The rumor mill was churning at the trade deadline last Thursday but the Celtics refrained from having any part of the action. Initial speculation focused on Al Horford and Jeff Teague but as the deadline approached another blockbuster deal developed. Unfortunately for Celtics fans the front office kept the details confidential.
During a recent appearance on WEEI’s OM&F, Celtics’ President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge confirmed that a deal was “very close” to transpiring until the other team backed out in the final moments. The target of this deal, Ainge revealed, was the Sixers’ 20 year old center Jahlil Okafor.
Unfortunately Ainge did not divulge and the exact specifics of the deal remain a mystery. It is safe to presume the deal involved the Nets’ highly coveted first round selection in the upcoming draft and possibly David Lee’s contract, but the details of the agreement remain subject to speculation. In any case this revelation from Ainge is a very interesting development for eager Celtics fans.
Okafor is raw low-post presence with the opportunity at greatness and stardom. Renown among local sports fans for his involvement in a bar fight in Boston after their game against the Celtics at the start of the season, the 20 year old rookie has plenty of time to mature and develop. This will need to happen both on and off the basketball court. On the court he has, statistically, been quite impressive in his rookie campaign despite the deplorable Sixers’ record. In 48 appearances so far this year the Duke product has averaged 17.1 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks in his 30.2 minutes per game.
The idea of Jahlil Okafor on this young roster is unexpected yet captivating. Imagine adding his presence to the Celtics’ front court? It would add a dimension to the offense that this team lacks. As a go-to scorer and quality rebounder in the paint, the only concerns about Okafor emerge on defensive side of the basketball. He has always been such a physical superior among his peers that his lack of technique and awareness were never at risk of exploitation. Now that he has finally reached the NBA these aspects of his game need polish, but if he puts in the hard work both are skills that can develop and improve.
As Celtics fans let’s hope the Sixers’ don’t fully default on their interest in a deal involving Okafor. There is a lot left to be determined between now and the NBA draft, and even more rime before the start of the next season; this trade could still materialize. In the mean time we should cross our fingers and trust in Ainge’s ability to entice the Sixers because Okafor is a generational talent who could address an important void in the Celtics roster.