On the night Ben Bentil made history becoming the first ever Ghanaian-born player to be drafted into the NBA after the Boston Celtics selected him 51st in the NBA Draft, deep thoughts were being pondered over by top executives of Philadelphia Sixers and Boston. The surreptitious conversations and meetings centered around moving some of the Celtics multiple picks for Sixers Center Jahlil Okafor.
The first year player’s season garnered headlines for the wrong reason and stuff outside the court than what he did on court. Averaging 17.5 points and seven rebounds in 53 games will make any General Manager in the 30 team league proud unless that manager does not have to worry about several draft picks missing games through injury or rotting away on the bench.
The Sixers, having gone through an intensive rebuilding process by stripping the team off any feasible chance of winning many games amassed a collection of top positions in the draft which they used on players of similar ilk. Bringing in Nerlens Noel, Joel Embiid and later Ben Simmons (guys who can’t score outside the paint) would create a log jam in the front court that will make Okafor’s sound offensive but terrible defensive game expendable.
On the other hand, Boston is need of a scorer beside Isaiah Thomas and new recruit Al Horford. The deal should it happen, would benefit both sides but the problem is Boston also has a similar problem at hand with a loaded frontcourt. Aside Kelly Olynyk and Horford, Boston has guys who operate best close to the basket like Amir Johnson, Tyler Zeller, Guershon Yabusele.
Throw in versatile Forwards Jonas Jerebko, Jae Crowder and Jordan Mickey, then it gets harder to envisage Bentil playing a lot in Boston.
That can all change should a trade that has dragged on since that fateful night Ghana got its first indigene in the world’s best basketball league. Okafor, born to a Nigerian father shares an African background with Bentil and trading for Okafor will definitely see Bentil included in the trade package for him and that will open the door for Bentil to be a bonafide NBA player for many years to come. As fate would have it Nigerian and Ghana share a special bond that can be traced many decades since both nations became independent close to the sixties. Nigeria, being the bigger brother with enormous population, size and wealth has thrived as Africa’s largest economy with Ghana’s smaller proportions checking in some steps behind.
Okafor is by all means ahead of Bentil as the former is a big lad standing 6 foot 11 who got drafted number three in 2014 after winning a national title with Duke University. Bentil on the other hand, stands 6 foot 8 who got drafted 51st after averaging 21 points in his second year at Providence College earning him Most Improved Player in the Big East Conference. As one who can operate as a prototype Power Forward barging his way through to the basket, Bentil’s uniqueness is his ability to score behind the three point arc which Boston needs to open up more lanes for Thomas and Avery Bradley to drive through to the rim. But the Celtics for some strange reason, wanting to pass over this crucial option is completely baffling.
Per ESPN.com, Boston attempted the eleventh highest three point attempts last season but finished second from bottom in the rankings on conversion. Breaking it down, Boston attempted 26 three point shots per game but make approximately nine of them. Though the team missed Olynyk for a lengthy spell due to a shoulder injury and Horford’s services weren’t available then, fans shouldn’t expect a dramatic uptick in conversion anytime soon. Pulling out all the stops-including pitching alongside New England Patriots star Tom Brady- to nab Kevin Durant in free agency was a clear move to better their lot on that side of the game.
As disappointing as the process turned out to be, Boston cannot renege on a sure way to taking the next step in constructing a championship-caliber by giving up assets for a player who is anything but a solution to the problem listed above.
By Yaw Adjei-Mintah