The Sixershave the third best record in the NBA this year at 9-3. They have the Eastern Conference Player of the Week and prohibitive Rookie of the Year favorite in Joel Embiid who has catapulted Philly into playoff contention.
They currently stand just three games behind the Bulls in the loss column for the eighth playoff spot (six back in the win column) and everywhere you go on the internet you see Embiidcalling for the Sixers to make the playoffs. Especially after the team pulled off back-to-back wins on back-to-back days without Embiid in the line up.
Like this tweet:
— Joel Embiid (@JoelEmbiid) January 26, 2017
The trade deadline is less than a month away, and after a resurgence from Nerlens Noel, the rarely seen Jahlil Okafor is appearing to be the odd man out. The Sixers are expected to flip Okafor — and they should do so for a win-now piece. Would they be able to convince the Bulls to part ways with Jimmy Butler or the Hawks to send over Paul Milsap? The chances of that are perhaps slim but not impossible. Each team has been rumored to be shopping their star forwards and the Sixers could use another scorer.
But with Ben Simmons expected to make his debut after the All-Star break, the team will be adding a huge — potentially superstar piece — without moving a single asset. The key is giving Embiid and Simmons the tools around them to continue to win basketball games and to close the gap between them and playoff pack.
Possible landing spots for Okaforlook to include the Raptors, Celticsand Blazers, with each offering veteran guards who could help Philly win now and in the future.
But what about their 2017 draft positioning?
It doesn’t matter how good the Sixers play this season, they have the right to swap picks with the Sacramento Kings (as long as the Kings have a top 10 pick). As of Thursday, the Kings would have the 10th pick in the draft and the Sixers the eighth. If trends continue, Philly will close the 1.5 game gap between them and the spiraling Kings who could be big sellers at the trade deadline.
The Sixers also have the Lakers’ pick if it falls outside of the top three, which right now would be second overall but is subject to the draft lottery (and to the second half of the season).
So, in summary, the Sixers can both win now, and also have two top 10 draft picks in a loaded draft. The good news is, there is no rush. If there’s no acceptable offer for Okafor on the open market they can simply wait for the offseason. But with the big man looking less and less in the Sixers’ future plans it makes sense for his departure to happen sooner rather than later.