The Boston Celtics bolstered their frontcourt this offseason by signing big man Al Horford, but they are reportedly still interested in trading for Philadelphia 76ers center Jahlil Okafor.
According to A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE.com, “The consensus among league executives spoken to by CSNNE.com is that the most likely trade for Boston will be one in which they wind up with Philadelphia’s Okafor.”
Blakely noted the Celtics and 76ers nearly made a deal on draft night and cited league sources who said “both have kept the door ajar to getting a deal done between now and the start of training camp.”
It is apparently no secret the Celtics are in the trade market even after adding Horford. Blakely pointed out the “rumor mill churns out smoke signals that a deal involving the Celtics is forthcoming.” However, as an assistant general manager of another team told Blakely, “Boston has lots of picks and some good players. But there’s not a great player on that roster.”
Blakely said the lack of a great player has prevented teams like the Los Angeles Clippers and Sacramento Kings from eagerly meeting the Celtics’ trade wishes, which is why Okafor may be the eventual prize on the market for Boston.
An NBA scout told Blakely that the 76ers “would have to trade” either Okafor or Nerlens Noel after selecting the 6’10” Ben Simmons first overall in this year’s draft, especially with Joel Embiid also on the roster. That is a gluttony of big men, and the scout indicated Philadelphia was more likely to deal Okafor because of Noel’s defensive ability.
Keith Pompey of Philly.com reiterated that mindset when he wrote “Sixers president Bryan Colangelo is eager to balance out a roster that’s overloaded with post players.”
Pompey did caution that Boston isn’t willing to give up a ton of talent for Okafor partially because “he was involved in two street fights there in the early hours of Thanksgiving morning.”
If the Celtics and 76ers agreed on a deal, Boston would land another big man who should effectively pair with Horford. Horford is versatile enough to play center or power forward, and he would provide interior defense alongside the former Duke Blue Devil. Opponents shot 4.2 percent worse than their normal averages from within six feet of the rim when Horford guarded them in 2015-16, per NBA.com.
That would theoretically allow Okafor to focus more on his budding offensive arsenal after he posted 17.5 points per game in his rookie season behind 50.8 percent shooting from the field. Okafor boasts solid footwork on the block and is a soft finisher at the rim, and he shot 61.8 percent inside five feet last season, per NBA.com.
Even a slight improvement on the offensive end would be a boost for a Celtics squad looking to advance deeper in the playoffs in an Eastern Conference that is wide-open behind the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers. Boston finished an impressive fourth in the league with a defensive rating of 100.9 last season but was an unspectacular 13th in offensive rating (103.9), per NBA.com.
The Celtics lost to the Atlanta Hawks in six games in the first round of the playoffs last season and failed to score even 90 points in two of their four losses.
Adding someone like Okafor down low who has demonstrated impressive offensive abilities at an early stage of his career would help the Celtics improve an offense that held them back at times last season.
Courtesy: Bleacher Report.com