Trade reaction: Should you add Okafor in all fantasy leagues?
Philadelphia gets: Trevor Booker
With this trade, the 76ers finally came to a resolution on their glut of young, high-lottery centers. Last season, they sent a disgruntled Nerlens Noel to the Mavericks. And now they have sent Okafor, the No. 3 overall pick from 2015 and a first-team All-NBA Rookie team member, away to the Nets. But in fantasy terms, what does this trade mean for the individuals and teams involved? Let’s explore.
Nets hoping for a diamond in the rough
For much of the 2014-15 college season, Okafor was projected as potentially the top pick in the upcoming NBA draft. He was a throwback, back-to-the basket, low-post big man with soft touch who could volume score around the rim. He projected as a possible 20-10 big man in the pros, which eventually got him drafted third overall, behind Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell but ahead of Kristaps Porzingis and other productive youngsters such as Devin Booker, Myles Turner and Willie Cauley-Stein.
Okafor showed nice promise as a rookie, averaging 17.5 points on 51 percent shooting from the field, seven rebounds and 1.2 blocks in 30 minutes per game. However, questions about his defense and, eventually, the presence of Noel and more importantly Joel “The Process” Embiid led Okafor to dwindling playing time and ultimately a drop out of the rotation in Philadelphia.
In Brooklyn, Okafor enters an absolutely ideal situation. In fact, earlier this week on Twitter, someone asked me whether I thought Okafor would be a good fit for the Oklahoma City Thunder. My reply laid out what I believed to be the best fantasy scenario for a landing spot for Okafor:
I don’t love Okafor’s fit in OKC, because their issue is that they’ve already got 3 volume scorers and not enough ball to go around. Okafor would be another mouth to feed when Adams seems like better fit. Okafor’s skill set would work on bad team lacking offense like Hawks, maybe
– Andre Snellings (@ProfessorDrz) December 4, 2017
While the ultimate trade was to Brooklyn instead of Atlanta, the same conditions exist in both places. The Nets had a hole in the middle, as Timofey Mozgov fell out of the rotation and recent starter Tyler Zeller, frankly, isn’t productive enough. In fact, outside of the injured Russell, there are no volume scorers on the Nets at all. Thus, Okafor enters a situation in which he absolutely could become the short-term centerpiece of the Nets’ offense. And long term, the Nets could look to build their entire team around the second (Russell) and third (Okafor) picks from the 2015 draft.
The Nets are also built to mitigate one of Okafor’s biggest weaknesses, his relative lack of defensive ability, as they can start role-player defenders Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, DeMarre Carroll and Allen Crabbe. While Okafor would need to improve on his rebounding to make this lineup work, there is potential here for Okafor to be able to focus entirely on the things that he likes to do, with teammates capable of handling many of the things he doesn’t like.
The other player the Nets received in the deal, Stauskas, wasn’t really a big rotation producer in Philadelphia and doesn’t project to change much in Brooklyn.
This trade looks like a win for the Nets in general, and a huge win for Okafor’s fantasy prospects.
76ers get “a man”
The 76ers have, very famously, been working their way through “The Process” in rebuilding. The Process included a long period of bad team play, leading to lottery draft picks that could be stockpiled and turned into young talent that was to be the foundation of their future.
Well, with Embiid and rookie of the year front-runner Ben Simmons in the fold, the 76ers believe that they’ve got their foundation pillars in place. Add in 2017 No. 1 overall pick Markelle Fultz and second-half-of-last-season 20-10 guy Dario Saric and the 76ers have plenty of young talent in the cupboard. Okafor had completely fallen out of the rotation and was glued to the bench.
Thus, what the 76ers wanted to add to the next step of The Process was productive NBA veterans who could help their youngsters mature. Enter the 30-year old Booker, who has a game and grittiness that prompted 76ers coach Brett Brown to call him “a man who has done this and that and [brings] a level of toughness.”
Booker could very well help the 76ers to grow into the team that they want to be. The trade also rids them of an increasingly bitter Okafor, which could be some addition by subtraction in the locker room.
Fantasywise, though, Booker’s role doesn’t project to be even as big as it was in Brooklyn. With Embiid, 6-foot-10 Simmons, 6-foot-10 Saric and 6-foot-9 Robert Covington currently in the starting lineup, as well as Amir Johnson and Richaun Holmes available off the bench, there isn’t a lot of space for Booker to come in and move the fantasy basketball needle.
Thus, this trade looks like a potential win for the 76ers as a team but not much of a benefit to Booker’s fantasy prospects.
I’m personally surprised the 76ers didn’t get more for Okafor than this package, but it seems they got what they wanted as a team. But as far as fantasy basketball goes, I’m really high on this move for Okafor. So high, in fact, that I’m trying to pick Okafor up in all of my leagues now, before this article hits, to see if I can beat the rush.