The Philadelphia 76ers will not be picking up former Duke star Jahlil Okafor’s fourth-year $6.3 million option.
Okafor, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2015 Draft, will now become an unrestricted free agent in 2018, if he is not traded.
With the Sixers’ crowd of big men including Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid, and Dario Saric, Okafor hasn’t been able to crack the rotation this season, only playing in one game so far (as of Nov. 1).
With the move, Okafor will become only the third top three selection in NBA history to not have his fourth-year option picked up, joining only Anthony Bennett (No. 1 overall in 2013) and Hasheem Thabeet (No. 2 overall pick in 2009).
“Multiple members of the organization insisted privately that cap flexibility next summer is a major priority for the team, and they are hopeful they can bring max-level players to the negotiation table,” wrote phillyvoice.com’s Kyle Neubeck. “With Joel Embiid’s big raise set to kick in next summer and Robert Covington likely on the verge of signing an extension, Bryan Colangelo and his staff need to find ways to free up money elsewhere.”
Not picking up Okafor’s option is a way for the Sixers to accomplish this cost savings.
The team has been trying to deal Okafor for a while with no luck.
“The Sixers have been trying to trade Okafor for more than two seasons,” wrote the Inquirer’s Keith Pompey. “However, teams are unwilling to give up what the Sixers believe is equal value. Some squads even asked for an additional player or a future draft pick in order to take Okafor off their hands.”
Okafor, a 6-11, 260-pound center, averaged an impressive 17.5 points and 7 rebounds on 50 percent field goal shooting as a rookie in 2015-16.
A college star at Duke, he averaged 17.3 points and 8.5 rebounds as a freshman in 2014-15 to lead the team (35-4) to the NCAA championship.
A consensus first team All-America selection that year, Okafor set Blue Devil freshman records for rebounds (322), double-figure scoring games (35), and dunks (64). He also had the eighth-best field goal percentage (66 percent) in the country.
ESPN’s No. 1 ranked high school player out of Chicago’s Whitney Young High School, Okafor averaged 24.1 points and 11.3 rebounds as a senior to lead the team to a 28-5 record and a 4A state title in 2013-14.
Okafor is obviously an extremely talented big man who can put the ball in the hole and some NBA team is going to get a heck of a player next season.
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