The 19-32 Pelicans need help. They have Anthony Davis, one of the best big men in the game, tearing it up at an All-Star level, and yet the team continually struggles to even get close to .500, let alone became a contender.
Could the Sixers hold the answer to their problems? Reports have emerged the Pelicans have had talks with the Sixers to acquire Jahlil Okafor. The Sixers would reportedly want a draft pick in exchange for the 2015 third overall selection.
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According to USA Today, which first reported the talks, the Pelicans could desire lottery protection, which is not surprising given their current record.
Okafor would nice complement to Davis, who is averaging 27.8 points per game.
First, Okafor would start at the five, his true position. When he's paired with Joel Embiid, he's forced to play the four.
Second, a pairing of Davis and Okafor would help spread the floor for Davis and relieve pressure from defenders, who would have to focus on Okafor on the block.
Third, the Pelicans desperately need a frontcourt player to take the pressure off Davis, who has scored at least 30 points 22 times, at least 40 points five times and at least 50 once. Even though Davis is tied for fifth-most points per game in the league, the Pelicans rank 21st in scoring (103.2 ppg).
New Orleans' second-highest scoring frontcourt player is Terrence Jones (11.4 ppg). Centers Omer Asik and Alexis Ajinca are averaging a combined 7.1 points and 9.7 rebounds. This season Okafor is averaging 13.4 points and 5.5 rebounds as a starter and 8.9 points and 4.0 boards off the bench.
Although defense and rebounding are Okafor's well-documented weakness, he would not be tasked with those responsibilities on the Pelicans. Davis is averaging 12.2 rebounds (sixth in the NBA) and 2.38 blocks per game (second in the NBA). He has recorded 32 double-doubles, 29 games of 20 points and 10 rebounds and two games of 20-plus boards.
There is a possibility Pelicans would want the Sixers to take on either Asik or Ajinca. The Sixers would like to avoid picking up lengthy contracts to maintain their salary cap flexibility. From that perspective, Ajinca is the most desirable of the two. He has two years remaining on his contract after this season ($4.9 million 2017-18, $5.3 million 2018-19), while Asik has another two years guaranteed ($10.6 in 2017-18, $11.3 in 2018-19) with an early termination option for 2019-20.
This is the second time in less than a week Okafor has been linked to trade rumors. The Bulls, per CSNChicago.com, have also expressed interest in him.
"Trade rumors are something that's going to be part of my life probably for as long as I'm in the NBA," Okafor said Saturday in Miami. "I've been hearing it since I've been in the NBA about me being traded. I just try to focus on what I can. That's being here on this team and trying to help this team win."