The 76ers were finally able to unload Jahlil Okafor.
On Thursday, they traded the reserve center along with reserve shooting guard Nik Stauskas and a 2019 second-round pick to the Brooklyn Nets in exchange for Trevor Booker.
The Sixers had been trying for some time to trade Okafor, whom they acquired with the third overall pick in the 2015 NBA draft. They did not pick up the 2018-19 option for his contract, declining to extend this rookie deal before the October deadline. Okafor also wanted out.
The team acquired Stauskas in a trade from the Sacramento Kings in July 2015.
“I think rarely do you find a trade that seemingly works well for both teams,” Sixers coach Brett Brown said. “I think this one does. I’m happy for Jahlil and I’m happy for Nik. … I think they are going to a good situation where they may have more opportunity to get on a court.”
In Booker, the Sixers acquire a 6-foot-8 power forward who started in five of his 18 appearances this season for the Nets. He averaged 10.1 points, 6.6 rebounds and 2.1 assists in addition to being a solid defender.
The 30-year-old will be a great addition coming off the bench for the Sixers. He can become an unrestricted free agent in July. So he won’t mess up the team’s roster flexibility for next season.
“I think we are getting a man,” Brown said of Booker. “I think we are getting a veteran that has been there, done that. There is a level of toughness and versatility that interests me.”
Brown added that Booker reminds him of reserve center Amir Johnson in that he’s a great teammate regardless of playing time. They are both competitive players who display a lot of toughness.
Philly what it do? 💪🏾
— Trevor Booker (@35_Fitz) December 7, 2017
The Sixers will be Booker’s fourth NBA team since being drafted 23rd overall out of Clemson by the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2010. He never played for the Timberwolves after being traded to the Washington Wizards on draft night.
“Trevor Booker has been a solid and competitive two-way contributor at every NBA stop,” said Bryan Colangelo, the Sixers president of basketball operations. “Trevor’s ability should complement our style of play and his experience should add to our bench depth with playoff contention in mind.”
Knowing he’s not in their long-term plans, the Sixers passed on keeping Okafor past this season, declining his fourth-year option. Okafor would have earned $6.3 million in his fourth year if the option had been picked up. The decision allowed the Sixers to free up that sum from next season’s salary-cap space.
Joel Embiid said he found out about the trade watching the news and then texted Okafor to tell him “love you” and wish him luck with the Nets. And, in true Embiid fashion, he let Okafor know that he’s now the competition.
“We play them four times a year, so I made sure to let him know that four times a year I’m going to kick his [butt],” Embiid said with a smile.
Stauskas was a groomsman in T.J. McConnell’s wedding over the summer and Okafor attended the wedding. McConnell said that both were close friends and he’s happy they will have the opportunity to get some playing time in a contract year for both players.
“Being here for 10-win seasons and doing what friends do together, it’s crappy to have two of them go at the same time, but it’s a good opportunity for them,” McConnell said. “It’s the nature of this business.”
The Sixers were unable to trade Okafor on their terms for more than two seasons. Some squads asked for an additional player or a draft pick to take Okafor off the Sixers’ hands.
Okafor had also been the subject of trade discussions with the New Orleans Pelicans, Chicago Bulls, Denver Nuggets, and reportedly the Portland Trail Blazers, among others. The Phoenix Suns also expressed interest.
At one point, it appeared that the Sixers had a trade agreed upon last season. They held him out of a home game against the Miami Heat on Feb. 11 because they believed a deal was imminent. Teams usually don’t play trade targets when a deal is about to happen because of the possibility that the player might get injured.
“There was never an opportune moment to trade Jah,” Colangelo said before Thursday’s game. “There was a declining value over time and we we’re cognizant of that and we adjusted our discussions with teams according to that declining value.”
This season, Okafor requested a buyout, which the Sixers declined. Okafor, 21, has played in only two games this season.
That came two seasons after he averaged 17.5 points and 7.0 rebounds en route to becoming an all-rookie selection. However, Okafor ‘s stock dropped because he was considered a defensive liability, battled a right knee injury, and had several off-the-court incidents as a rookie.
“Everybody kind of knew it was coming,” guard Jerryd Bayless said of the trade. “I’m just happy that Jah and both sides could finally find something that worked for them.”
Stauskas has been a huge disappointment since being selected eighth overall by Sacramento in 2014. The Kings traded him to Philly after that season, but he has never been able to catch on with the Sixers.
A three-point specialist in his two seasons at Michigan, Stauskas made 34.7 percent of his three-pointers in 159 games with the Sixers. This season, he scored just four points and missed his lone three-point attempt in six appearances.
Like Okafor, he wanted to be traded to another team as a way to jump-start his career.
“I’m excited to see them have a chance to go play basketball again,” Brown said.
With a roster spot available, it will be interesting to see if the Sixers covert Jacob Pullen’s two-way contract into a standard NBA deal. The point guard is a better three-point shooter than Stauskas. The 28-year-old is playing for the Sixers’ G-League team, the Delaware 87ers.
The Nets waived former 87er Sean Kilpatrick Jr. to make room for Okafor and Stauskas on the roster.