Smallwood: Whom could the Sixers get for center Jahlil Okafor?

IN THE PAST when discussing a trade of one of the Sixers' three young centers, I've said Nerlens Noel was the one to move.

But circumstances change, and with the emergence of rookie double-redshirt Joel Embiid, things have shifted dramatically since the season started 21/2 months ago.

Embiid has gone from injury question mark to potential All-Star selection, and that alters everything.

"The Process" is now the guy the Sixers should ride or die with, and that affects Okafor.

I still believe Okafor is a potential 20-point, 10-rebound big man in the NBA. But now, everything with the Sixers has to be geared toward benefiting the development of Embiid and 2016 No. 1 overall pick Ben Simmons.

The Sixers tried without success to play Embiid and Okafor as twin towers and, overall, Okafor simply does not fit into the pace-driven system coach Brett Brown wants to play.

Last year, I said that if you have a system that can't incorporate Okafor's skills, you need to change your system. With Embiid thriving, that no longer applies.

Despite his potential, Okafor is now just a reserve center with the Sixers. You need more than that from a recent No. 3 overall pick when the roster is still painfully unbalanced with big men.

Okafor's compiling 26 points and nine rebounds in a start against Washington on Saturday after logging only 10 total minutes in the previous six games was a reminder to potential suitors why he was first-team All-Rookie last season.

His scoring 10 points on five shots in 20 minutes off the bench against Milwaukee on Monday doesn't hurt, either.

Realistically, Okafor's value is not what it was, so I don't see a blockbuster deal unless the Sixers want to throw in some very high lottery picks.

Some players I've previously mentioned as possible acquisitions are no probably no longer available, but others would be.

Still, let's throw out three different names this time.

JAYLEN BROWN (age 20), Boston, small forward: A high lottery pick is like a new car. As soon as you use it, it generally depreciates in value.

Theoretically, Boston general manager Danny Ainge might be more willing to move the actual player, Brown, for less than he wanted for the pick – especially when your depth chart at center is Amir Johnson, Kelly Olynyk and Tyler Zeller.

Like most top-five picks these days, Brown is a "one-and-done" and was drafted on potential. He's a project and thus far has played like one, averaging 4.7 points and 12.9 minutes.

With the Sixers' agenda, Brown would have the time to develop at a slower pace than with the Celtics, who are third in the Eastern Conference.

Boston owns Brooklyn's pick in 2017, which, with horrible luck, should still be no worse than fifth overall. It will get a player graded with as much upside potential as Brown and Okafor. In this draft, however, there are more top prospects who look like Brown (wings) than Okafor (centers).

A swap of the last two No. 3 overall picks might benefit both teams.

JORDAN CLARKSON (24), Lakers, shooting guard: Although he is projected as a sixth man in the Lakers' long-term plans, Clarkson might be a tough get. He can score, play both guard spots and defend. The four-year, $50 million extension he just signed shows how much Los Angeles values him.

Still, when your center is the grossly overpaid Timofey Mozgov (four years, $64 million) backed up by Tarik Black and Ivica Zubac, acquiring a high-potential, inexpensive young big man such as Okafor has to be intriguing.

The Lakers are in a tough situation moving forward. They are on the books for an $80.9 million payroll in 2017-18, and the upcoming collective bargaining agreement will make it monetarily harder to pry a superstar loose from his current team.

The "Not so Showtime" Lakers will also likely see their top-three protected first-round pick finally go to the Sixers this summer. If that pick does move, the Lakers will also lose their 2019 first-round pick to Orlando.

Those are bad possible scenarios for a rebuilding team.

Okafor might be the best potential young impact player they could acquire before the 2020 draft.

The Sixers could absorb Clarkson's $12.5 million average salary with no major impact on future caps – i.e., the money for Embiid and Simmons.

If he actually has All-Star and/or Sixth Man Award potential, Clarkson would fit nicely with the Sixers.

DOUG McDERMOTT (25), Chicago Bulls, small forward: If the Bulls stick with All-Star Jimmy Butler, McDermott will be blocked for five years in Chicago.

If the Bulls decide to rebuild, Okafor would be a high-ceiling but low-cost acquisition. Either way, McDermott-for-Okafor would be a solid gamble for Chicago.

In Philly, "Doug McBuckets" is still controversial because of the debate surrounding the 2014 draft when the Sixers traded the 10th pick to Orlando for Dario Saric instead of drafting the consensus national player of the year and scoring champion.

McDermott (10.4 ppg in 26.3 minutes) might never become a superstar, but he would be a nice long-term complementary piece for the Sixers.

If Okafor is at best a backup for the Sixers, a flier on McDermott would make sense.

smallwj@phillynews.com

@SmallTerp

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