded, as his season is effectively held prison by the Suns.


It is safe to assume that the reason Bledsoe has not yet been traded, is that the team hasn’t yet received an offer that they view as sufficient return for the point guard. It is hard to gauge what Bledsoe’s current value is, so I am not taking the potential details of the trade into consideration when I say that the Denver Nuggets are the perfect landing spot for Bledsoe.


As currently constructed, the Nuggets are a solid team, that is a point guard away from being very good. They are led by center, Nikola Jokic, forward, Paul Millsap and guard, Gary Harris. As of now they are starting Jamal Murray at point guard, but he is really a shooting guard, attempting to fill the point guard void for the team.


Schematically, Bledsoe fits the team perfectly as a slashing guard, with elite defensive prowess. A guard with the finishing skill of Bledsoe fits well with this team, as he would be surrounded with effective three-point shooters. He could be the playmaker that Denver currently needs, as they don’t have a true point guard who can initiate plays for his team mates.


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Jahlil Okafor’s current situation is far less a result of his own decisions, as Bledsoe’s is. Okafor was drafted third overall by the 76ers in 2015, and the team has already totally given up on the young big man. He has only played in one of the team’s nine games so far, and the organization has made it clear that Okafor is not a part of the team’s future by declining to pick up his fourth-year option for next season. By making it clear that Okafor will not be on the team next year, and that they have no intention of playing him in the nightly rotation, the 76ers have made an Okafor trade inevitable.


The reason he has not already been dealt is because the team is reportedly looking for a first round draft pick in exchange for Okafor, which will likely not happen. The Boston Celtics have shown interest in Okafor, as a long-term prospect, but they haven’t shown any interest in giving up a first round pick for him. Because of this, look for the Celtics to be major players in signing Okafor next summer, as he enters free agency.


The team that would make the most sense to trade for Okafor is the Brooklyn Nets. As time continues to go on and no one offers a first round pick, the 76ers will likely settle for a future second round pick, which is a realistic return they could get. If this is the case, it makes all the sense in the world for the Nets to take a chance with Okafor.


They really have nothing to lose, as they will likely not have a chance to make the playoffs this year, and they have no incentive to tank, with their first-round pick belonging to Cleveland. Okafor could be a nice piece to play alongside guard D’Angelo Russell, and he is certainly an upgrade over current center, Timofey Mozgov.


Okafor fits perfectly alongside Russell, as they are both players selected within the first few picks of the 2015 draft, and both of the teams who drafted them have already given up on the prospects. In the early part of this season, we have already seen Russell find success on the Nets, as he is playing with a chip on his shoulder, with little to no expectations or risk. With the same chip on his shoulder, Okafor can find similar success with the team, as the sidekick to Russell.


What makes this trade make even more sense for the Nets, is that the organization wouldn’t be forced to put any long-term investment into Okafor. With Okafor being on the last year of his deal, if for whatever reason he does not find success in Brooklyn, they can simply let him walk in free agency, losing nothing but the second-round pick exchanged for Okafor in this scenario. And if it does work out, the Nets will have found themselves a second young player, in which they can build their team around.


If this situation were to take place – which is a big if since, after all, I am theorizing that the 76ers will at some point decide to take a second-round pick for Okafor – the risk of losing a late draft pick is far worth the potential reward of Okafor turning into the high-level player that scouts once thought he would be.