Sixers still open to trading Jahlil Okafor

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Jahil Okafor will miss his second consecutive game and ninth of the season with right knee soreness on Sunday against the Indiana Pacers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

Jahlil Okafor is back on the market. Actually, the 76ers center may never have left it.

"If a deal comes along that makes sense for both of us, then we will go ahead and make the deal," Sixers president Bryan Colangelo said Friday of trading Okafor.

The Sixers had trade discussions about Okafor with several teams _ including the Chicago Bulls, New Orleans Pelicans, Portland Trail Blazers and Denver Nuggets -- leading up to the Feb. 23 trade deadline.

Okafor was even held out of two games, Feb. 11 at home against the Miami Heat and Feb. 13 at the Charlotte Hornets, because the Sixers said they were close to making a trade. He didn't even accompany the team on the flight to Charlotte.

But nothing happened.

Okafor is listed as the Sixers backup behind Joel Embiid. However, he was sidelined for the final 11 games of the season with soreness in his right knee. The second-year veteran missed a total of 18 games this season with the injury. He also missed two games to rest, another because of hamstring tightness and three with gastroenteritis.

Okafor's knee has been bothering him since he had surgery to repair a torn meniscus on March 22, 2016. The injury could make it hard for the Sixers to get what they deem as equal value for the third overall pick of the 2015 draft.

Okafor sees himself as a starter in the NBA.

"But he finds himself in a situation where there is a pretty big road block ahead," Colangelo said of starting for the Sixers. "So  ...  we discussed scenarios with his agent that we can find something mutually beneficial.

"But if not, I'm happy to have Jahlil a part of this organization."

The Sixers say that Okafor's knee and conditioning have to improve. Even when healthy and in shape, his game is more suited in a half-court setting when the Sixers pound the ball to the post. Reserve center Richaun Holmes is a better fit to back up Embiid in the Sixers' uptempo style of play. Holmes is more athletic. He and Embiid are also both solid three-point shooters and rim protectors.

Okafor is a below-the-rim player with solid post moves. But he struggles on defense.

"It's a challenge in the way that he currently plays," coach Brett Brown said of Okafor being a good fit with the Sixers.

Brown said the 21-year-old Okafor, a 2015-16 NBA all-rookie selection, should be able to expand his game. The Sixers want to use this summer to get Okafor's "body right," assuming he is not traded.

"He has an appropriate fear where he recognizes this is a [heck] of an important summer," Brown said. "If you want to point it to one thing, it's his health.  ...  I think to dismiss him this early, at 21, given the abundance of [bad luck] he has had with his injury would be far too unfair."

Brown didn't mention Okafor's name when identifying players who showed this season they can help move the program forward. Brown listed T.J. McConnell, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, Robert Covington, Dario Saric, Embiid, Holmes and Nik Stauskas.

"I just spoke of seven players that have shown legitimate signs of improving that I'm very proud of," Brown said. "And I feel like those seven players are real-time blueprints, real-time examples of that very strong opinion that we go overboard in our emphasizing development."

Saric's future

A rookie of the year favorite, Saric played much better than the Sixers expected.

"Dario has clearly established himself in one season that he is an extremely viable NBA player," Colangelo said. "He's making a [case] for himself to be that locked-in starter at the four for many years to come."

However, the power forward might not want to get too comfortable. The Sixers want to add another power forward who can stretch defenses with three-point shooting.

"I think the stretch-four position, backing up Dario or starting in front of Dario, whichever it is, if we can find somebody that's better, we've got to probably address that position," Colangelo said.

Brown listed other things that will help the Sixers become successful. He said the team needs shooters. The coach wants to address the shooting guard position. He also said the squad needs to develop Simmons as a point guard and add more veteran leadership.

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